Over the past several weeks, we have looked at happiness and gratitude as we considered strategies to maintain our wellbeing in this challenging time of CoVid 19. Another factor that contributes to our welfare is the idea of resiliency.
Resiliency is the ability to overcome obstacles and setbacks in life, having the flexibility to adapt to challenging situations, and to bounce back stronger and wiser having overcome the difficulty. It’s a mindset that says, “I’m not going to let this disappointment or setback keep me down.” So instead of dwelling on a setback and letting ourselves get stuck, we accept the situation, pull ourselves up, and choose to move on
Negative, challenging situations happen to everyone. Why are some able overcome them and thrive, while others become paralyzed or stuck unable to move past the difficulty? There are many factors that contribute to resilience.
A big part of resilience is the ability to think differently about negative experiences. “It is not what happens to us but how we respond to what happens to us that has the greatest effect on the trajectory of our lives,” says Karen Reicich in her book The Resilience Factor. Recognizing how we think about our circumstances is the first step in becoming resilient. How we think about a situation determines our response. Often our first response to a negative situation is to feel helpless, hopeless and out of control, but these thoughts are not necessarily accurate. Taking the time to look carefully at our thinking helps us respond to them in a more resilient manner. Do we jump to conclusions? Focus on the negative? Assume we know what another person is thinking? Overgeneralize what is happening to all situations? Once we notice our thinking patterns, we can slow down by taking a deep breath or calming ourselves. Then ask: Is there a more accurate way to view the situation? Do the facts support my thinking? Can I develop a contingency plan in case what I am thinking happens? Using these strategies can help us feel more in control and able to deal with the situation.
Another important aspect of resilience is the ability to persist in spite of difficulty. It is critical to realize that setbacks may not indicate failure. Instead of seeing a challenge as a dead end, make it an opportunity to gain new knowledge and insight. When early attempts don’t work in dealing with a challenge, do we give up? In the years of developing the lightbulb, Thomas Edison is quoted as saying, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” A less familiar Thomas Edison quote is, “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try, just one more time.” Viewing disappointments or failures as part of the learning process is critical. Every setback can be opportunity learn. Don’t allow mistakes or setback to paralyze you or cause you to give up and quit. Accept what happened, learn from it and move on.
Flexibility and being willing to embracing change are also key. Being able to adapt and adjust to change are essential skills to move with the flow of life. Viewing challenges as opportunities to learn and adventures to engage in problem solving, helps us continue forward. There’s always a hidden opportunity in challenges, we just need to be able to see it with fresh eyes.
We are not victims of our circumstances. Life rarely happens in a straight line. There are hills and valleys and unexpected curves along the way. How we think about difficulties determines our reactions. We can change our thinking, learn from mistakes, and move on. Focusing on successes, being flexible and embracing change, helps us learn resilience. It just takes practice. How can you practice resilience today?
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Lynn Saylor is the AmeriCorps member working with the United Against Opioid Abuse Initiative alongside the White County United Way. She is a major facilitator of the United Council on Opioids serving White County and a regular contributor to local media.