Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Resilience - What Is It? And Why?

English: Small plants grow in the blazing Carr...
Resilience (Wikipedia)
by Nick James Smith

What is Resilience?

Do you remember the Weebles and their catchphrase, 'Weebles wobble but they don't fall down'?

However much you knock them over, they always bounce back up.

For me that encapsulates resilience - they always finish upright, however many knocks they take, however hard they are hit.

What does that really mean for humans though?

Some people like to believe that life will be straightforward. In fact, the very idea of life coaching can suggest to people that you can make life what you want it to be and many coaches will sell their services on that basis.

This is not completely true though, because however well you predict your future, there will always be unanticipated difficulties, at a variety of levels of importance.

An unexpected bereavement, not quite hitting your targets, an exam failure; these are all things that can blind-side you and knock you down.

Resilience is the ability to deal with the issue successfully and rise again to carry on. Note that it's not a talent for ignoring the problem. That is a short term fix that will usually come back to bite you later.

Resilience is actually processing the negative feelings, healing the hurts, putting the pieces back together and finding a solution that allows you to move on.

Where do the issues come from?

Yourself

However great you are, there will be times when you make poor choices and then have to suffer the consequences. It might be something simple like that last drink that you didn't need causing you to be hungover at work the next day.

It could be more serious like jumping into a relationship (in work or life) that ultimately doesn't benefit either side. I'm sure you can remember times when you looked back and realised that a problem was of your own making and therefore probably avoidable.

For me these are the hardest to deal with because along with the problem comes the admission that I am not as brilliant as I would like to think! I am plagued with 'what if' scenarios that can easily descend into metaphorical self-flagellation.

Others

There are also bad events which are the result of someone else's actions; these are even less predictable than the results of our own actions. This doesn't presume that the people are malicious.

Maybe the consequences were completely hidden from them or possibly they made choices as badly as you sometimes have.

However, it might be that your problems stem from the deliberate, possibly criminal, actions of others. Our newspapers are full of such stories.

Accidents

Finally there are the genuine accidents. Some people name them as 'acts of God' which maybe assumes a non-loving God. The idea that this is something out of the control of humans does accurately describe them though.

Earlier this year, I turned quickly and ruptured my achilles tendon. Accidents happen. Even if I had stopped beforehand to consider my age and fitness level and the wisdom of playing football, I still would not have foreseen this result; it was an accident with no blame to be apportioned.

Ongoing issues

I have talked above as if resilience is only dealing with the one-off things in life but this is a generalisation. Sometimes things hit you that are longer lasting; changes take place that can never be undone.

Adrianne Haslet, a ballroom dancing teacher who lost a leg in the Boston bombing, will never have the same body that she used to.

Yet she has recently said, 'I absolutely will dance again' and plans to accept an offer of a place on Dancing with the Stars once she is used to life with a prosthetic lower limb.

Resilience is about dealing firstly with the change but then secondly with the ongoing, adverse conditions that the change has instigated.

Sometime these 'adverse conditions' are simply that you are over-engaged - you have more tasks to do than hours in the day.

If this is the case, it is easy to become stressed and lose your ability to prioritise, becoming too tired and weary to say no to the unreasonable demands. Resilience is the ability to stay strong in the face of this pressure, continuing to perform successfully.

Why be resilient?

As I suggested above, things will go wrong in life. This fact should not be a surprise, even if the actual event is. As you read about the different kinds of issues, you will already have been processing some of the reasons why resilience would help you to be better.

Being resilient and coping well with the change is the secret to not letting the change derail you for too long. The quicker you can get to a new way of life that works for you, the better. The longer you leave things unresolved the harder they will be to tackle and the more affected you will be by them.

Assuming you want a bit more success, happiness or quality of life, stand up and deal with them now. Achieving your goals in life will require you at times to be resilient and tackle the challenging bits.

Some of them can be anticipated and planned around, others can be avoided by better decision-making on your part but other obstacles are unavoidable and will simply need to be overcome.

The alternative is to not deal with them, either not well or not at all, and the consequences become longer lasting and have a bigger negative effect.

You can see this in the news where people have become bitter and sad because of past events that affected their lives adversely many years before. They never dealt with it and it is still impacting on their lives.

As a comparison though, I like to think of Gordon Wilson from Enniskillen, who forgave the people who bombed the Remembrance Day service in 1987, killing his daughter, Marie.

He is quoted as saying, "I bear no ill will. I bear no grudge" and followed that up by campaigning for peace. Not only did his ability to deal with the event help him but also changed his community for the better.

The other possible consequence of not being resilient is that you start to worry. You recognise that problems will occur but become anxious at the thought that you won't be able to deal with them - if you get hit, you will be knocked down and stay there.

A lot of people in this situation will make complex plans to avoid any possible problem, expending huge amounts of mental effort to ensure nothing ever touches them.

This then takes a lot of time away from pursuing what should be their main goals in life; instead they have substituted 'avoiding bad things' as their goal, which will never lead to achieving more.

Conclusion

Resilience is the ability to sustain successful performance in the face of adverse conditions, misfortunes and changes, to bounce back and live life to the full once more. Without it we condemn ourselves to being in the thrall of the change, controlled by it, rather than taking control ourselves.

Nick Smith is an Outdoor Life Coach and Trainer. Within his company, Square Pegs Coaching, he uses outdoor experiences to help people develop themselves. By walking and talking together, people discover how they can take further steps in their journey of life.

Although working mainly in Glasgow and the West of Scotland where he is based, Nick also travels around the UK - if you want to be coached by him then get in touch through his website at http://www.squarepegscoaching.com.

There is more information there to help you understand the concepts of outdoor life coaching, background on Nick and the opportunity to book coaching when you are ready.

The articles Nick writes appear first in his regular newsletter - to sign up to receive new articles and other offers, go to http://eepurl.com/fXEm. He also posts other thoughts and challenges on his blog on the website.

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