Here are some questions to ponder about resilience.
In the first instance, try to answer with the first thing that pops into your head without editing or imposing how you think you ought to answer.
- What are your immediate physical, emotional and intellectual reactions when something goes wrong?
- What are your second reactions?
- When you bounce back easily from difficulties, what do you tell yourself?
- When you don’t bounce back easily from difficulties, what do you tell yourself?
- Which inner voice is loudest?
Those questions form the backbone of understanding your ‘default’ pattern when it comes to resilience. Pretty much all of our behaviour follows patterns and it makes sense that how we react to adversity, set-backs, hurts, disappointments, etc. will follow a pattern as well.
So here are a few more questions that you may need to think about a bit deeper than simply having an immediate response.
- How far back can you go it terms of remembering how you dealt with difficulties when you were young? I have a very clear memory of when I was three being really upset about something inside and making a conscious decision about how I was going to outwardly react to it which was not to let anyone see how upset I was.
- Is there a thread you can follow that, looking back, set the tone of how you now react to difficulties?
- Has it changed at all? I know that one thread in my early years was that I would be inwardly distressed and often outwardly ‘OK’. This proved a liability because it led to depression. It was only as I got older (and wiser??) that with greater understanding I sort of reversed things. Now, I do react outwardly, often immediately, but inside I’m actually really OK with most things that happen. I trust my coping abilities. Do you trust yours?
- If how you behave has changed as you’ve got older, how much was conscious choice?
To me, this question is the crux of how we can become more resilient. Let’s face it, when we’re younger we’re more often than not buffeted by events and don’t feel we have much choice in the outcome. If you’ve ever had a child (or witnessed a child) erupt in a lavish temper tantrum, it’s usually because they cannot control events and aren’t getting what they want. Without resilience, we, as adults, can have the ‘grownup’ version of a lavish tantrum when we believe we have no choice and events are conspiring against us.
When we consciously choose our behaviour we are definitely more in charge, and the more we feel in charge, the greater our resilience is.
- Now let’s get specific. Can you think of a time recently, where you consciously chose behaviour that demonstrated greater resilience? It doesn’t have to be anything major; the key is that the behaviour choice was conscious.
Here’s an example. Recently, and for some unknown reason, I no longer could get access to my personal email account. I tried ringing the company but that was as successful as climbing Mt Everest without a Sherpa or warm clothes. I was able to have an on-line ‘chat’ with someone in a far off place who didn’t have a clue and no matter how many times I tried to explain the problem she kept telling me to do the same thing. In other words, I got absolutely no where.
I was sick to my stomach when I realised that not only did I no longer have access to all my emails but that I would have to set up a new email account and contact as many people and organisations as I could remember. The task really felt like I was facing my own personal admin Mt Everest. I wanted to climb into the computer and rip at the throat of the far off person and I also wanted to cry.
I did none of those. I didn’t rail at anyone; I didn’t snarl via the on-line chat with the woman who didn’t have a clue. I chose not to get upset, and I chose to simply get on with it. It’s been a lot of work and still unfinished, but I didn’t feel undermined, singled out, poor me. I didn’t have a tantrum, accuse anyone. I drew from my pool of resilience and it has made the task so much easier because I’m not carrying around frustration and angst.
My final question for this piece is: if you could change one thing to become more resilient, what would it be?