FAQs: Cultivating Resilience for dealing with life’s challenges.
Here are some common questions about Personal Resilience, Team Resilience and what Resilience training involves.
What are some Resilience fundamentals?
1. Resilience is not about ‘bouncing back’.
Life’s reality is we cannot go back. What happens to us becomes part of us. Resilient people have learned how to embrace daily challenges and hardships. Not to bounce back, but to move forward!
2. Resilience is not just about enduring more and more stress.
How we recharge is just as important as how hard we work. Read that again. Resilient people have learned optimal habits to recharge their energy and wellbeing, for giving stress the boot and minimising their risk of fatigue and burnout.
3. Resilience is not simply ‘born’.
We are born with some Resilience traits, like strong cognitive abilities for managing work, DNA that means we rarely get sick, or perhaps an easy going temperament for responding to life’s inevitable setbacks. But science has proven Resilience is mostly nurtured (or it’s not!)… The most Resilient people on the planet, people you might admire such as Athletes, Frontline healthcare workers, Military Personnel and CEOs, have learned proven Resilience skills and tools for thriving in work, and life.
Resilience is a set of abilities that enable good outcomes despite serious threats.
Our Resilience training courses teach practical and proven tools in these areas…
- Self-Awareness – the ability to pay attention to your thoughts, emotions, behaviors, and psychological reactions.
- Self-Regulation – the ability to change your thoughts, emotions, behaviours, and physiology in the service of the desired outcome.
- Mental Agility – the ability to look at situations from multiple perspectives and to think creatively and flexibly.
- Strengths of Character – the ability to use one’s top strengths to engage authentically, overcome challenges, and create a life aligned with one’s values.
- Connection – the ability to build and maintain strong, trusting relationships.
- Optimism – the ability to notice and expect the positive, to focus on what you can control, and to take purposeful action.
*Adapted from the Master Resilience Training (MRT) framework – developed by the US Military and the Positive Psychology Institute.
Why do we need to have Resilience? What are the benefits of being more Resilient?
If we consider the definition of Resilience “a set of abilities that enable good outcomes despite serious threats”… we need to have Resilience to face and overcome life’s inevitable threats and challenges. We often playfully say a more accurate definition for Resilience should be…
“Resilience is life strategically managed.”
It’s a fact of life that nobody escapes pain, fear or suffering. Some people start life faced with immense insecurity or danger from birth and need Resilience just to make it through each day. Others can reach adulthood before facing any major hardships. Regardless, every single one of us has had to get through a series of personal challenges and obstacles just to reach this point in our lives.
A key thing to know or acknowledge is that you are already Resilient to some degree. If you’ve learned a skill, overcome a failure or navigated a loss then you have likely already cultivated some Resilience. But it’s also important to acknowledge that just because we made it through a tough situation doesn’t mean we are instantly more Resilient. Many people have survived the Pandemic, but will be feeling their Resilience is at an all time low. And being Resilient in one situation doesn’t guarantee our Resilience in others. Military Personnel who are Resilient through the extreme threats of war, can return home and struggle to be Resilient in everyday life such as juggling parenting.
It’s only through a deeper understanding of what Resilience is and where it comes from, that we are able to tap into our existing Resilience reserves, and then learn new skills and tools for proactively cultivating our Resilience.
And the benefits of being more Resilient are too long to list. The most common one we hear people mention in our training when we ask this question is adaptability. But adaptability is a behaviour pattern. Compared to individuals who are low in Resilience, people with higher levels of Resilience are found to experience increased levels of wellbeing and mental health-including a lower risk for depression, have greater career and academic success, and better relationships. So better health, wealth and belonging.
Where and when in our lives is Resilience most important? Do we only need it during challenging times or is it helpful on a daily basis?
Personally, being a parent, having a demanding job and facing all the uncertainty in the world today, I’ve found myself drawing on my Resilience awareness and skills everyday…including the weekend. Often hourly!
We need Resilience for everyday challenges and setbacks like juggling work deadlines around home life, for overcoming adversity or trauma like loss, and for overcoming other risk factors like the threat of Covid-19.
There’s 3 types of Resilience we can cultivate; Biological, Cognitive and Social Resilience.
- Biological Resilience refers to our ability to cope with physical threats. This is the level of Resilience we have when facing things like common colds and viruses, or other things that push our bodies to their limit.
- Cognitive Resilience refers to our ability to cope with psychological threats. This could be trying to complete a complex task at work or facing immense workload stress, or managing the barrage of negative news reported across the world today.
- Social Resilience refers to our ability to cope with social threats. Some obvious examples are receiving critical or harsh feedback from your boss, or where you’ve been unable to see loved one’s and friends for extended periods of time.
