What is resilience?
One definition describes resilience as your capacity to recover quickly from difficulties, while another describes it as your ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change. I define it as simply your ability to bounce back after adversity.
Resilience determines whether you succeed or fail in life. It’s true in sport, in business, entertainment, and it’s true in your life.
Many of the early theories about resilience and ‘being resilient’ stressed the role of genetics. Some people are just born resilient, so the argument went. There’s some truth to that of course, but empirical evidence today shows that resilience can be learned.
The reality is, sometimes in life, you don’t realise how much resilience you have until you are tested. As the saying goes: cometh the hour, cometh the man.
How to build resilience
There are many arguments around what makes one individual more resilient than the next. In my experience building resilience comes down to three things;
#1 Confront reality head-on
Individuals who possess a strong bias and abundant reservoir of personal resilience live their life in a constant state of reality.
They don’t bury their head in the sand when faced with challenging times. They don’t go into denial, hoping that a situation or scenario will sort itself out. And they’re never delusional about the magnitude of opportunities or challenges facing them. They have a unique ability to confront reality head-on.
They are what I call the ‘pragmatic optimist’.
A common belief is that resilience stems from an optimistic mindset. While that’s true to a point, it only applies when optimism doesn’t distort reality. In extreme scenarios and situations, rose-tinted thinking can spell disaster. Resilient people have a serious and down to earth view of those parts of reality that matter.
Now, this is not to diminish optimism. When you’re turning around a demoralised team or helping an individual through a difficult time, a sense of optimism and possibility is a powerful tool.
But for more significant challenges, a relaxed, calm, almost pragmatic, sense of reality is critical to your success. I look upon the resilient, high achiever as being the pragmatic optimist where both characteristics work in positive tension to the benefit of both. (check out my blog on high achievers for more of their key traits)
Do you truly understand and accept the reality of your situation and scenarios you face both personally and professionally?
Do you confront reality head-on?
We all tend to slip into denial as a coping mechanism. Facing reality is gruelling work. It can often be draining and emotionally wrenching. But once you’re prepared to confront reality, then you have a robust platform from which to build from.
#2 Have an unwavering belief that your life is purposeful
Creating purpose is the way resilient people build bridges from their current state reality to a compelling future state. The moment you create the bridge – the link between your personal goals, business goals, and what you do daily during work – self-motivation takes hold. This is the defining moment you change from someone with a job to someone with a purpose.
Your resilience will naturally kick in when your purpose is challenged or under threat.
#3 Improvise and adapt
One word, bouncebackability.
Yes, you read that correctly it is a real word, albeit a recent addition to the English dictionary.
Its official definition is; the ability to be successful after a period of failure.
It was first coined by ex-footballer Iain Dowie when he was the manager of Crystal Palace Football Club, who famously described his team as showing ‘… great bouncebackability’.
Behind any great success is years of dedication, trial and error, mistakes, successes and setbacks. Achievers don’t always get it right, and yes, in some situations, they might fail (or what others perceive as failure).
I know in my life, I have experienced stunning successes and some fantastic failures. But I view the failures as learning opportunities, stepping-stones to the ultimate goal. And remember, if plan A doesn’t work, then the great news is there are 25 more letters in the alphabet.
Imagine a rubber ball.
The harder the ball hits the ground, the higher it bounces back.
You’re going to take knocks, some days are going to feel like a train crash, and you will go down blind alleys. But if you have an ultimate destination in your mind’s eye, a focused goal and purpose coupled with the drive, determination and motivation then when you do fall over, you’ll pick yourself up, dust yourself off, improvise, adapt and refocus on your goal.
That’s resilience in action!