“Resilience is not about overcoming but becoming.” Sherry Mandell
What are we talking about when we talk about resilience?
One of the words I have most often heard used is “resilience”, it seems like the remedy for all ills and the only tool that can solve all our problems.
But as it happens most of the time, the word itself is an empty box, a label under which this or that is included with little depth and especially with no practical use.
As you may know by now I am a practical person, tied to getting things done and practical so first of all, what does resilience mean?
resilience noun [der. forms of resilient.]
1. In materials technology, the breaking strength by dynamic stress, determined by special impact test.
2. In the technology of yarns and fabrics, the aptitude of these to resume, the original appearance after a deformation.
3. In psychology, the ability to respond in the face of trauma and difficulty.
Are we born or do we become resilient?
In the barroom chatter revolving around resilience one of the things that is not said is, in my opinion, the most important: resilience can be mastered and in order for it to be an effective tool it must be trained!
In my work I am in contact with athletes who have made a sport their profession, all of them spend a good part of their time training, to refine their technique, to improve, to overcome their limits or even just to maintain their level over time. And this is what we all imagine when we think of a professional athlete, regardless of what their discipline is.
What few people consider, however, is how much mental training matters when trying your hand at a sporting challenge:
Knowing how to master resilience, and being able to pull it out when needed, is crucial for a top-level athlete, as is knowing how to stay sharp under pressure and how to handle sudden and unexpected stressful situations.
Yes, in the same way as muscles, reflexes, and technique, the mind can also be trained and resilience and the ability to handle stress can also be improved and refined.
However, this is just one piece of the puzzle and in itself does not get us out of a difficult time, to figure out how to use the tool of resilience we have to go a little further together 😉
The characteristics of resilience: why being resilient is not being resilient
At this point there is a risk of confusion though, so beware!
The most common mistake when we decide to train our resilience is to exchange it for endurance and with our heads down strive and force ourselves to grit our teeth, to endure, to swallow toads or unpleasant situations thinking that if we can survive it is because we have finally learned resilience.
Nothing could be more wrong!
This is the main difference between resistance and resilience:
A resistant material is solid and can withstand strong pressure, it can resist even very violent blows but at some point it will break.
A resilient material bends, takes a beating, falls… but then manages to get back up, resume its shape and is unlikely to break.
Being resilient people means being people who can go through fatigue, not resist it, not hold it at arm’s length but live it, head on!
The first step to training resilience is to discover our passions
Let’s go back into the world of professional athletes for a moment, what I’ve learned and observed over the years is that the great resilience that many of them have stems from, and is fueled by, the fact that they deeply love what they do.
And it was from here that I discovered something that was a genuine eye opener for me: if I love what I do, I do it better; if I’m passionate about my work, I hardly notice that I’m working… obvious? Maybe, but in my opinion every once in a while reflecting on the obvious is a good practice.
Think about it:
passion is our main engine, when we are driven by passion we hardly let ourselves be stopped by difficulties or we perceive fatigue and stress as insurmountable. In a historical moment that puts us in front of unprecedented challenges and scenarios, becoming aware of this little big truth can be of great help, can give us oxygen and can become a trigger to give ourselves useful goals both in the short and long term.
So: the first step is to look inside ourselves and start again from what we are really passionate about. When we fall or when we have little energy, the most important thing to do in order to get back up and regain balance is to start from ourselves again.
Let’s take a moment then, to understand that when things don’t go well, when we find ourselves blocked or faced with an obstacle or a difficulty, the most effective way to react is not outside of us, but within us. Let’s not consider as “wasted” time the time needed to clarify first of all with ourselves, let’s give ourselves the time needed to center ourselves when we feel lost, let’s start again from what is really important for us.
Let’s start again from what we are passionate about because in this way it will be much easier to access all those resources and tools that we have accumulated within us over the years.
Let’s set big or small goals that can feed in us the fire of motivation and hope and let’s build the road that will lead us, step by step, to walk tall in the world.