Building Resilience

The reality that life is a constant stream of change is pressing down on all of us all of the time. I’ve often thought about resilience as one of the most valuable qualities an individual (or a business) can possess. It is resilience that allows us to navigate the twists and turns that life throws in our path. Resilient businesses find ways to cope with changing economic times and develop the flexibility to remain viable. Today, though, I am focusing on what creates resilience in individuals.  It is the individuals who hold onto resilience as a way of being who are likely to be successful in life, regardless of how they invest their energy.

Merriam Webster defines resilience as, ‘the ability to recover from or adjust easily to change”. One of my favorite poets and authors, Maya Angelou, posted just today on her Facebook page these thoughts on resilience, “I’m not sure if resilience is ever achieved alone. Experience allows us to learn from example. But if we have someone who loves us–I don’t mean who indulges us, but who loves us enough to be on our side–then it’s easier to grow resilience, to grow belief in self, to grow self esteem. That allows a person to stand up.” Ms. Angelou possesses a wisdom which I have always respected. I agree that we can’t develop resilience in isolation. But having a support network is not the only requirement.

My observation of clients over time has revealed to me some key qualities that resilient individuals tend to possess. Intelligence is a common denominator, yet not all intelligent individuals are resilient. Most of us have known someone who is intelligent to the point of brilliance, but not able to cope with even the slightest variation from their routine without significant stress or disruption. Emotional intelligence, then, is also a piece. By that I mean the ability to self regulate emotions. People who can manage their stress, who can talk themselves through an unexpected life circumstance and come to a place of acceptance tend to be resilient. A positive life outlook, or optimistic world view also helps to build resilience. The pessimist facing continual change will flail with frustration and sputter with predictions of doom while the optimistic individual finds something positive in change to anchor themselves to. The ability to accept constructive criticism is also a quality which resilient individuals possess. We all know people who have trouble accepting any frank appraisal of their possible short comings. The resilient individual is not only able to receive feedback, but is willing to be self reflective and self-corrective, making changes as needed to improve their overall functioning. I’ve also witnessed that resilient people are able to reject negative feedback appropriately. They are able to filter out the appropriate from inappropriate types of feedback, and have a realistic idea of whether or not the source of feedback is valid or useful. Having an active appreciation for the good things in life….or an “attitude of gratitude” also helps to build resilience. Also, individuals who have a solid sense of their core values and beliefs are more resilient. In other words if someone knows that one of their core values is love of humanity, they tend to find ways to incorporate that value into all that they do, and this builds resilience because of the consistency of focus. Spirituality can help to build resilience, but not religious dogmatism. Spiritual principles in general are usually helpful in creating an ability to make sense of the unexpected.  Ms. Maya Angelou referred to being loved by someone who is “on our side” and not indulging us as a force for building resilience. I have witnessed in myself and others the ability to “be on our own side”. By this I mean that resilient individuals practice healthy, appropriate and nurturing self love.  They invest energy in growing their weaknesses into strengths, and provide themselves with the kind of nurturing love Ms. Angelou refers to.  Having this kind of love and support from others is valuable, yes.  However, knowing how to provide this kind of self love and support to yourself means that you become more independently able to nurture your own growth. Last, but by far not least, a sense of fun helps to build resilience.  Being able to find ways to make hard work pleasurable helps to build resilience.  Adapting to change requires hard work.  It requires intelligent work, emotionally constructive work, and self-nurturing work.  So individuals who can find ways to be happy in the midst of working hard…who can put “a spoonful of sugar” in the medicine…find it easier to get the medicine down.  Taking time to laugh at life’s absurdities, being willing to laugh at oneself, and sharing laughter with loved ones all help to build resilience.

Wishing you abundance,  joy, health, and resilience.

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