The Gift of Resilience … No-one will forget the global pandemic of 2020. As Arundhati Roy recently wrote in the FT, “Coronavirus has made the mighty kneel and brought the world to a halt like nothing else could”. With no vaccine in sight, and the comfort zone of our old normality, now far off in our distant past, a sense of resilience is one of the few tools we have available to us, that can help steer us, towards the murky unknown of our next normal. As Roy says, not only do we need to be ready to imagine our next world, we also need to fight for it.
In many ways, a sense of resilience is also about building a capacity to fight for ourselves. It is a tool that we should – and must – gift to ourselves. Resilience can help us to navigate calmly through the choppy waters of today’s global crisis and, equally, to stay steady through numerous personal crises – be they bereavement, family, health or work related. And we should not forget that crises almost always – providing we remain alert and in control – throw up powerful new opportunities and fresh insights as the old order is eradicated or fundamentally transformed.
We can employ a number of simple tools which can help us to cultivate resilience. Focus, control and reframing are three key principles which can significantly underpin our capacity for resilience.
Focus helps us to keep our minds and emotions firmly held in the present moment. By focusing on what we need to achieve today, and only today, we can stem the rising tide of our inner fears and keep the chatter of our monkey brain in check. Mindfulness, journaling and meditation can all help as well as a confident command of oneself. War veteran, Captain Tom Moore, as an example, chose at the ripe old age of 99 to concentrate on simply achieving 100 rounds of his 25-metre garden before his 100th birthday, supported only by his walker, to raise money for the NHS during the current Covid-19 crisis. He could have allowed himself to be consumed with worry about his ability to achieve this goal and whether the goal was too crazy for a man of his age, who should really be in his slippers in front of the fire. Instead, he focused on the task at hand with resilience and chutzpah, and went on to raise in excess of £14 million.
Similarly, control can keep us steady at the helm. Control of our emotions, control of relationship with ourselves and control of the quality of our relationships with others. Emotional Intelligence plays a powerful part in helping us to stay balanced and in control. The greater the quality of our Emotional Intelligence, the greater our resilience. Structure is also a stabilising factor. Building in a sense of control by introducing structured approaches in our lives to exercise, nutrition, routine and mindfulness, can all help to steady the ship in rocky waters.
Control can also help us to reduce an out-of-control sense of overwhelm. And critically, we also need to develop confidence in our ability to handle things and situations – such as the current pandemic crisis – that our clearly out of our control. We can’t control the events, but we can control our ability to choose how we wish to interpret or frame such situations.
During stressful or crisis situations, many of us resort, without thinking, to default patterns of behaviour. Taking the time to step back and reframe our perspective in the cold light of day can release us from old patterns of thought, generate fresh energy and insights, and give us a fresh dose of realism. As an example, the more we stay calm and observant during this rupture of our daily lives by Covid-19, the more we can begin to reframe for ourselves the fresh opportunities that it might provide for us in our present-day lives and in what we could change about our future plans.
It could be as simple as reframing the crisis into a chance to reorganise your daily routine and reflect on how far you have come in your life. To deciding to make wholesale change – career, relationship, health or otherwise – as soon as life allows you to do so. In that sense, Covid-19 can be reconstrued as a positive change agent. Rather than a ‘Why Me?’ mentality, we can begin to take on board a ‘What can I learn from this?’ approach, seeking ways to shape the current challenge to our advantage.
Resilience often accompanies a maverick mindset. It’s that sense of confidence and self-reliance. A sense of being capable of original thought. An ability to navigate change. A wolf not a sheep. In these seismic times, all of us need to gift ourselves with a strongly cultivated sense of resilience in order to remain calm, clear-headed and undaunted. Not least because we are not returning to an old normal or even a clearly defined new normal. We are entering a limbo period of partial lockdown, recessionary times and unclear immediate futures. We need to master our minds, our health, our ability to innovate and our capacity to renew, reinvent and spot the beginnings of new opportunities emerging from the crisis landscape. Resilience doesn’t mean a capacity to bounce back. In reality, the success of resilience is the ability to bounce forward, to rebuild, to determine both how and when to pivot.
Living a resilient life requires us to do all of the above. It requires us to be mindful of what we do, how we do it, what needs to change and what needs to be hard-wired. It’s a lifetime iteration not a one-off radical pivot. Resilience is a gift to ourselves that can enhance the quality of our lives and the opportunities we could seize. Why not use these profound times to to gift ourselves the opportunity to hone and strengthen our resilience muscle. You won’t regret it!