In Part 1 of Building Resilience 10 Ways we looked at 5 key building blocks of resilience: self-awareness, self-control, gratitude, optimism and proactivity and how they are key skills that empower us to replenish our personal resources.
In this article we’re going to look at the final 5 blocks which I believe are necessary for being able to withstand and recover from the difficulties that come with life.
6. Sense of Purpose
People who have a sense of purpose in their mahi and wider life know why they do what they do and find their work and other activities rewarding and fulfilling. This is because their “why” is aligned to their deeply held values.
Our brain’s primary purpose is to keep us alive. One of the ways it does this is by constantly checking that the decisions we’re making and the actions we’re taking fit with everything we’ve learned about life so far. It does this along the circuits between the limbic brain – responsible for emotion and memory – and the neo-cortex – responsible for conscious decision. If our decisions are in line with what we have learned keeps us safe and feeling secure, these circuits promote pleasant emotions. If our decisions go against these life-long learnings, the circuits promote unpleasant emotions.
This is why, when we do something that goes against our instincts, our ‘gut’ or our values and beliefs, we get a feeling that it is “just wrong,” or it “doesn’t feel right.” It is also why, if we do things that ARE aligned with our values and what we’ve learned is beneficial for us, we feel like we are “on the right track.”
When you do something that gives you deep satisfaction or you find it extremely rewarding and fulfilling that means you believe it to be purposeful and worthwhile. Most of us want to feel like we are doing something purposeful and worthwhile with our life. So, when you do notice these emotions in relation to a particular activity at work or outside of work, try to craft your time so that you are doing as much of this as possible. And really pay attention to the difference you are making for your team, your clients, your organisation, your community or your environment.
7. Self-worth & Self-belief
I’ve listed this as one entry because they are very closely linked. Self-worth is believing that you are a good person who deserves to be treated with respect – this also known as self-esteem. A sense of purpose can help with our self-worth because if we believe that we are doing worthwhile things with our time and we’re really paying attention to the difference we’re making, then we should realise that we are valuable to our community.
Another way to improve your self-worth is to identify what your core values are – what you think is important in life, and in a person – and then do your best to live by them. It might be kindness, courage, loyalty, respect, perseverance – there are many. If you believe these to be good qualities and you live by them most of the time, then you must be a pretty good person right? If you’re not clear on your personal values I recommend doing a Value Sort Exercise with a life coach or via the internet – here’s one from The Good Project. I went through a pretty tough time when I was younger because I placed my value in how I looked, the grades I got and how many prizes or tournaments I won. None of these things were about who I am, they were about what I did. I came to realise that if I came to value the person I am then the failures and successes of life wouldn’t have such a big impact on my self-worth.
Self-belief is having confidence in your own abilities and judgement as well as trusting yourself to make good decisions and accomplish things. I encourage people to stop and notice when you do something you’re pleased with or proud of. Then mentally note it and store it away in your internal “Evidence Bank” – a file you create in your memory with evidence that you are a capable person who is good at stuff.
In NZ we are notorious for our Tall Poppy Syndrome, and one fallout from this is that many of us are not very good at accepting compliments and positive feedback. When faced with a positive comment about our behaviour, achievements or appearance, we tend to diminish it, deflect it or refute it. What if, instead, we just said, “Thank you,” and added the compliment to our Evidence Bank to support our self-belief and to draw on when we’re lacking confidence or feeling anxious about an upcoming challenge.
8. Sense of humour
Having a sense of humour is the ability to find things funny. The more we engage our sense of humour, the more we are able to see the funny side of things and this is a great antidote to stressful or embarrassing situations. Just think of a time when you were feeling nervous amongst a group of people, then someone made a joke and all that nervousness was relieved through laughter.
