What Is Resilience & Why Does It Matter?
One of the few constants in life is adversity. Things go wrong, we get hurt and we fail. Whether it’s in our personal lives or in our business, we are guaranteed to encounter obstacles. How we respond to them and how we treat ourselves in the process, matters.
Resilience is about getting up after a failure, dusting yourself off and getting back to work. Recently I had a lot of things go wrong in my life. I had to cancel a workshop due to lack of interest and I was ready to give up. Then my phone got stolen and it took a week to get connected again. During that week I couldn’t send out any proposals to new clients because they could not call me. It was challenging to make appointments with people. I felt unprofessional because I didn’t know whether people were trying to reschedule with me and I could only rely on email.
There were a lot of frustrations with the process of getting back onto the mobile network and at one point, I literally lay on my bathroom floor and cried. But the only possible option from there was to get up, get dressed and to get it organised. No-one could do it for me and I simply had to tackle it with all the energy and attention I could muster. It was holding me back from opportunities, so I simply had to get it sorted. And I did.
Karen Reivich and Andrew Shatte, the authors of The Resilience Factor, write about a many important aspects of resilience. I’d like to share my favourite three with you:
When we are not resilient and we experience an adversity, we feel our entire life is ruined and that absolutely everything is a disaster. But that’s not true. An adversity at work doesn’t take away from the fact that I have an amazing family, a beautiful home and a healthy body. We can become more resilient by avoiding words and thoughts that include the words ‘everything’ and ‘nothing’, for example ‘everything is ruined’ or ‘nothing is working in my life.’ We can be more resilient by becoming aware of, and grateful for, the aspects of our lives that are unaffected by the adversity, or that are still going well.
When we are not resilient, we say things like ‘my life is over’ or ‘things will never be the same again.’ Some words that show permanence are ‘always’ and ‘never.’ It might be true that our lives will never be exactly the same as before some event, but that’s true of many good events too. Things change and our lives may even become better as a result of a serious life event. Kelly McGonigal writes about post-traumatic growth in her book, The Upside of Stress. She writes that many people shift their beliefs, feel stronger, experience more compassion and even change career paths as a result of significant traumas. We can overcome the permanence trap by realising that we can evolve and heal from all experiences and that human beings have a tremendous capacity to overcome adversity.
This means the extent to which you believe you can control your environment. If you believe that you have absolutely no control over your life and your environment, you experience high levels of stress. However, if you believe that you can move your life in the direction you want it to go, your stress is lower and you feel empowered. In my talks and workshops, I like to couple the concept of accountability with self-efficacy. Once we realise that our lives are the way they are because of the actions we have taken and the decisions we have made, things begin to shift considerably. If we feel victims to our circumstances and the actions of those around us, it’s difficult to feel in control. The key, I believe, is to take ownership of your life and yourself. The way to build self-efficacy is to take small actions towards your goals and once you succeed, you build confidence and feel more empowered. A series of these small steps directs your life in the direction you want it to go and once you build that momentum, miracles start to happen.
I am a strong advocate of self-compassion – treating yourself like you would a close friend. When you fail, it is not productive to beat yourself up. Treating yourself with kindness, allowing yourself to make mistakes, is a far healthier way to operate and has been linked with improved willpower and happiness. After a failure or adversity, pick yourself up off that bathroom floor, look in the mirror and say something kind. From there, tell yourself that this is not going to affect all aspects of your life, it won’t last forever and you have what it takes to overcome it. That’s what resilience looks like.
Kathy Mann is a writer and speaker, based in Johannesburg South Africa. She’s passionate about building a happy life, on purpose using the tools of positive psychology. Kathy guides people towards living their best life possible through what she has learned in becoming very sick from stress. Women often feel so stretched, trying to be everything to everyone. Kathy’s here to remind you that being true to yourself, connecting with your strengths and talents, is the best way to serve the world.