What if resilience is not about survival? But about building inner strength to KEEP GOING?
Updated: Jul 25, 2022
I will be presenting this talk at the Amity University Wellbeing Conference on Thursday 21 Jan, during the 11.40am - 15.30pm GMT session. Please join this free event HERE
What if I told you that the secret to resilience is that it’s NOT about survival. Survival is instinctive - we all have that?
Resilience takes work. It is about building emotional and mental fortitude to be strong enough to choose our response over the instinct to react, to NOT let anxieties or negativity overwhelm you and be able to choose wisely, to KEEP going, even when you are exhausted and have the patience to know that results WILL come. Resilience, for me is not survival of crisis, BUT of staying strong AFTER it in order to rebuild, grow and THRIVE. And to be able to do it without the constant need for counsellors, coaches, mentors – external things to boost us. TO FIND THAT POWER WITHIN OURSELVES!
What if you could recognise that long term success in life – or rather in LIVING - is often because WHO YOU ARE is more important than what you know?
Why is this so hard to understand?
Because this approach to our wellbeing being fundamental to everything we do is not something that is instilled in all of us as children. It’s not even something that is taught in schools, because there is barely enough time to teach the academic knowledge…SO how do you break habits of a lifetime? How do you tell someone so focused on holding onto achievement, certificates, status that they will find greater meaning, greater happiness, and even greater success if they energise their values, their strengths of character – not just their ability to get promoted?
Each time you develop your KNOWLEDGE, spend a moment to develop your SOUL!
Alongside practical exercises for soft skills in business and leadership, eg time management, presentation skills, delegation, I look at building inner strength, finding ways to re-energise, nurturing self compassion so that when we help others we are at our best…and we are in a position not just to get by but to FLOURISH.
As I said earlier, resilience ISN’T survival – yes, you do need to navigate crisis, but the survival instinct will help with that; it’s about rebuilding when exhausted, and then being able to bounce not just back – but bounce HIGHER and thrive!
(Model from The Leader's Guide to Resilience (Tang, 2021))
And here is my challenge to you - to engage with that secret. I want you to look at building your inner strength, every time you also strive for cognitive achievement. Nurturing your emotional and mental fortitude in any of these 5 easy ways is what helps you keep going, gets you to choose your response for best outcome rather than instinctively react, and motivates you to keep GROWING despite difficulty.
If you want to feel fulfilled when you achieve rather than thinking "Oh, what's next?"; If you want to appreciate your chosen priorities as once longed for desires rather than "extra stress"; If you want to pause the hedonistic treadmill and recognise that, actually, you probably DO have everything you could desire...add these soul energisers to your day.
1. When in doubt, generate thoughts of gratitude (a person, a thing, an experience, a memory)
It is difficult to hold feelings of anger, fear or negativity as well as gratitude - at the same time. Therefore, while it is important to accept any negative feelings, and to address them, thinking about something in your life that you appreciate will help restore the emotional balance in order to address problems more effectively AND - appreciate the GIFT of gratitude (if we recognise it, we feel it’s benefits MORE – eg research on compassion)
So learn to live with it - don’t shrug off a compliment with it’s nothing – say YOU’RE WELCOME.
2. Remember if you can't control anything around you, you CAN control your breathing
Take deep breaths as you count the leaves, or seconds on a clock or brickwork. In the 21st century most "threats" are psychological, and so psychologically can we ease the stress off our brain. When we breathe deeply our brain believes the threat has dispersed, and by doing so we are able to find the clarity to choose our course of action over the "knee jerk" that anxiety and negative emotions can cause.
3. Say something kind to yourself about yourself
Rather than seeing your body as "too fat" or "too wrinkly" - appreciate it for allowing you to touch your loved ones; for getting you from A to B; for allowing you to dance/ski/run - do the things you enjoy. Maybe you’re going to praise your brain, your kindness, your ability to wake up at 5am – or maybe it’s that you’re having a good hair day – when you begin to recognise your worth, others will too. I do a little exercise called "Thank you steps" when I'm walking my dog - I simply say "thank you" with every step I take, and that reminds me to have a mindset of gratitude, which in turn can counter overwhelming feelings of stress (which I also have at times).
4. Know that you can CHOOSE to change your emotional state
Yes, sometimes we need a bit of external help (such as upbeat music), but try the following questions and see how you go:
- How do I want to feel?
- What can I do that will make me feel that way now?
(then do it)…sometimes I just make myself smile…hold a (sanitised) pencil horizontally between your teeth if you need to…or think of me doing that!!
5. If this is odd – remember - Things will come in time – if you’re used to surviving, it’ll take time to learn that you can go beyond that and grow!
When you plant a seed, you don’t say things like “I’ll give you 10 minutes and you’d better grow”, so although you might want something, treat that desire like a seed – plant it, do all the things to nurture it, and be patient. (…and don’t forget, sometimes, you might grow more than you thought!!)
And it’s not just about telling you, my treasured readers this – I DO this myself. Every day I get up at 6.30am, I meditate and I run, and I ensure I do one thing that energises me…and yes, life is tough, in fact my dad was in hospital since last December until last week – he went in for renal failure – and then he caught covid THERE!! And it was hard (and still is as he takes the steady, although slow, path to recovery)…but I’m here, I’m strong, I know I can face that roller coaster because I build that buffer. I’m learning and growing, not just holding on…I know it works.
And what if - what if - someone reads this, connects with it, and realises that building mental and emotional fortitude, building inner strength, energising OURSELVES to not just survive but THRIVE is not actually "a secret" but a celebrated value…an essential part of everything we DO, or TEACH or CHOOSE as fundamental not to "get by" – but to truly live, to grow, to thrive?
Dr Audrey Tang is a chartered psychologist and author. Listen to her podcast Retrain Your Brain here; and catch her practical masterclasses Psych Back to Basics on DisruptiveTV & Energy Top Up for resilience.
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