Everybody’s life and situation is different, and where and when their Resilience will be tested is unique to them. A situation somebody finds a real test of their Resilience may be easy for others. We all respond to situations in our own unique ways and have our own hierarchy from hard to easy for difficult situations we could face.
From delivering Resilience training to people in over 25 countries, we’ve identified the most common Resilience challenges people are reporting… In terms of Biological Resilience, the most consistent threat reported during 2020-2022 has been Covid-19, but also people not prioritising or having the capacity for self-care. For Cognitive Resilience, the biggest psychological threats we’ve seen is work related stress and persistent fear created by unprecedented uncertainty and change disrupting all aspects of work and life. And for Social Resilience, the biggest test continues to be the social impacts of this new-world ‘meta-verse’ we are increasingly living in, with loss of social connection and lack of belonging.
Can being Resilient help us in our personal and professional life? Why are businesses taking an interest in Resilience training?
Our Personal and professional lives are no longer separate. Even before the Covid-19 Pandemic and the forced working-from-home situation, we already had work invading our personal lives through the technology and devices that we carry around 24-7. Now, there’s completely blurred lines between work and home life, especially for white collar workers around the globe.
Because of these blurred lines between work life and home life, if we are feeling low in Resilience in our personal lives, it’s likely playing out in our work. And vice-versa!
With all the change and uncertainty faced, the Pandemic has shone a huge light on mental health and wellbeing in the workplace. Many people were already facing health and wellbeing challenges, but now it’s become so widespread and is affecting so many people that its having a significant and widespread impact on business performance.
Businesses have a duty to ensure their workforces are safe and well, but they also exist to achieve shareholder returns. Research in 2021 showed a lack of workforce Resilience is estimated to be costing Australian companies $12.8 billion per year in lost productivity, translated in dollar terms as rising absenteeism, presenteeism and workplace compensation claims. Globally this number is over $60 billion! (That’s billion not million).
Compare this to the results for businesses who successfully address Resilience, including saving costs and increased Productivity with employees found to be twice as motivated and productive if they’re Resilient
The Great Resignation of 2022 has also meant businesses are scrambling for ways to retain their employees. A study in 2020 by Aon found Resilience EQUALS Retention & Motivation! With 93% of Resilient employees saying they would want to stay with their employer, while 86% of Resilient employees feel fully motivated at work.
So Resilience training boosts wellbeing, motivation and productivity, which is good for individuals and good for business. So it’s no wonder Resilience training is now a priority for all businesses wanting to remain in business.
And we’re really grateful to be working with many small, medium and large businesses around the globe.
How do I know if I’m one of the Resilient ones? What are the tell-tale signs that I’m not at my optimum Resilience?
We have a psychometric assessment for gauging someone’s Resilience, but the easiest way to know if you are a Resilient one is to ask yourself a couple of simple questions, and honestly reflect on the answers:
- What is Resilience and where does your Resilience come from?
- How Resilient do you currently feel and why?
- How are you monitoring your mental, emotional, physical and social wellbeing day-to-day?
- How do you know when your Resilience is low or at risk of impacting your performance?
- What tools or techniques are you using to bolster your Resilience?
Leaders can even ask these questions to their teams to gauge how Resilient their team is and to start the conversation about Resilience. If you or your team are struggling to answer these questions, then the bad news is Resilience might be low, but the good news is there’s an opportunity to build and cultivate your Resilience awareness and skills.
Is Resilience a personal characteristic or a shared characteristic? Or can it be both?
Resilience is an individual set of abilities, but it’s so much more meaningful when it’s built as a shared resource or a collective resource among a team.
To put this into context, members of the most elite teams on the planet have built their individual resilience, but so have their teammates. Take Navy Seals for example, they are required to make it through one of the toughest entrance exams on the planet, but to be a Navy Seal you are not just required to make it through the individual tests, they require you to ‘team’ with others. You can be the best individual operator, someone who is nailing all the tests, but if you haven’t teamed with your colleagues you will not make it through as a Navy Seal.
Leaders who experience Resilience training without their team can be a beacon of Resilience for their teams, and we equip Leaders with tools and resources to help them role model Resilience. But a whole team that goes through Resilience training together means they are equipped to support each other during good times and bad. They have a common language and set of tools for facing inevitable setbacks and challenges together, as a unit.
You can be the most Resilient person on the planet, but if you are part of a team that’s not Resilient then it doesn’t mean much. And vice-versa, you can be someone who is low in Resilience, but if you are part of a Resilient team then it elevates you.
So the best teams and businesses build their Resilience as a collective, not just an elite or special few.
Can the people in our lives (employers, teammates, relationships, children, etc) affect our own Resilience? Either by bolstering it up or tearing it down?
