Boosting our resiliency increases our resistance to stress and can greatly lower our chances of becoming depressed. Resiliency is a quality that helps us both act and react in appropriate and productive ways, such as against setbacks, failures, a crisis, and even physical and emotional pain, while maintaining confidence and courage. Our resilience can even help us retain our motivation when facing these adversities.
Take this self-assessment from the MindTools team to find out how resilient you are.
There are two main types of resiliency:
Reactive – when we’re forced to face challenges
Active – when we choose to face challenges
In its reactive quality, resilience is the ability to stick with something through thick and thin, and the power to overcome the temptation to bail out when things stop being easy.
Reactive resilience means that we do not let worry over the future, about things that may or may not come to pass, keep us from living the best possible life. Never let mistakes from the past eat you up inside. Take responsibility for your actions, but don’t blame yourself for mistakes so much that shame and guilt paralyze you from moving forward and trying again.
Resilience against adversity provides the opportunity to be persistent and this quality not only motivates us to keep going, but inspires others with the same motivation.
It takes a lot to be a trailblazer or to stand up and speak out against injustice. To do this we need to be motivated to face guaranteed resistance and fear. Being fearless is self-evident, but being resilient against the consequences of our decisions is often an afterthought or reactionary quality.
So how do we be active in our resilience? It starts with our perception, how we see and explain the things that either happen to us or that we choose to face. In 2017, Great Britain’s Mollie Hughes, became the youngest woman to have ever climbed both the North and South sides of Mount Everest, an incredible feat of resiliency.
In Karen Reivich and Andrew Shatte’s 2003 book, The Resilience Factor, they described two types of people based on Dr. Martin Seligman’s work in the Positive Psychology field and his “Explanatory Style.”
The first group are those who blame themselves for everything bad that happens to them, they are convinced that these problems will always occur and are therefore unavoidable, and that the consequences of these problems will affect every aspect of their lives.
The second group faces problems without blaming it all on themselves, they believe that these problems are not permanent, and that they will not impact every aspect of their lives.
Based on Dr. Seligman’s work, the first group consists of people who think more pessimistically, they are prone to depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and paralyzing fear and inertia in the face of setbacks and obstacles. This thought process is known as “learned helplessness” due to their habitual behavior of focusing only on negative events and outcomes that have occurred throughout their lives.
The second group are more optimistic and they tend to be healthier, happier, significantly more successful at work, at school, and in sports.
Here’s an example to better understand how someone from each group would perceive the same situation:
Being optimistic doesn’t mean we see the world through rose-tinted glasses. Actively choosing to find positive opportunities in what we rationally understand and accept to be negative circumstances is the true difference between those who are pessimistic and those who are optimistic.
Pessimistic isn’t always bad, it can help us:
We can choose how we actually approach obstacles or difficult experiences. With challenges or setbacks we should consider this process of evaluation:
Adversity alone does not have the power to determine how we act, think, or feel. We make those choices ourselves by the way we choose to perceive the adversity. Dr. Seligman recommends evaluating your perceptions using his four-step model:
Acquiring motivation sometimes requires understanding and explanation before it can be used. Here are three recommendations for putting this model into action:
This series is available free for download in PDF format and includes activities for more engaged learning: Motivation