13 May 2019

“Success is walking from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” Winston Churchill

Resilience is a key ingredient in determining an individual’s ability to succeed in practically every aspect of life. But what is resilience exactly? It’s a skill set which defines the strength and speed of our response to adversity and it’s something we can work on throughout our lives.

Similar to how meditation teaches us to practice finding calm so we can get there when we need to, resilience is something we can build long before we face any kind of tragedy or difficulty. It’s really about learning what does it take for me to find strength in a tough situation and then being able to apply those skills when they’re most needed to cope with life’s inevitable obstacles such as:

  • losing a loved one
  • a divorce or break-up
  • a physical illness
  • getting fired from a job
  • failing to attain a long desired goal
  • conflict with a friend or loved one

Having the skills to build resilience can minimize the effects of negative, stressful situations. These skills allow you to face challenges, learn from them, and develop ways to live a healthy and happy life.

The “resilience skillset” can be broken down into 8 skills that can be practiced and learned:

Skill 1. Emotional awareness and self-regulation

Resilient people are able to identify their emotional experiences and control their emotional responses to external events. It is closely related to emotional literacy, which means being able to label feelings with specific feeling words. At its highest level, it means being able to predict feelings in advance. Emotionally aware people are comfortable with their feelings and express a broad array of emotions – happiness, joy, fear, sadness. Resilient people don’t get ‘stuck’ in an emotion. Although they might feel sad or scared, these feelings don’t prevent them from coping with the situation and moving forward.

Skill 2. Flexible thinking

To be resilient requires flexible thinking and the ability to see different perspectives. The ability to think flexibly helps people to get along with others, helps groups to be more effective, and helps people solve problems and or try new ways of doing things. Flexible Thinking is a must-have skill from the elementary classroom to the boardroom. Someone who is resilient can come up with a variety of reasons for being successful at something (multiple factors). Flexible thinking allows for multiple solutions to a problem. Being able to develop alternative plans (Plan Bs) is a vital aspect of resilience.

Skill 3. Self-efficacy

Self-efficacy is an individual’s belief in her capacity to successfully perform a particular task. Along with goal-setting, self-efficacy is one of the most powerful motivational predictors of how well a person will perform at almost any endeavor because it determines effort, persistence, and strategy. Think of this of keeping your “self” stable regardless of the current situation. The resilient person has a “can do” attitude toward being able to alter challenging environmental demands by means of one’s own behavior. It is this belief that determines whether or not you can rise up after being knocked down.

Skill 4. Impulse control

We all have impulses to do and say things, but these impulses aren’t always in our best interest or helpful to others. Individuals who lack impulse control often get into all sorts of sticky situations. Being resilient doesn’t mean ignoring these impulses, but it does require you to stop acting on every impulse that doesn’t serve you well. Impulsivity has two main characteristics: rapid, unplanned reactions and reduced concern for the consequences of actions. The skill of impulse control need to be practiced but most certainly can be learned.

Skill 5. Empathy

Empathy is the experience of understanding another person’s thoughts, feelings, and condition from their point of view, rather than from your own. You can imagine yourself in their place in order to understand what they are feeling or experiencing. Empathy assists resilience by developing strong, supportive relationships. The ability to understand other people’s feelings/emotions/experiences is particularly helpful when someone is experiencing tough times

Skill 6. Optimism

Optimism involves learning to think positively about the future – even when things go wrong. It’s about looking objectively at a situation and making a conscious decision to focus on the good. Learning the skills of optimism can help protect against depression and anxiety. Optimistic people are happier, more engaged, succeed more often and are better problem solvers.

Skill 7. Connectedness and reaching out

Reaching out means placing importance on help-seeking behaviors through connections with other people. A resilient person understands that no one person can provide for every one of her needs so she develops a range of friendship circles that reflect her different areas of social need. She makes the effort to build and nurture friendships that move and change with time. When you choose to connect with others under stress, you can create resilience.

Skill 8. Caring

Studies have shown that significant stressors can increase an individual’s risk of dying. People who spend time caring for others, however, suffer absolutely no stress-related increase in dying. Zero. Caring creates resilience. And so we see that the harmful effects of stress on your health are not inevitable. How you think and how you act can transform your experience of stress. When you choose to view your stress response as helpful, you create the biology of courage.

Come see me tomorrow evening, December 5, 2018, at the JCC of Greater Washington where I’ll be a co-panelist for “She Says: Real Women, Real Conversations” I’ll be sharing research and insights on the importance of and methods for building resilience.

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