How do I know if I am resilient?
How do I cope with change, adversity, and setbacks?
First, let’s understand what resilience is.
Resilience is defined as “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.”
The armour for life if you like. Every day we have new challenges tossed our way. We wake up to unexpected news, tasks, problems, and setbacks. Resilience is the ability to bounce back when our plans don’t exactly go in the direction we had hoped.
Trees are perhaps my favourite metaphor for resilience. Tall, powerful, tenacious, strong, and adaptable. Whether rooted on land or lake, they find a way to thrive.
Ada Limón captures this essence perfectly in her poem – Instructions on Not Giving Up
I’ll take it, the tree seems to say, a new slick leaf
unfurling like a fist to an open palm, I’ll take it all.” – Ada Limón - Instructions on Not Giving Up
Her inspiration came as she walked close to her home one day. Commenting on the catalyst for her poem Ada said:
“It wasn’t until I paused under the huge silver maple tree in front of our house that I began to notice not the blossoms, but the way the leaves were unfurling. How suddenly a tree transformed back into a tree, with all its good green leaves. It felt like a lesson in resilience. The tree wasn’t giving up. The tree was just going to keep doing its tree thing.”
So, this begs the question, how can we be more like a tree?
There is no cookie-cutter technique to becoming more resilient. Why? Because we are all different and deal with both internal and external nuances every single day of our lives. Anxiety, depression, trauma, family cohesion, social factors, relationships, careers and much more.
Despite this, there are certain factors that help to build resilience and improve our coping skills and adaptability. Our wonderful new friends at the Sydney Jewish Museum gave us some fantastic tips and insights into resilience-building during our guest speaker session on the book The Happiest Man on Earth.
1: Planning – goals become more achievable (and less overwhelming) when we map out realistic ways of achieving them. This technique is not synonymous with goals, it is also a great way to approach things like work projects, homework, and other day to day tasks
2: Emotional Intelligence: The ability to manage our emotions is key to building resilience and finding focus when faced with a challenge.
3: Courage: Fear is a bit ironic. Why? It can be both useful and paralysing.
Fear is an inhibiter of progress. By facing our fears head-on we build up resilience over time to the common detractors and obstacles in our lives. Understanding our fears help us to better prepare and cope with adversity. That's resilience.
4: Knowing our core values: Our core values are shaped by the environment we grew up in, for example, our parents, teachers, and other influential people in our lives. The ability to know AND stay true to our core values helps to nurture and strengthen our resilience.
5: Good relationships: In times of adversity, we all need good people around us. Social support is integral to resilience building.
6: Self-esteem: Self-confidence and positivity hold us up when feelings of helplessness or a lack of hope creep in.
7: Change the narrative: It can be easy to look at the past, even get stuck there. By changing the narrative to be forward-thinking we strengthen our abilities to bypass disruption and move towards progress.
8: Meditate: It does not matter if you do this for ten minutes or an hour per day. Meditating is a powerful way to become grounded, find balance and become more focused. This builds our ability to be more resilient in our everyday lives.
9: Cultivate forgiveness: Have you ever held onto a grudge so long that it left you feeling mentally and emotionally drained? When we forgive we are happier. When we are happier, we can focus on the things that matter in our lives – goals, values, and personal direction.
Eddie Jaku’s book The Happiest Man on Earth is abundant with life lessons. Resilience is almost the metaphorical spine that holds these lessons together. It is everywhere throughout this book; in Eddie’s harrowing descriptions of his time in the concentration camps, his ability to face fear and how he maintained his beautiful friendship with Kurt.
Could Eddie Jaku be one of the best examples of what it means to be resilient? I think so.
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” Eddie Jaku