Life Skill of Resilience
What does it mean to you?
Resilience is like motivation. You can sort of be taught it, but to really put it into action it has to come from you. From within you.
What is it exactly? In a material it’s the ability to be stretched or stressed and then to return to its original shape. It’s pretty much the same with us. We don’t learn resilience when things are going well, when we’re simply moving forward without a care in the world. In fact in such times we tend to learn nothing of value at all.
It’s when it goes wrong, when there’s an obstacle in The Way, when nasty surprises and events spring on us, that’s when we learn or show resilience. It’s one of the major qualities in the military, particularly the Royal Marines. I’ve mentioned the four main Commando qualities before but they bear repeating:
Cheerfulness in the face of adversity
The Royal Marines also have a course in resilience, which comes with its own mantra:
Improvise, Adapt, Overcome
It’s as that fridge magnet slogan has it: ‘It’s not about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s learning how to dance in the rain.’ It’s not expecting it to be sunshine and unicorns, it’s knowing that there will be rain, storms, darkness, lightning strikes from a clear sky. And knowing that you can handle all that and more and keep going.
Followers of Stoic philosophy would go so far as to say we should be grateful when it goes wrong, when the bank says no, when you launch and nobody cares, when nobody buys your beloved new product. Because then we can show ourselves how resilient we are. We can show our fine qualities. And we can be tested and then we will know we can pass the test.
There’s a ‘thing’ among middle aged men based on them knowing full well that they haven’t been tested like their grandfathers were. These men have never been to war like their mighty ancestors. They have no idea how they’d act when tested in the most brutal and terrifying arena of them all. They don’t want to go to war of course, but there’s a nagging feeling that they don’t measure up. And they know they’ll never know.
Resilience in Action
But that’s not you, you’re just starting out. Maybe you’ve had it hard, maybe you’ve had it easy. But life is going to come at you, however rich or poor your background, however privileged or underprivileged. Fate doesn’t care much, it tests us all.
And building resilience means that you can face the storms and survive them. You won’t crumble, cry or blame others. So here’s the Top 6 tips and strategies for building resilience:
1. Focus on what is actually stressing you. Look at it head on. What is the worst possible outcome, in reality? Often it’s not that bad when you focus on it.
2. Our minds and bodies are interconnected, so get your body in good shape and the mind will tend to follow. Think about fresh air, any exercise, diet, sleep, hydration.
3. That’s your body. Now your mind. Meditation, even for five minutes, can be a game-changer. Just sit quietly and let your thoughts roll past, they’re not you, watch them go, breathe deep and just be, focusing on the breath. The effects can be amazing. Mindfulness is another option.
4. Be positive. There are upsides to every single thing. Find them. Focus on them. Not in a silly Disney kind of let’s all singalong while smiling like imbeciles way but in a grateful appreciation that you’re still here. Others aren’t. You can get up and get on it. Others would love to but they physically can’t. Look for the sunshine not the shadow. See what you’ve learned from something going wrong – if it had gone right you’d not have learned that valuable life lesson. Thank you.
5. Make sure what you’re trying to do has purpose, a meaning, helps others. You need to know not just what you’re doing and how you’re going to do it – but why you’re doing it. Spoiler alert: getting rich or impressing others are not good reasons why.
6. Spend some time remembering what’s gone right, your successes, large or small. People tend to only focus on when things went wrong, when they failed. Learn from those then move on. And look at when you’ve done good and done well. You can add to that store as you move resiliently forward, dealing with lifes ups and downs.