Despite our desire that life should be a steady upward line towards whatever our goals are, we learn soon enough that it’s far from a straight journey. Whether personally or professionally there are ups and downs along the way, some small and some large.
Resilience is the skill that we need to develop to stop ourselves falling deep into these potholes, to help lift ourselves up over the rim of these craters and continue to move forward.
Resilience is the ability to survive and move forward from these inevitable challenges. It is defined as the "process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress". It is the ability to pick ourselves up, learn and even grow from these situations.
The difference between the people who thrive and those who get bogged down or derailed for long periods of time or even throw in the towel altogether is the skill of resilience. It is not because they were born lucky, smarter or are made from different stuff than the rest of us, it is because they have learned the skill of resilience. And it can be learned!
The first lesson the people who thrive have learned is that change and challenge are part of everyone’s life, no one gets away unscathed and that resisting that is a futile exercise. Wishing it hadn’t happened or blaming someone or something outside themselves is part of the trap that keeps us from moving forward, we end up wallowing in the crater that way.
In recognising the need for accepting the adversity and taking responsibility for moving forward from it, even if wasn’t of their making, is the second lesson. They recognise waiting for something or someone else to change chains you to something or someone that may never change, meaning you’re stuck. But you can change yourself and how you respond to the situation.
Every situation and challenge can be seen in hundreds even thousands of different ways, some that empower you and some that disempower you. Some ways move you on towards your goals, some keep you stuck, and some can even send you backwards. We are creatures of habit and selectivity and see challenges and situations in ways we have been conditioned to and have done before.
There’s a story of a guy on the way home on the underground late one evening, another man with two children gets in his empty carriage. The children begin to jump around and making noise, beginning to get on the first guy’s nerves.
“Why doesn’t this man control his children? This is very disrespectful to others on this carriage”. So, he turns to the man and says, “Will you stop your children making so much noise and control them, its very inconsiderate to others on the train”. The man looks at him and says, “I guess I should, we’ve just come from the hospital and their mother has just died, I’m distracted as I don’t know how I’m going to explain it to them”.
The first guy goes quiet. He’s suddenly seen the situation in an entirely different way.
People who are resilient don’t resist but accept challenges and one of the things they learn is to look for ways and perspectives that can empower themselves to move forward. They ask different questions than the rest of us might: What can I learn from this crisis? How can I influence this situation to change? Is this the only interpretation of this experience? How can I use this to move myself forward to where I would like to be?
Asking questions like these is one of the ways that helps them find solutions, not feel helpless and ultimately direct their own futures.
This months piece was written by Paul Smith of Professional Success Limited – an expert in "Taking people to the next level".