In the previous post I looked at what we mean by resilience and now want to look at when we might need to be resilient. Resilience is a useful character trait that some say increases with age. When we are young, we learn over time that we can’t get everything we want. We also discover that bad things do happen to good people, and with each challenge, we learn how to deal with the bad as well as the good in life.
For example, it’s nice to win when we play a game, but chances are that we can’t win every time. Can we shrug off a loss as “no big deal” or get upset about it and potentially be seen as a sore loser? Or want to quit entirely? Think about Michael Phelps. He is probably one of the greatest Olympians of all time, but I am fairly certain that even he has lost a few races on the way to getting there.
In fact, his first games when he was 16 could well have been his last, since his performance was less than impressive. But he has shown persistence and resilience in the face of tough times throughout his career that would have made others who were less resilient give up and retire.
We would all love to get 100% on every test at school, but it’s often when we make mistakes and get a less than perfect score that the real learning occurs.
As we grow up, we get exposed to more and more situations in which we have choices about what to do. Supportive parents will give advice and encouragement in order to increase our ability to think independently and develop resilience.
“Helicopter” parents who constantly hover over their children, and/or try to protect or shield them from anything bad in life, obviously care about their kids. However, they may be doing them a severe disservice by not allowing them to be exposed to situations that could develop and improve their resilience.
We can probably remember big events in our lives, such as a pet dying, changing houses, or a parent becoming sick. We might also remember seeing someone being bullied and needing to decide what to do in that situation. Did we just walk away, pretending it wasn’t happening? Did we run to get a teacher or other adult? Or did we try to stop the bullying then and there because we had confidence in ourselves and knew it was the right thing to do?
Sometimes our good actions don’t always have the effect we had hoped for. Did you ever have a situation in which you tried to do the right thing, but it backfired? Did you consider you had failed? Or was it a learning moment in which you learned how to deal with things better the next time something similar happened?
Being resilient does not mean being perfect. It doesn’t mean being free of difficulties or worries. It is only natural to feel sad and pained if something major happens in your life. What being resilient does mean is being able to find a road back to emotional stability and a happy life rather than allowing the event to cripple you to a point where you find it hard to move on.
You might wish to get a promotion at work, but seem to be hitting a glass ceiling all the time. In this case, there are several things you can do.
- Quit in a huff
- Give up and look for another job elsewhere
- Assess your performance honestly to see where you might be lacking
- Take on a new project that could make a real difference to the company
- Get more training in particular areas where you feel you could be stronger
- Start your own business in order to use all of the skills and talents you feel are going to waste in your current position
…and so on.
As you can see, there are many different choices in this situation. In some cases, doing several at the same time can add up to big results. The one thing that a resilient person does not do is give up and do nothing, or act as though their entire life was over.
An honest self-assessment could lead you to an entirely new career path you might not have thought of. Getting more training can also open new doors. Starting your own business will always involve some sacrifice in the beginning, such as giving up TV and lazy weekends. However, it could mean more money and a more comfortable financial set of circumstances, so that if you get a £1,000 car repair bill all of a sudden, you won’t need to worry about it because you have the cash in the bank.
There are many difficult situations in life that require resilience, such as:
- The death of a loved one
- The break-up of an important relationship
- The loss of a job
- Money issues
- An accident
- A natural disaster
In many instances, it isn’t a case of IF, but WHEN a difficult life event will arise.
That being the case, the more you can do to prepare yourself mentally for these kinds of challenges, the more you can develop your resilience. In the next post I will take a look at how we can become more resilient.