One of the most straightforward ways you can begin building resilience is by looking at what you already have available to you.
Right at the top of my list are close relationships. This is for the simple reason that the people around you are highly likely to share your outlook, focus, values and beliefs. They also see beneath the surface of who you are, rather than just seeing the tip of the iceberg that is revealed to the rest of the world.
All of this means that the people you choose to have close relationships with are really well placed to support you on your journey.
No matter how resilient you are, you’re always going to be human, you’ll always have the emotions that come from adversity, and so there will always be times when you question yourself and struggle to move past the pain.
This means you will always need to seek out coping strategies – both cognitive and behavioural. Having people around you to bounce your ideas off when exploring the best ways to develop those strategies can help to give you far greater clarity.
The belief in the importance of close personal relationships in developing resilience is supported by Ozbay et al, who concluded that social support is one of the most influential variables in predicting positive coping and adaptation .
A fundamental and almost universal truth is that adversity creates agitation. Therefore, part of building resilience is developing the understanding that experiencing agitation is normal. This leads directly on to the other key relationship in your life that is crucial to building resilience. That is the relationship you have with yourself.
It is so important to develop a view of yourself that is compassionate and caring. We all suffer at different times and in different ways, but how you process your experiences plays a huge part in the impact they have on your life.
When it comes to your relationships, with yourself, with those close to you, and with the wider world, it is interesting to note that humour also actively contributes to the development of resilience.
Humour is viewed by Vaillant as a fourth level mature defense, serving not only to combat stress, but also to attract social support . This means that allowing yourself to be playful is not only ok, it’s a really great coping strategy. There’s nothing wrong with breaking out the super-soakers every now and then.
As is the case for far too many people, not all of my formative relationships were healthy. I grew up with a physically and emotionally abusive father, who constantly rejected me and told me I wasn’t good enough. He would tell me that I was too stupid to be his son, and over time I internalised that message.
For many years I believed that I was stupid – a belief that was compounded by my dyslexia. In spite of the negative messages I received, I had inherent traits that allowed me to develop coping strategies and overcome the agitation early in my life. I fought against the negative input and sought to validate myself.
I recognised that in order to achieve this validation, I needed to find something that I was good at in an area where I wasn’t being targeted and attacked. For me, this was sport. My success in sport both in athletics and rugby (no I did not play for the junior Wallabies let alone captain them) allowed me to develop the confidence and belief that I could achieve. This formed the foundation of my resilience. Once the foundations were in place, I was able to start building.
Fast-forwarding a few years, I went back to university to study for my MBA, to prove to myself that I wasn’t stupid. My first two or three subjects were credits. I was really happy with that. I had never imagined I could get a credit at an MBA level.
It didn’t take long before I was asking myself how I could achieve more and get better results. I began to recognise that I wasn’t stupid, and to reverse the early beliefs I’d had as a kid.
I realised that if I applied myself I could achieve a distinction average. Since that realisation, I have never had anything less than a distinction, and have even had three high distinctions.
When I sat back and absorbed what I had achieved, I realised that this put me in the top ten percent. So I then began to wonder what else I could do.
The message here is that you build resilience from your own actions and results, because you come to understand that it is possible to move above and beyond your expectations of yourself.
The positive outcomes that you get are strength, learning, and the motivation to help others. In fact, a number of studies show that altruism is closely associated with resilience in both adults and children .
You also develop perspective and a method of improvement, because you have benchmarks to work from.
This is the pipeline for how you build resilience. Adversity kicks in, you become agitated, which combines unpleasant emotions, questioning, and mental struggles. At this point your cognitive and behavioural coping mechanisms come into play. This then leads to all of the positive outcomes that result from building resilience.
The positive outcomes are the motivation to keep moving through the pipeline, and as long as you keep pushing forward and developing your personal resources, you will keep being rewarded with more positive outcomes.
Kristian Livolsi – #sharetoinspire