There are psychological traits relating to Resilience that help us to seek out success.
Dr Suzanna Kobassa of City University, New York has identified 3 key psychological traits relating to Resilience. These are:
As the signs of Spring are here, with blossom appearing on many trees, which can be uplifting and very welcome; let’s give this subject some context in relation to how we typically respond to the threat of snow, before that threat disappears from our minds until next year. I have heard many people say, “we’re just not prepared for snow here in the UK.” As I live in a rural place, when someone says, “we’re due for snow”, I have to check-in and ask, do we have enough wood and bottled water? I do not however, buy up the local supermarket provision of tinned foods and allow fear to drive me into over reacting to what at worst will be a few days of forced ‘down days’ at home with the family.
When snow is a possibility it seems the suggestions for staying safe and warm come streaming in from friends, via the news, our mobile devices and more. It pays to be prepared and the same principal applies to our mental health. It does not pay to over-react to possible threats to our wellbeing and safety, this can hold us back in life!
In today’s Blog I want to explore this from the perspective of goal setting. Marshall Goldsmith, Author of the book Triggers is a ‘Thought Leader’ in our coaching industry. He asks 6 questions every day. Originally these question had YES or NO answers but he thought this could lead to a sense of failure – if you can’t answer YES, so he changed the questions to:
Did I do my best to…?
Cultivating a Growth Mindset for the context of growing our mental Resilience requires us to ask:
How can I manage my mind better?
Now drawing on Kobassa’s findings this is about the self-control element of Resilience. If we focus on 1 big goal – it can lead to fatigue and frustration setting in and point’s our lens back towards the negative. Taking the example of a typical reaction to the possibility of snow – we seem to be good at whipping ourselves into a frenzy about the negative consequences of snow when at worst something may go wrong, you may get stuck or you may need to call for help – but most of the time the threat passes with no sight of the white stuff. However, how much mental energy did you spend focusing on what might go wrong if the snow does arrive?
Having goals is really important. We need to step outside of our comfort zones in order to grow and again Kobassa’s findings tell us another trait of psychological Resilience is to challenge oneself. However, it is important to have small as well as big goals to nurture our sense of moving forward in some way.
A key ingredient to Resilience is the ability to focus on our success, however big or small. We can be so busy hurtling forward to our next goal we often miss the opportunity to celebrate our success’ along the way. A way to begin to cultivate a greater sense of success is by asking ourselves simple questions about what supports our happiness and wellbeing day to day, e.g.:
What does a good day look like?
What can I do today to move closer to my big goal?
Cultivating a sense of moving forward in some way links with the 1-inch hurdles concept, a theory used in sports coaching also referred to as the aggregate of marginal gains. This is about the small wins that together can lead to big leaps forward in performance and Resilience. Stopping to ask ourselves, what does a good day look like, can help break down into bite-sized chunks the things that make us happy, support our wellbeing and help us to feel successful day to day. It also helps us maintain a sense of achievement during challenging times.
Sometimes we get so focused on the achievement of our big goal we can feel overwhelmed. Staying motivated can be cultivated by ensuring we spend more time focussing on our success’. This can also help sustain our commitment to the big goals in life. Commitment being one of the key traits that support mental Resilience.
Looking at how Mindfulness can help us nurture mental Resilience and focus on success. Mindfulness activates brain regions that produce neurotransmitters such as serotonin. This means you can become more resilient at a neurological level. Developing Mindfulness helps us to mentally focus, increasing our ability to remain calm in the face of challenge or change.
Mindfulness also helps us to concentrate on one thing at a time, growing our ability to focus in on the success in life and the things that are positive can be supported by a commitment to Mindfulness. Taking enjoyment from the simple wins or smaller pleasures in life can help bring the mind back into focus – not the big vision that might at times seem so far away and lead our minds to becoming mentally dispersed thinking about how we will achieve our big dream. The simple fact is if we take time to stop and reflect, we create space to make things happen.
I have spent some time in previous Blog’s looking at a Growth Mind-set, joining this up now supporting ourselves in growing Resilience is not just about attitude – it’s about our attitude and our physiology (the mental and physical aspects of Resilience).
I advocate Kobassa’s model for psychological traits of resilient people which showed in an organisational study – when these traits can be displayed during organisational change – we can thrive through that change – however we cannot just think our wait of the Resilience zone. We can’t turn the unconscious human stress response off; however, Mindfulness can help us manage it better. This in turn helps us to create the mental space for self-reflection to happen where we can re-focus and stop the mind heading off in a direction that may not be helpful.
If you have not already tried Mindfulness please email me for a PDF of an introductory exercise. Taking on board some feedback from a Resilience Masterclass this week I will also be recording some podcasts of guided Mindfulness techniques soon.
The power of unfreezing stress responses comes from initially regulating the breath. We can use breathing to re-gain control of our physical Resilience. We are then in a stronger position to make a mindset shift. This gives us headspace to get out of the negative stories we might be telling ourselves, in order to rethink and review the situation objectively.
Our mental Resilience can be supported by developing our capacity to challenge our ways of thinking under stress, challenge or change. This helps us to see the positive in situations which in turn increases our capacity to adapt and strengthen our attitudes to bounce back.
Jon Kabat Zinn’s team at Massachusetts Medical School assessed if meditation could boost the ‘hardiness’ scores measuring Resilience by Kobassa and found that participants in a Mindfulness programme felt:
Happier and less stressed
That they had more control over their lives
That challenge should be seen as opportunity rather than a threat
We can’t change the world in a day, but we can take steps forward. Those 1-inch hurdles – add them up – can give you greater gains and move towards success. In my own Resilience Coaching I ask my clients to commit to morning and evening questions they can ask themselves in order to check in with how their Resilience is both mentally, emotionally and physically. This helps us notice and accept where we need to support ourselves more. A HR Director in my audience made the valid observation to her team that if one of the corner stones to our Resilience is depleted – it is likely this will pull other cornerstones to our Resilience down further – therefore reducing the overall Resilience cushion we have to deal with further change, stress and pressure. This supports our position on how important pro-actively supporting our Resilience is.
Click on this link to listen to Marshall Goldsmith’s Ted Talk on the 6 questions: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LInGemfSBZU
Thank you for taking the time to read this Blog. Any further questions, comments or feedback, please get in touch on firstname.lastname@example.org