Everybody loves to laugh. It’s one of the first qualities we list in someone we like, or what we find attractive in a person – “they make me laugh.” While we recognise that laughter feels nice, it’s not so well known that laughter is very darn good for you! Some of the health benefits of laughter are:
AND it tones your abs! So that old saying “Laughter is the best medicine” is really quite accurate. Given that laughing is so beneficial for our wellbeing, how about we prioritise it a bit more? I really encourage you to spend more time with people who make you laugh – lunch dates, BBQs, dress-up parties, “Girl’s Nights” or “Blokes Shed” gatherings. A friend of mine puts on clothes-swap evenings that are totally hilarious. The reason we feel so good around people we can laugh with is because laughter actually bonds people neurologically by aligning their limbic brains. Emotional intelligence pioneer Daniel Goleman writes in his book Primal Leadership that, “in a neurological sense, laughing represents the shortest distance between two people.”
In my resilience programme GRIP, participants create a Laughter Library by writing down all the people, shows, films, websites, comedians or cartoons that make them laugh and sharing those ideas so everybody’s library grows. Two of my favourite go-to clips are “People with no kids don’t know” and “I think my hamster is broken.”
Yes, life would be simpler if it was predictable and everything happened exactly as we planned. But thankfully, or unfortunately (depending on how you look at it) it’s not. People who can be flexible in their thinking and in responding to changing circumstances are more resilient because they are not so stressed and upset by the unexpected. As you will have noticed throughout these two articles about resilience, many of the building blocks work off each other. Flexibility works with Optimism and a Sense of Humour because if we can look for the positive when something doesn’t go as planned or we can see the funny side of our mistakes then the negative psychological impact on us is reduced.
Sometimes when a quick dinner is called for in our household, we get Chinese meals from our local takeaway. One night I decided to swap beef for pork in our regular order, just for a change. Well my 10-year-old broke down because it wasn’t the same meat as usual! He’s a stickler for tradition that one. This is an example of inflexibility: “It’s not usual. It’s not expected. Therefore I can’t cope.”
I’ve been talking about being flexible in our responses, but flexible thinking is also a great skill to develop. You know when you’re throwing around ideas in the office and one person just can’t see an ounce of merit in anyone’s idea but their own? This person is so wedded to their idea or position that they are unable to adapt it or incorporate any other ideas into theirs. To be able to look at a problem from different angles (not just your first approach), to really consider another person’s perspective, or to meld many ideas together are skills that make you a valuable member of any team. And you will learn so much more about the world!
10. Support Network.
What sets this Building Block apart from the rest? … It’s the only one that is not found inside ourselves. Humans are hard-wired to be part of a group – for most of human history we have lived closely together in caves, kāinga, villages and large whanau groups. In modern times, our society is mostly built around the nuclear family – either a couple or parents and children – and it is much harder to maintain close ties with friends and other relatives. Sometimes, even the people we live with may be in close physical proximity but not as close emotionally as we want or need them to be.
In order for us to thrive emotionally and spiritually, we need to nurture and strengthen our bonds with the people who are important to us. Think of the 5 most important people in your life and consider if your
relationship with them is as strong and close as you want it to be. If not, then make a plan to touch base with them and do something together that brings you closer. Now think of 5 people you don’t live with who are important to you and do the same – if we don’t reach outside our partner or family from time to time we end up expecting them to meet all our emotional, spiritual and physical needs, and this is unfair. It’s unfair and impossible and puts too much pressure on our loved ones.
As adults in the 21st century, maintaining strong relationships with our support network takes time and effort but it is crucial to having the resilience needed to withstand life’s ups and downs.
In these two articles, we’ve covered 10 of the crucial skills needed for resilience. As with any important skills, developing them takes time, focus and energy, and they need to be practised to remain sharp. I always encourage my clients not to pick too many things to work on at once, or you’re likely to get overwhelmed and discouraged. As you improve each skill, others will become easier, because, as we’ve seen, many of them support each other. With enough practise, you’ll have a toolbox of techniques to help you through life’s challenges and the right mindset to enjoy its delights.
Author: Sarah Cross
- Reduces stress hormones
- Increases blood flow and improves function of blood vessels
- Increases endorphins which give an overall sense of wellbeing and temporary pain relief
- Lowers blood pressure which reduces risk of heart attack and stroke
- Increases antibodies and white blood cells which boost immunity
- Relieves pain
- Combats depression