Neuroscience and gene mapping have confirmed what many of us have suspected – some people are hardwired to be resilient, and some people are hardwired to experience the same situation as more stressful than others. However, it is also confirming that genetics only explains 30% of our variability , the rest is down to what we learn from our early years, and from dealing with the challenges which life throws our way.
From looking at the wealth of research on resilience, there are a number of key qualities which appear in research findings, regardless of whether they are drawn from looking at children, adults with life limiting illnesses, Olympians or high achievers at work. These qualities together provide protection when we face difficulty. We all have them to some degree, but there will be some that you draw on more easily, and some that are less developed.
So, to discover which of the Big 8 Resilience Qualities you have learnt most effectively, ask yourself the following questions.
Score yourself according to the number in the column which best describes how you see yourself.
To what degree am I:
|Not at All||Don’t’ Know|
|PurposefulI know what is important to me and what guides my choices in work and life|
|FlexibleReadily able to adapt to changing circumstances|
|ConfidentI have a sense of trust in my actions, which is not confined to those things where I have established expertise/qualifications|
|CreativeAble to work with what’s there, and come up with solutions even when resources are limited|
|ProactiveAble to take action to move things forward, rather than waiting for others to put things right|
|Support SeekingAble to ask for help when I need it in order to deal with a situation|
|Emotionally ControlledAble to manage my emotions when under pressure.|
|Realistically OptimisticAble to make the best of things as they are, rather than relying on blind optimism.
What does this quick assessment tell you about what you call on to keep you resilient, and what you make use of.
Are you someone who offers support to others, but is reluctant to recognise that at times you need support also?
Do you lose emotional control when the pressure is on, or are only able to access negative emotions?
Do you lose flexibility at times of difficulty and become fixed on things being a certain way?
Have you lost a sense of meaning in aspects of your life, and does that make you less able to persist through difficulties?
Is your confidence linked to your ability in certain areas, which makes you reluctant to take on challenges outside of those areas?
Do you give up when the ideal solution is not available to you, or get creative?
Do you become passive when things aren’t going your way?
Recognise that the qualities you can easily claim have largely been learnt, so the ones that are more difficult for you to access can also be learnt. You can wait to learn them through the next big challenge that life throws at you, or you can start learning them through experimentation:
- Rather than keeping a concern to yourself ask someone you trust if they could help you?
- Notice when you are operating from a negative emotional palette, and ask yourself how those emotions are helping you. Is there another emotion that would be more useful?
- Do one thing differently. If you notice that you are becoming fixed in how you live your life, take the risk of doing something outside of that routine – whether it is the route you take to work, the paper you read, the sort of films you watch, the exercise regime you follow.
- Rather than relying on your confidence in an established area. Grow your confidence by moving outside of that area. Find something you would like to do, but assume you can’t and take a risk. Then notice how it changes your view of yourself.
- Think of something you want to do at work or in life, but the resources are not there, and ask yourself “How can I do it without . . .?” Get creative.
- When you feel the passive you kicking in, challenge yourself to take an action. Whether it is phoning a friend rather than waiting to be phoned, instigating a meeting rather than waiting or others, or writing the letter of complaint rather than assuming it is pointless.
You may be one of the lucky 30% blessed with innate resilience, but if you are not you can acquire it by repeated practice.