“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” – Samuel Beckett, Worstward Ho, 1983.
The past few months have been tough. Covid has brought with it challenges that most of us thought we’d never experience within our lifetime. Keeping your chin up and maintaining confidence in the face of so much uncertainty about health, work and finances is difficult. Yet some people seem able to take the situation in their stride – and some even thrive in the face of such adversity. This enviable ability to cope is Resilience, a deliberate and more constructive mind-set than ordinary optimism.
Being resilient means that if disaster strikes, you bounce back; you have the strength to overcome setbacks and learn the lessons you need to move on to bigger and better things. The dictionary definition of resilience is:
· The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.
· The ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity.
Occasionally falling flat on our face is part of life. It will happen to the best of us. How you view failure, deal with adversity and cope with stress strongly affects how well you succeed. Resilience at difficult times is in fact a much more important factor for achieving success than talent, intelligence or good looks; whether this be in sport, art, business or academia – or indeed for enduring and prospering following Covid 19. There are three essential elements to resilience: challenge, commitment and control.
Challenge – Resilient people know how to respond when things don’t go their way and view difficulty as a challenge. They don’t dwell on failures but acknowledge when things go wrong, recognize their mistakes, and then move on. They look at failures and mistakes as lessons to be learned from and as opportunities for growth. They don’t view them as negative reflections on their abilities or their person. The fact is that we’re all going to fail from time to time; it’s an inevitable part of life that we occasionally fall flat on our face. The only way to avoid failure is to live a shuttered existence, never trying anything new or taking a risk, which doesn’t make for much of a life.
Commitment – Resilient people are committed to their goals and they have a meaningful purpose that gets them out of bed in the morning. They are confident they will succeed eventually, despite any setback or stresses they might experience. This positive outlook and self-belief enables them to take risks, a significant factor for any kind of success. With confidence and a robust sense of self they have the capacity to keep on moving and do what it takes to get ahead, despite the very real risk of occasionally failing along the way.
Control – Resilient people know that lamenting what can’t be changed is ineffective and demotivating. They have a high internal locus of control, meaning they believe their own actions and behaviors influence their circumstances. Therefore they focus on what they have control over and place their energy where they can have the most impact, making them feel empowered and confident. They have the sense to accept the things they cannot change, courage to change the things they can, and presence of mind to know the difference.
Some attributes common in resilient people are:
· they have a positive image of the future;
· they have solid goals, and a desire to achieve those goals;
· they see the effects of bad events as temporary rather than permanent;
· they never think of themselves as victims;
· they are flexible, understanding that things change, because even the best made plans may need to be amended or scrapped.
Even if you’re not a naturally resilient person you can develop a resilient mindset by becoming more self-aware. When faced with difficult situations simply slow down and take a moment to reflect, which will help you gain a more objective view of what’s happening to you. The following points will help.
Practice thought awareness. Resilient people don’t let negative thoughts dominate. So listen to how you talk to yourself when something goes wrong. If your inner critical voice makes a statement such as: “My boss never likes my work; I’m no good at anything.” Change it to “My boss didn’t like the work I did on this assignment, so what can I do differently next time.” Remember it’s up to you to decide how you speak to yourself.
Maintain perspective through cognitive restructuring, which means changing the way you think about negative situations and bad events. Whilst you cannot always control what happens to you, you can control how you feel about what happens to you. You can choose to react negatively or you can choose to remain logical and find a solution. Your reaction is always up to you. Resilient people understand that although a situation may seem overwhelming in the moment, it may not make much of an impact over the long-term, so try not to blow events out of proportion.
Be aware of post-traumatic growth because there is some truth in the saying: if it doesn’t kill you it makes you stronger. Don’t beat yourself up about every slipup you make, instead learn from your failures. Every mistake has the power to teach you something important. So keep searching until you’ve found a constructive lesson in every situation.
Finally stay healthy because when you take good care of your mind and body you’re better able to cope with stress and difficult challenges.
No one wishes for adversity but with resilience you will grow in the face of it. Just think of what you could accomplish with a robust mindset, a clear vision of where you are going and the courage to face your challenges head on? In the words of the song from the 1936 movie Swing Time, staring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers:
Nothing’s impossible I have found,
for when my chin is on the ground,
I pick myself up,
dust myself off, and start all over again.