What is Resilience? (and what its NOT!)

Resilience in the 21st Century

Exploring Resilience: A Journey into Understanding and Cultivating It

Resilience – a term that has taken on new significance in our ever-changing world. It’s a pivotal moment to unravel what it truly means to be resilient in today’s landscape.

What exactly is resilience? What does it look like in practice? What factors contribute to someone’s resilience? Is it an inherent trait or a learned skill? These are the questions we’re here to explore.

Unpacking Resilience

Two decades ago, resilience often conjured an image of bouncing back effortlessly from adversity. But let’s pause and reflect: What did that concept of resilience truly entail? Was it merely gritting one’s teeth, putting on a brave face, and soldiering through challenges?

This perception of resilience, where emotions were suppressed and hardship was endured stoically, may not serve us well in the modern world. In fact, such an approach could exacerbate stress and hinder our ability to adapt.

Times have changed. Today, we find ourselves navigating a complex pinball machine of life’s challenges. The demands on us are multifaceted, from balancing work and family responsibilities to coping with increased workplace pressures and the relentless pace of modern life.

Can we genuinely compare the resilience of previous generations to ours? Our world is fundamentally different, with an overload of choices, evolving values, and social norms, not to mention the advent of the internet.

Are We Truly ‘Bouncing Back’?

In our discussions of resilience, is the traditional idea of “bouncing back” still relevant? The answer is likely no. We’re not merely bouncing back from one setback; we’re facing a continuous barrage of challenges.

Consider the pressures of modern life: the struggle to balance work and personal life, unconventional work hours, and the relentless pursuit of productivity. We’re always “on,” connected to our devices, and constantly bombarded with stimuli.

People have become accustomed to being overstimulated and distracted, often running away from introspection. Loneliness and social isolation have also become more prevalent, and social media can breed feelings of inadequacy and fear of missing out.

Our focus has shifted from appreciating what we have to fixate on what we lack. When you add a global pandemic into this mix, it’s no wonder that people are showing signs of strain.

The Power of The Present

Let’s contemplate the concept of time. All we truly possess is this moment, the present. The past is history, and the future is a mystery. That’s why we call the present a gift.

So, perhaps, resilience isn’t about bouncing back from past or future events. Instead, it revolves around where our attention lies at any given moment.

Is our focus on the past, unchangeable? Is it fixated on the future, attempting to control uncertain outcomes? Or are we anchored in the present, where our true power to create and thrive resides?

Resilience: A Teachable State of Mind

Can resilience be taught? Absolutely. Resilience is fundamentally a state of mind, shaped by our experiences, environment, and learned behaviours.

Each of us enters this world similarly, but our experiences mould us, affecting how we think and feel. This learning process, whether conscious or not, influences our resilience.

The human brain is remarkably adaptable, exhibiting neuroplasticity. We can rewire our thought patterns, emotional responses, and behaviours consciously. By reinforcing new ways of thinking and responding, we can foster a resilient mindset.

Resilience Is Not Perfection

Resilience doesn’t require perfection. It’s not about never faltering or experiencing difficult days. Instead, it’s the ability to adapt and manage our emotional responses effectively.

Even when you have a challenging day or week, it doesn’t diminish your resilience. It’s an opportunity for self-reflection and growth, a chance to explore what needs to change and how you can better manage your emotions.

Resilience in The Workplace

In the workplace, resilience is crucial, but it can’t thrive without self-care. Stress and the challenges of a global pandemic affect everyone, even those with inherent resilience.

Employees who neglect self-care, work long hours, and disregard their well-being are susceptible to burnout. Resilience isn’t about gritting your teeth and pushing through; it’s about nurturing a state of well-being.

Building Resilience: Key Influences

  1. Emotional Awareness: Developing resilience begins with self-awareness. Recognizing our thoughts, emotions, and behaviours is essential before initiating change.
  2. Emotional Intelligence: Emotional intelligence hinges on self-awareness. It also involves learning to regulate emotional responses. Techniques like tapping or EFT (emotional freedom technique) can help employees manage their emotions effectively.
  3. Self-Esteem: Self-esteem significantly impacts resilience. Low self-esteem can hinder one’s ability to navigate challenges and respond effectively.
  4. Locus of Control: Recognising what we can and cannot control is vital for resilience. Over-controlling outcomes due to anxiety or perfectionism can undermine well-being.
  5. Sense of Humor: A sense of humour, the ability to laugh at life’s challenges, can enhance resilience.
  6. Self-Care and Positive Coping Mechanisms: Instead of resorting to unhealthy coping mechanisms like overindulging in comfort food or alcohol, employees should learn positive ways to manage stress and enhance resilience.

Creating a Resilient Workforce

A resilient workforce begins with awareness. Employees need to recognise the signs of stress and the importance of holistic well-being. Education and resources can empower them to enhance their resilience and overall mental health.

In the end, resilience isn’t about enduring hardship silently; it’s about embracing change, nurturing well-being, and thriving in today’s dynamic world.

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