“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall”
– Nelson Mandela
Over the past years, thousands of self-help books and articles were written about resilience. Lots have been said on this matter – yet I do not necessarily agree with all the theories exposed, and whilst I am not a resilience expert, I have read a lot about it and had to exercise resilience rather regularly over the past months … So I decided to join the group of “people who write about resilience”.
First things first, what is resilience about ? To make things simple, resilience refers to the ability to deal with change and to adapt to it. It is the ability to resist to pressure, in a sound way. By sound way, I mean without passing through depression or moments of black out or freak out ( which is not the easiest part)
If you look at the definition of resilience on the Oxford Dictionary website, they also refer to the resilience of material ( a piece of fabric), stating that it is “the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape”
For mankind, resilience is most of the time used when talking about challenging life situations (death of a beloved, loss of a job, major life changing conditions) etc …
When in the middle of a crisis situation, a resilient person will not let adversity define her. She will actually manage to keep on going and find ways to overcome the TEMPORARILY situation she is facing.
You may remember that “ when life gives you lemons” quote … (make lemonade, Caipirinha, delicious lemon cake .. ) – well resilience would be this ability to make a good things out of the sour lemons you could be given.
Resilience is for me a critical skill that all of us should work on. Yes, I said work on, because resilience is actually something that all of us can develop. There is not such a thing as genetics in being resilient. Of course, some people may be stronger or more optimistic than others, but the point is that we all can develop this “resilience” muscle. Resilience has been proven to help managing stress and reducing risks of depression – so those 2 reasons should be hopefully a good incentive for all of us to keep on this direction.
The point of this post is above all to clarify conceptions I had about resilience and share them with you in case you might find them useful for your future practice. I will make a “how to resilience on a separate post”.
Resilience does not consist in pretending everything is ok
Resilience indeed is made to help you overcome tough situations but it does not imply that you should bluntly pretend that everything is ok and do as if nothing had happened, especially if this is not the case.
On the contrary, the first path to resilience is to accept and be honest with your emotions of the moment. By being able to externalize, interpret and translate how you feel about a situation, you will be in a better shape to overcome the challenge you are being thrown at.
Trying to put a brave face and smile, saying that there is no problem at all, whilst thinking the contrary is for me a dangerous way of coping with a tough situation and taking the risk of this hitting you back further down the line.
The thin line is to be able to move forward once you have acknowledged all the possibly tough emotions and pains you were facing – else this could then lead you to possible episodes of depression.
Being resilient is not something that you acquire from one day to another
Resilience is something that you will learn to develop with time and with experiences as you progress through life. As mentioned above, some people may be more equipped for resilience than others, but you will be able to become a resilient guru with practice.
Whether we like it or not, as pretty as life is, we all know that there will be moments where our hearts, patience and guts will be tested, and as you go through those difficult moments, resilience will make a whole lot difference on the way you will go through those challenging moments. Think about resilience as a “sport” … the more your practice the better you will get. You never saw a sedentary person waking up one day saying he will go running his first half marathon the coming Sunday … it goes the same way for resilience. You will learn to deal with situations and to get over it more and more “easily” ( I do not like that word too much as some life events may still be pretty hardcore) the more you practice resilience.
“Resilience is About How You Recharge, Not How You Endure”
This quote comes from an article published in the Harvard Business Review by Shawn Achor and Michelle Gielan
I think this is a great way to explain what resilience is about and also how to build it. Too often we tend to forget that resilience is about how we recharge and not about how much we can cope with. Without recharging, we would not be able to be the resilient guru we would love for very long.
This article backed with scientific data explains that that our ability to become resilient is driven by our ability to recover and to be able to take “breaks” in the middle of the “resilience battle”. This is particularly true in the professional environment. Achor and Giellan explained : “The key to resilience is trying really hard, then stopping, recovering, and then trying again”.
The comparison I would use to explain what could happen if you do not take break and to recharge is stress. Stress is initially an engineering term that define an amount of pression that is being applied to an object, and which with time tend to deform the object. Compressive stress will tends to squeeze the object, tensile stress will stretch it and shear stress will cut it. So think about yourself as a body which submitted to regular pressure and tensions from the day to day life. If you are not taking breaks or stop being in the middle of the agitation, but instead only go for the resilience battle … you may find under continuous pressure, ending-up stressing you at the very best or exhausting you.
Life is already challenging on its own, so be sure to remember to be kind to yourself and to take those moments to recharge so your resilience abilities remain strong over time
Resilience is not to be used to make up for someone’s else cowardice.
Do not let people use the concept of resilience to make you accept the bad decision making or justify such or such unpleasant action they are about to tell you.
Indeed you will need to be resilient if this person is about to tell you something unpleasant, but who is the best placed to support you on the resilience path is you. I have seen too often individuals or organizations telling people us that one must remain resilient because they are about to tell or do something that will most likely be upsetting.
Example: “Well dear, you gonna have to be resilient because the company is not doing well and you may at some point be impacted … “
Well … Fair enough. No one could challenge the logic that if you are more likely going to have to leave the company (unwillingly) you will have to build resilience to accept this “ending”. Yet there is a difference between you being resilient in front of an adverse situation versus a third party dropping the resilience magic word just before telling you something that will hurt you, or because they do not want to bear the responsibilities and consequences of what they are about to do or say. Resilience should not be used as an excuse to redeem someone from the responsibilities of its acts or says, or poor decision making.
So there we are … those were several clarifications I think are worth keeping in mind. I am sure there is a lot to be said still on that topic. Keep in mind that eventually, being resilient is a journey, there will be moments where it will be easier than other, but do not give up, because this is something that will help you to make it through life, which as beautiful as it can be, will also shake us up. As Alain to Botton rightly said “One’s doing well if age improves even slightly one’s capacity to hold on to that vital truism: “This too shall pass.”