“God never made any material as resilient as the human spirit”
Resilience is an appealing characteristic. The temptation is to make it bigger than life. It’s not bigger than life. It’s how we go through life — successfully.
Here are 5 truths about resilience to remember.
- IT’S NOT JUST FOR A SELECT FEW – When we think of resilient people, we tend to attribute to those personalities heroic attributes. They face the un-faceable and solve the unsolvable. However, putting our energies into developing heroic qualities can cause us to chase after something that is unattainable. In that illusive chase, we can miss the real ingredients of resiliency that we need on a daily basis.
- IT’S ESSENTIAL FOR SUCCESSFUL LIVING – Life is not an unending string of good after good. We face struggles, adversaries, and difficulties. We steer through everyday challenges. We overcome the difficulties of our past. We get thrown off course and have to get back on. New experiences challenge us and sometimes even frighten us. Overcoming them takes resilience. Like one lady said, “I’m never down. I’m either up, or getting up.” It’s the ability to get back up, go one more lap, and rise to the occasion.
“No one drowns by falling in the water. They drown by staying there.”
- ITS ATTRIBUTES INCREASE OUR ENDURANCE – In the world of engineering a resilient material is capable of withstanding shock, bending without breaking, and then returning to its original position. For humans it’s flexibility during life’s pressures. They come in various waves and to varying degrees. Humans, just like resilient material, sometimes shrink to minimal needs during high pressure, and then gather their energies to restart or sustain the mission, project, or issue.
“Storms don’t last. They go away.” Winston Churchill
- IT INVOLVES CHOOSING THE RIGHT BATTLES – Reinhold Niebuhr’s prayer (1943), is one of the keys to resilience. “Grant us —
– The serenity to accept the things we cannot change,
– The courage to change the things we can, and
– The wisdom to know the difference.
It is very easy to fall into the trap of trying to fix things that are out of our control. On the other end of the spectrum we can give up too soon and miss problem solving opportunities.
- IT INVOLVES UNDERSTANDING HOW OUR THOUGHTS CONTROL FEELINGS – Our thinking influences our feelings, and thus our behavior. It’s important to know the thinking behind the feelings we are experiencing.
When life gets tough we have our own way of explaining it. Call it your thinking style. When tough events confront us we have a way of answering that age old question, “Why did this happen?” It’s important to know what you are feeling. But don’t stop there. Take a step back and notice what you are thinking that’s causing that feeling. Do I tend to blame myself or others for the issue or hardship? Am I stuck in this problem permanently or is it temporary? Does this issue impact every area of my life or is it affecting only certain parts? Which parts, and how?
This helps avoid what David Burns refers to as “all-or-nothing” thinking, “overgeneralization”, “mental filter” thinking, where you pick out 1 or 2 negatives and filter everything through that. This also leads to “Magnification (catastrophizing)” thinking. This is “emotional reasoning” where you assume your emotions reflect the way things really are.
Resilience is about breaking our “thinking trap” habits so that we can think more flexibly and accurately. Accurate thinking is useful thinking, and useful thinking will help you come up with more constructive ways to approach the issue. That in turn will strengthen your resolve. Feelings are important, but don’t assume that your feelings are an accurate indicator of what is going on. Some people personalize, some magnify, some generalize, some default to catastrophic thinking. In the words of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy this is referred to as Cognitive Distortions.
We all have thinking traps. The key is to know what yours are so you can avoid them. This has more to do with resilience than most would imagine.
Do you see things happening FOR you instead of TO you? Sometimes the things that are happening TO you, are happening FOR you, so that something can happen IN you.
A resilient mind has the ability to go further, faster, with less fatigue. It doesn’t eliminate the struggles and everyday tough times. And resilience is not a commodity that you either have or don’t have. It is a process. It requires practice.
It also includes mutual supporters. What has helped you?