We usually think of resilience as strength, as mental toughness. We may also assume that some people are inherently more resilient than others. Here’s the thing: resilience is so much more than just being strong, being unwavering. Resilience is also about flexibility. It is about mental agility and being able to adapt to the changing demands of stressful situations.
Imagine you’re on a hike.
You get to a point in the path and you’re facing a huge boulder. The way is blocked. You’re standing close to the boulder and it looks like a wall of rock. Impassable, insurmountable. Finally, you take a step back and take a look. You walk from side to side and look at different angles. Turns out that on one side, there’s a tree with climbable branches that leads right over the boulder.
If you had stayed right in front, staring at that wall of rock, you never would have found a solution to the problem.
Without flexibility and adaptivity, we cannot come to the best solution.⠀
Resilience can absolutely be learned. Some people may be more naturally resilient due to biology, upbringing, past experiences, however it is something we can actively cultivate in our life and something that can empower us to face obstacles in a more effective way.⠀
It takes work, it is a daily practice and just like every strategy I share, it takes personal accountability.
There are strategies we can use to cultivate resilience and to build this skill within ourselves. Just like a muscle, it needs to be flexed, to be exercised in order to become stronger. One way we can work on this is recognizing the ineffective thinking we fall into and combatting them with different tools. Here are some examples of tools we can use:
1) Gathering evidence: When it comes to situations that affect our mental health, it is easy to fall into emotion. It is easy to respond in an emotional way and base our view of the situation on what we feel is true. Gathering evidence helps us get a more accurate assessment of the situation and of our options. Find empirical evidence to support both sides; the negative and the positive.
2) Reframing: Reframing is essentially what we did above with the boulder example. Brian McGreevy said: “If a problem can't be solved within the frame it was conceived, the solution lies in reframing the problem.” It is important to be flexible in our thinking and to consider every perspective of a situation as well as every option available to us.
3) Inventorying Resources: When faced with an obstacle or a challenge, we can build confidence, create a plan and find a solution that feels good for us by taking inventory of the resources available to us. Resources can be anything that will allow us to better face the obstacle and overcome it. They could be people in our lives who support us or people who have experience with similar situations. They could be traits, characteristics and skills we have that will help us through. They could be financial or material resources. List everything available to you before making a decision and trying to devise your solution.
Resilience, like anything, takes work. Changing our thought patterns and our reactions can be extremely difficult but with practice it is possible for it to become almost second nature. Resilience is something that is actively practiced, not something we simply have or lack.
Next time you’re facing a problem, do some mental gymnastics and see if you can find different approaches. Gather evidence to properly assess the situation, decide what resources are available to you and decided on the purposeful reaction that feels right to you.