Building Resilience in Tough Times

In an interview by Dan Snow with Andy Macnab of the SAS and Bravo Two Zero fame – Andy tells an extraordinary life story of resilience, from being abandoned as a baby outside Guy’s Hospital in London, through Borstal, to the Green Jackets, to the SAS and now an author who has sold over 33 million books. Dan asked Andy a number of times what was the quality that had helped him the most in his life journey and the words he offered in response were an inner optimism, an attitude of “I just need to get through this and then things will improve’.

It is a very inspiring story; however, it is Andy’s story, he developed his own recipe for resilience through adversity. The real challenge is to learn what ‘recipe’ works best for each of us in our own life journey.

In my experience in helping people to learn how to build, improve and sustain their resilience, there are lots of ideas, tools and techniques based on extensive research and analysis by the leading psychologists in this field, which can help us.

An example of this comes from Lucy Hone, Director of the New Zealand Institute of Wellbeing and Resilience. In her book Resilient Grieving: Finding Strength and Embracing Life After a Loss That Changes Everything, she highlights the research which shows that resilience requires ‘ordinary magic’. It is not some elusive trait that is only available to the Andy Macnab’s of this world, it is available to everyone. The three key tools which she offers, and which firmly embody a Mindful approach are:

  1. Understand that suffering is a key part of life, we are not entitled to a perfect life, whether it is divorce, redundancy, losing a partner – adversity is something that we all have to face, it is a normal part of life.
  2. Tune into the good. As humans we are really good at noticing the negative things, we are not so good at tuning into the good stuff. Resilient people are really careful where they choose to focus their attention.
  3. Ask yourself ‘Is this helping me or harming me?’. Is the way I am thinking or acting right now, helping or harming me in my quest to get through this?

All too often people think that resilience is about the good old stiff upper lip, however the research shows that it is not this at all. Far more important is being able to accept our vulnerabilities, to know when to reach out and get help and support. The studies show that having strong, supportive relationships is probably the most important thing we can do to build resilience.

Resilience Method text with keywords isolated on white board background. Chart or mechanism concept.

As Brene Brown says: “Resilience is more available to people curious about their own line of thinking and behaving”. 

In building our resilience, we learn to develop a mindset that sees each set back as a growth opportunity, striving to approach the experience with curiosity instead of condemnation.

Both Richard Roberts and Bonnie Roberts from Positive Consultancy Ltd run Resilience Workshops, offer leading Executive Coaching consultation and sessions in Workplace Mindfulness for Resilience and Stress Reduction for Businesses and Organisations.

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