One of my favourite motivational quotes on my office wall reads:
“A Diamond is a chunk of coal that did well under pressure”
When I think of role models for Resilience, I often think of charismatic and effective leaders. However I also think of those who overcome hardship, found strength to still grow, dig deep and reach goals – or change their life choices – in order to raise Resilience and achieve personal growth through challenging times.
We have a natural capacity for Resilience – physically, mentally and emotionally – and if our values are aligned with the organisation, family or community we are part of …our Resilience is likely to be even greater. However Resilience is also about how we add to it throughout life – we can grow and develop our Resilience – and we can do this by working on our mindset.
You can work on creating the right psychological environment for Resilience – which I think is really exciting. This is not about changing your personality but recognising your bias, which can result in knowing where you may be able to help yourself.
As humans we have adapted and survived – but we have a tendency to focus on the negative as a result of the process of stress. This is why disciplines like positive psychology have emerged – because we need to train ourselves to be more balanced, and at times optimistic in situations. Thinking of a car maybe as an analogy to help us understand this – the quality of the fuel we put in our cars effects performance and how smoothly we travel.
Like the oranges in the supporting photograph to this blog –we tend to know when we are feeling squeezed – the question is what action do we take during these times to support ourselves? Our attitudes towards life challenges when we need to Bounce-Back – can either support or detract from our Resilience. The unexpected happens – we have to find a way to keep going during these times – it is just not possible to go through life without stress and adversity.
At times of stress our view of ourselves, others and the world around us can change, we can interpret others actions as negative and this can lead to conflict, breakdown in relationships and eroding confidence. We can see threat – or we can see opportunity within the challenge – and it can be quite hard to hear that often there is a choice in our perspective of a situation. Learning to “check in”with our perspectives is really important in growing Resilience.
“Choose not to be harmed – and you wont feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed – and you haven’t been” Marcus Aurelius
When we are in those darker places when life feels overwhelming or the challenge insurmountable it is hard to imagine that we have the choice to see the challenge as a gift – an opportunity to grow – but this is what a Growth Mindset can help us do. Cultivating a Growth Mindset can greatly support our Mental Resilience. Learning how to reframe our response to a challenge is hugely helpful in developing our capacity for Bounce-Back. For example reframing our perspective:
“ This is just not fair”
“How can I use this challenge – as an opportunity to grow?”
Drawing from the Transactional Analysis model of parent, adult, child – we can begin to understand that by challenging our perspectives and reframing our responses – it can enable us to stay in the adult zone of reactions to life’s challenges.
Our minds tend to focus on the negative – because our flight, flight, freeze responses explored in my previous blog in more depth. In terms of our mindset – when we allow the flight, fight freeze to take over it – can push our perspective towards the stress. Focusing on the potential threat to our wellbeing is not always helpful. We do need to work at managing our perspective – our lens of the world. When life and work challenge’s arise we are less likely to be on our game if we are not growing our capacity for Resilience proactively – and considering out mindset within the context of training ourselves for greater Resilience.
As explored last week if we can step back from “doing” and spend more time “being” we create the space for self-reflection. In that space we can see where we need to work on our attitudes. By learning how to enter the “being” mode more than “doing” mode, we can take the development of our Resilience further – learning to coach ourselves to develop a Growth mindset. This is all about the self-management dimension of Resilience.
Experiencing negative thoughts can use up valuable headspace during situations, reducing our capacity to overcome the problem. This is not to discount the thoughts and feelings of negativity, but rather avoid getting stuck in the drama and recognize when you need to aim to become the resourceful problem solver and focus your mind towards resolution rather than protection.
Learning to challenge the inevitable negative thinking we are likely to have when we are under “threat” really helps develop our Resilience. If we can face the fear of something that is holding us back we can begin to lift ourselves out of it. Kelly McGonigal explores this in her Ted Talk and book The Upside of Stress.
When we reduce the power of fear we can think more clearly and reframe the problem in our minds. We seem to know that we can train for physical fitness – however we don’t tend to think about training for mental fitness. Expecting yourself to just think positive when you are facing major stress is not going to be enough. Here is a list of helpful questions to ask you during challenging times:
How might you turn this situation around?
What fears might be holding you back from resolving the situation?
What is the worst thing that could happen?
What do you have to gain?
To improve the worst possible outcome, list the steps you might take?
If you were to take these steps, how would that be for you?
A resilient individual will take time to work on their capacity for Bounce-Back. This allows them to better overcome challenge and failures – in turn developing skills to support themselves during adversity. We can shift the belief for example “there is now way out”…to something more helpful …”what is the gift in this situation/ what is the lesson?”. In respect of our attitudes and Resilience – if we can more readily notice those vicious cycles of thinking that drag our Resilience down – we will know when we need to activate our Resilience coach growth mindset.
I know how hard it can be to Bounce-Back at times. When I faced a particular dark time in my life one of the books I read The Obstacle is the Way – The Ancient Art of Turning Adversity to Advantage. Reading this felt like a link with the past – some forgotten formula that we seem to have lost – accepting the fact obstacles are a natural part of life! It is how we work through those challenging times that we will be our legacy. A sustainable and healthy way to Bounce Back comes from how we cultivate our capacity for Resilience – growing that Resilience muscle so it is well developed when we need it. This comes from knowing our mind, accepting the role of unconscious stress on both body and mind, and working pro actively to be more in command of whole selves.
Cultivating Resilience is a good idea – but you wont get very far with the idea alone! To be effective requires an engagement with the subject matter – or put simply action if you want to gain the benefits! I often close my introductory sessions to Resilience and/or Mindfulness with the point that if you want a nice flat stomach you do not do the plank for 3-4 days and expect the results. Practice makes perfect and the practice of cultivating a Growth Mindset and our attitudes towards Bounce-Back is quite simple – however it is the regular commitment that will give results!
Thank you for taking the time to read this blog. Please feel free to leave comments or feedback, or directly message me. If you would like to explore how Resilience coaching can help you cultivate a Growth Mindset and raise Resilience for you or someone in your team or family do get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org call on 07872 517109.