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Key Characteristics of Resilience

Resilience involves a range of behaviours, thoughts and actions, all of which can be learned and developed. These factors which contribute to resilience (taken from my latest publication Resilience Coaching Toolkit published by Pavilion Publishing and Media) include:

  • Developing mindful awareness: Mindfulness, as a psychological concept, is the focusing of one’s attention and awareness based on the concept within Buddhist meditation and popularised in the West by Jon Kabat-Zinn. Practising mindfulness can help people begin to recognise their habitual patterns of mind, allowing them to respond in new ways and so build resilience.
  • Taking ownership: Personal responsibility is the belief that successes or failures are determined by your own talents and motivations as opposed to external forces such as luck or good timing. Those who take ownership believe they control their own destiny and attribute events to their own traits. Rather than relying on external factors such as luck to achieve objectives, they look inward to their own talents and motivations and attempt to exert control over situations.
  • Understanding personal values: Who we are is what we become and do. If we are to be authentic, our personal values need to underpin our choices and actions.
  • Managing strong emotions: We are a mixture of thoughts and feelings and sometimes one is stronger than the other. For example, we may hide our emotions behind a rational persona or we may become over-emotional at the expense of rationality. Resilience is a balance between the two states.
  • Effective questioning: Effective questioning enables us to become informed so that we are better placed to make decisions and take action.
  • Active listening: We have one mouth and two ears, suggesting that we need to listen more than we talk. Active listening is crucial to resilience. If we don’t understand something or are in conflict with another, we need to engage with effective questioning and active listening in order to inform and measure our response.
  • Building perseverance: Grit, tenacity, endurance, persistence – these are the essence of resilience. It’s not about a lack of problems. It’s not about always feeling happy, confident and positive. Perseverance is having the spirit to keep moving forward.
  • Developing a non-judgemental mindset: We’re all full of judgement. Even as you read this, you’re making a judgement of yourself as to whether you’re judgemental! We judge ourselves and others, which often results in internal and external conflict. Resilience is the absence (or reduction) of a non-judgemental mindset.
  • Developing problem-solving skills: Most of us tend to focus on problems, wasting time on the whys and wherefores, on weakness and failures. The resilient person focuses on solutions.
  • Improving confidence and self-esteem: Confidence is the outer shell to self-esteem. We can appear confident outside but have low self-esteem on the inside. A resilient person is someone who experiences high self-esteem but on bad hair days knows how to support themselves with self-compassion.
  • Assertive communication: Assertiveness and self-esteem go hand in hand. When we feel good about ourselves, we show our resilience through assertiveness.
  • Fostering self-care: Self-care comes in both psychological and physical forms. For example, by taking mental time-out, through having a healthy diet and taking appropriate exercise. Taking care of yourself helps to keep your mind and body primed to deal with situations that require resilience.
  • Improving self-compassion: A resilient person is kind to themselves. They know that everyone has foibles and failings, occasionally falling but always getting back up and moving forward.
  • Changing perspective: Sometimes our mindset becomes fixed and we can’t see the wood for the trees. A resilient person is able to move their mind, tries to see things from different perspectives and so finds fresh vision and new approaches to problems.
  • Improving adaptability: Challenges occur on a daily basis, and when life presents you with one that is insurmountable, resilient people accept the circumstances that cannot be changed while focusing on circumstances that they can influence. A more adaptable mindset allows us to evaluate and adjust to the different challenges we have each day.
  • Viewing change as opportunity: Things change from second to second. Rather than being resistant to, or fearful of, change, resilient people embrace change and see it as an opportunity.
  • Increasing pro-activity: Taking decisive action rather than detaching from adverse situations is a trait of the resilient person. Although it can take time to recover from a set-back, knowing that your situation can improve if you work at it can help. Resilient people pro-actively work on solving a problem rather than letting themselves get paralysed by negativity.
  • Personal networking: Good relationships with family members, friends and others strengthen resilience.
  • Increasing optimism: Resilient people possess an ability to experience both negative and positive emotions, even in difficult situations. Our brains are wired to pay more attention to negative events than positive ones. However, in reality we experience positive events more often. One key to building resilience lies in noticing and appreciating those positive experiences with more frequency.
  • Increasing empathy: Empathy is an ability that contributes to resilience by helping us appreciate other points of view, which can then help us to get our problems into perspective.
  • Laughter and humour: Humour is a subjective matter and what one person finds funny will not necessarily be shared by another person. Laughter can make the unbearable bearable and so builds resilience. As psychiatrist Victor Frankl wrote in Man’s Search for Meaning about surviving Nazi concentration camps: ‘Humor was another of the soul’s weapons in the fight for self-preservation. It is well known that humor, more than anything else in the human makeup, can afford aloofness and an ability to rise above any situation, even if only for a few seconds.’
  • Extending purpose and meaning: When life has meaning, we have a stronger sense of purpose and this helps develop resilience.

 

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