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Your Resilience Skills

Lesson 4 on "Connecting the many pieces of the puzzle of you" is all about your resilience or life-buoyancy skills.

Resilience is the rapid acceptance of new reality. Resilience is the core strength supporting all the positive traits in your emotional and psychological makeup. It helps you impose structure on ambiguity. Resilient people keep dysfunctional behavior minimal while absorbing significant amounts of disruption in their life. Individuals rarely experience an average or normal day because you are constantly faced with disruptions of some kind or another.

Some individuals are born with the ability to handle more disruptions than others. Making resilience your default thought or behavior requires you to work hard at it.

People with resilience actually spend less time in that dysfunctional behavior when those inevitable disruptions do occur. You see changes in your life causes disruption. You start with the belief that things exist that you can't change. You may not have the power, knowledge, or authority to affect the change that you want. How you handle the change is what is important.

Consider the different ways to see "unchangeables" in your life. You can go about it with a more fatalistic approach thinking of the unchangeable as something to endure, or, something to escape.

OR, you can choose to see the unchangeable things in your life as a useful tool, inspiring, energizing, a challenge, irrelevant, or even amusing. It's pretty much always your choice.

You live in a world where change is constant, and life's disruptions are common. As just mentioned, things exist that you can and you can't change. Another way to think about it is to think of change like the weather. You are unable to change the weather given the current level of technology and scientific knowledge that's available today. You can, however, control what you value, you can control your emotional responses and attitude toward the weather, or you can control your attitude towards other's actions and their attitude.

Because the rate and pace of change with the resultant good and bad disruptions are what you can truly count on, we all need to become more adept at adapting quickly to new realities.

When you develop a habit of resilience, you learn to automatically ask yourself certain questions when faced with disruptions. Questions such as:

  • What can I actually control in this situation?

  • What is the worst that could happen?

  • Could I live with or without it?

  • What are the odds that this will happen?

  • What can I do to ensure a positive outcome?

  • Is there any possible humor in this situation?

  • What life lessons can I learn from this?

These are all things to think about.

Next, ask yourself what do you really know about your thinking style? How do you think about all the disruptions you experience? Need to correct your thinking if it isn't working for you. Because the way you think causes you to have a bias in your thinking and behavior.

As you increase your resiliency skills, try using a variety of responses when disruptions do occur. There is rarely only one way only to do many of the things we experience in life. It helps if you bring your habits of thought and behavior to consciousness. Use a simple exercise when faced with yet another disruption.

Simply exchange the word "and" for the word "but". Consider, that it's not so much an event that defines your life, instead it's how you interpret that event. It's your attitude toward and your response to the event.

Take the following disruption as an example of an approach to changing your attitude and your response. Say to yourself, "I took a much-needed trip to Florida, but it rained the whole time I was there". Not so good. What a downer.

Now, say to yourself, "I took a much-needed trip to Florida, AND it rained. So, instead of catching rays, I caught up on reading some books I've been wanting to read to the sound of the rain, and on back episodes of some of my favorite TV shows and series. Pretty much a different approach. It may be interesting for you to try this exercise by thinking of a disruption you've had recently that would have a more positive outcome if you only changed the word "and" for the word "but".

Additionally, common thinking traps exist that threaten your resilience development. The three traps that occur most frequently are catastrophizing, not challenging old and unexamined assumptions, and jumping to conclusions.

You catastrophize when your belief in a future threat is so great that you blow the event out of proportion. You focus on and worry about the worse possible scenarios that could happen. Think how many times you rehearse future events to the point of catastrophizing possible outcomes.

Now, the opposite may also be true. Your thinking is continuously being rehashed in the past. It's dwelling on the woulda, coulda, shoulda in your life. Allowing your thinking to continually focus on either the future or the past causes you unnecessary stress. Try handling life by living in the present moment.

Next, you may jump to conclusions and respond impulsively to situations when you don't have any or all of the facts. And, that's why it makes sense to challenge your assumptions because you don't have relevant data or are most likely operating out of old information. You may continue thinking based on decisions you made when you were quite young. Even though you have changed your thinking may still reflect unchallenged assumptions.

An assumption is something that is taken for granted and accepted without proof. Conclusions are then drawn and acted upon from these unsupported suppositions. Unexamined assumptions limit your thinking.

Your explanatory style is how you habitually explain the good and bad things that happen in your life.

Why do you think good or bad things happen to you?

  • Do you take what happens in your life as personal? Do you habitually say, "It's me that caused those good or bad things in my life?" Or, do you explain good and bad happenings as "It's not necessarily me that is the cause, there were other circumstances involved."

  • Then look at how you look at permanency? Do you habitually say, "Things always happen this way. It will go on forever?" Or, do you explain things as temporary, "Things do not always happen this way. Things can change."

  • Finally, do you see things as pervasive? Do you habitually explain events as "This is the way everything is in my life?" Or, do you say that "It's not everything in my life. I can find another solution."

Remember, you pay a price for the choices you make. What do your thinking and explanatory style cost you in how you show up in life? What price do you pay and are you willing to pay that price to be you because of your choices and the way that you think and behave?

Resilience requires you to make choices about how you want to live and respond to life. Choices are made, however, based on your values. You want to have clarity about what you care about, who and what matters to you, what you worry about, and what you are highly motivated by. Again, you pay a price. And are you willing to pay that price based on how you think and behave?

We will explore those questions further in Lesson 5 as you gain more clarity around your values, needs, and motivators.

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Written by

Sylvia Gaffney, PhD