It is said that ‘resilience’ and ‘pivot’ are the new buzz words these days. In fact, resilience has been around since the beginning of time. Let’s think as far back as the dark ages. If it were not for resilience, humanity would have ended in the dark. But (wo)mankind has this innate ability to push forward through setbacks. We are hunters, we are protectors, we are survivors. What drives those actions is resilience. But before we can be resilient, we must recognize that we have it.
The Institute of Social and Emotional Intelligence defines resilience as:
- perseverance and diligence in the face of setbacks
I believe we can look at resilience from 2 perspectives: Individual and community.
As individuals, resilience is what helps to differentiate those of us who can move forward in life as we survive experiences that affect our plans and goals, from those of us who can’t. Resilience starts at an early age as we begin to develop our own thoughts about what we want to be when we grow up.
As a community, we band together to adapt to new and/or precarious situations. Today, as we face the pandemic, we all are looking for ways to first survive, then thrive as a community. We are fighting for ways to move forward in productive ways to preserve our economy, health, social interactions, education, careers and life as we knew it. We are all making our own sacrifices for the sake of bringing back some form of normalcy for the sum of the whole, whether we are resuming daily activities as we knew them to be or contributing through new methods to live. Even though community resilience has been around throughout history, it is much easier to understand the thoughts and actions of others as a result of access to information through the world of media that we have today. As a community, we have the ability to change direction by referring to choices others have made, forming our own opinions, and considering information that is disseminated through the media as a barometer of change.
From a personal perspective, there are many contributing factors that make one resilient. There was a young girl, brought up in an inner city, in a house of physical, mental and sexual abuse. Her abuse started from the time she was 6 months old by several family members and continued into her adult life.
From a young age, she made a decision that this abuse would someday end. As a young child, she would sit in a corner and envision herself as a princess, surrounded by loving people and a safe environment. She told herself that if she was strong and endured the abuse, she would someday have the ability to end it and create an amazing life for herself. Although she didn’t know it, she was telling herself that she was not a victim but using all of her experiences as a lesson. There were times when she saw dark days, when all seemed hopeless and she would get caught in a downward spiral, wishing her life would end. But she wouldn’t give up.
During her school age years, her situation didn’t get better, but she was able to see different lifestyles to which she was not accustomed. She saw her friend’s parents, who were loving and attentive to their children, helping them strive to do well in school so that they would have productive adult lives. She saw people encouraging one another to be better, supporting each other, lifting one another up. This gave the young woman hope. Something to fight for, something to live for.
The abuse continued through to her teenage years, but seeing her friends and their families gave her hope and as a result, she had more bright days than dark. She knew that if other humans had the power to direct their lives, so did she. That became her focus. She stopped allowing the actions of others to define the person she was. She had no choice but to endure the abuse but decided to stay strong so as to eventually make the change. She knew that in order to make that change, she had to be agile and ready to change directions in thought and body quickly and nimbly. She had to be flexible in her thinking and mobility as she maneuvered through her world. Most importantly, she had to have hope. She knew that without hope she would not have the resilience to move from her unsafe world of dysfunction to the world of a thriving young woman. She knew that she had to have faith in herself, despite the constant barrage of emotional abuse and insults. She needed to keep the prize in sight and know that no matter what came her way, she would zig zag her way out until her path led her to the life she had hoped for.
She fulfilled her own prophecy by drawing on the lessons she learned from the survival skills that she had developed throughout her life. She is not a victim, but a student of what it means to be resilient, knowing that with faith, hope, community, self-awareness and self-love, everything is possible.
Resilience is not a comfortable state for some to be in. It can be exhausting, feeling as though there is a battle around every corner. Always having your guns drawn just in case there is an attack along the way. But with perseverance, confidence, and reflection, we can change our lives to what we want them to be.
We have seen clients who do not recognize their own levels of resilience and as a result, they feel defeated, depressed, lost and without direction. The Institute of Social and Emotional Intelligence recognizes that resilience is a skill that can be developed and provides the following techniques to becoming more resilient.
● For starters, practice healthy living – we can’t be resilient if we’re lacking sleep, are stressed, or malnourished.
● Build in periods of rest and renewal so you can face life’s inevitable tough times with strength
● Challenge the negative “self-talk” – ask yourself, “what’s my real belief here?” and “is there any evidence behind this self-doubt?”
● See setbacks as temporary and disappointments as isolated, short term and specific to the circumstance, not as permanent or applicable to all situations
● Seek support from others in your life – encircle yourself with helpful family and friends – you don’t have to go it alone
● Read biographies of resilient people and learn from them
According to an executive that I recently interviewed, ‘resilience’ is not a buzzword, but buzz worthy.
Authored by: Lenore D’Anzieri
Edited by: Paige Dest
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