What we do know is that some relationships can be immensely toxic and can erode our Resilience, almost beating us and our self-worth down until we are a shell of ourselves. This might be a spouse, a friend or even a boss at work. But other relationships can bring us immense joy, gratitude and vitality, building us up into better versions of ourselves.
Some relationships we can walk away from, and if you are exposed to someone toxic but don’t have to be then taking action to limit your interactions with this person can be immensely beneficial for your Resilience.
Other relationships we can’t walk away from, no matter how bad they are for us. So instead, we may need to change our perspective or approach to this relationship. This is where Resilience training comes in.
One of the key things to know and remember about our Social Resilience is that trying to change someone else is often impossible or takes immense time and effort trying. Whereas changing ourselves, how we interpret, interact with and respond to others is in our complete control, and has an instant impact.
Its also worth knowing that an unfortunate side-effect of our unconsciousness is an assumption that we are at the centre of what we are experiencing, at all times. So when interacting with others, we put ourselves as the starring role in what’s happening. This isn’t about ego, this is an unconscious interpretation of what we are experiencing. So when somebody says or does something unfair or unreasonable, we tell ourselves it’s something to do with us. But other people’s attitude and behaviour often has very little to do with us, it’s their values, their hangups, their bad day…. Yet we can take their words and actions as an indicator of our own self-worth or our behaviour. Learning to take a step back and remind ourselves that what other people say and do often has very little to do with us, can be really empowering for our Social Resilience in key moments and situations.
What are the greatest threats to our Personal Resilience? And what can we do about it?
A – Ambiguity…
The word ambiguity means something that can be understood in more than one way. None of us had previously lived through a Pandemic like Covid-19, so we had no prior knowledge how to cope. The human brain tries to resolve uncertainty and this kind of massive AMBIGUITY with routine. We learned to hunker down to avoid a virus, and emotionally hunker down to cope with STRESS. Benjamin Franklin once said that only two things in life are unavoidable: Death and Taxes. If he was writing today it would be different. He would have said: Death, Taxes and Stress! The greatest threat to our Personal Resilience is persistent stress and fear caused by unrelenting ambiguity. Given the world isn’t getting any less ambiguous any time soon, the antidote to ambiguity is taking time to consciously monitor the situations we are facing, and our reactions to them. And learning some healthy coping strategies.
B – Burnout…
We’ve seen people from 25+ countries consistently report having to-do lists as long as their arms. And many people think that Resilience is about enduring more and more stress. We’ve all seen and heard people talk about how busy and stressed they are as some kind of badge of honour for how important or Resilient they must be. But the opposite is true. Resilience is as much about how you recharge as how much you can endure. Resilient people know that they are no use to anybody if they reach burnout, and they’ve learned optimal self-care habits for managing their energy and wellbeing, for giving stress the boot and minimising their risk of fatigue and burnout.
C – Consumption…
Consumption refers to the threat of binging on too much of anything as a coping strategy. Consumption is not just about food, in fact many people have reported their increased stress has caused them to eat less, not more. Consumption of negative news is one of the biggest threats we face in today’s world, and will continue to face with the volume of media channels and click bait fighting for our attention! Eyes on adverts is revenue for media companies, and because of the way human beings are wired headlines like “Hoppy the bunny rabbit saves child” doesn’t get as many clicks as “Hoppy the bunny rabbit gets Covid and kills child”. This is because of a phenomenom known as loss aversion, which has proven that human beings are typically more concerned with and motivated to avoid loss or what they stand to lose, than what they stand to gain.
It’s been estimated that we now spend an average of 12+ hours per day on digital media, and there’s actually a term that was coined a few years ago regarding the consumption of negative news — “Doomscrolling”, which is the tendency to continue scrolling negative news even though that news is saddening, disheartening or depressing. We need to keep up with what’s happening, but not get sucked in. The best way to do this is to set a strict time limit and intent for our newsreading or scrolling through media channels, then stop when it’s reached!
D – Devices…
You could argue that the common thread between these ABCs, Ambiguity, Burnout and Consumption is the 4th most common threat we are hearing about across the world — Devices. I’m talking about smartphones, smart watches and any other device that has the word smart in it, which is really the tech companies way of cheekily saying ‘smarter than its users’. I’m joking of course, that’s not what tech companies meant by the name, but smarter than us these devices definitely are.
They are of course brilliant, they have made our lives easier and communication more convenient. We carry them around wherever we go, let them sit with us and our families at the dinner table, cuddle up next to them in bed at night, and even invite them to listen in on our daily habits and conversations. The problem is, we think we are in control of our devices, but the truth is they are mostly in control of us. The apps and notification settings inbuilt into them use the same dopamine reward mechanisms as Casino slot machines! We are quite literally gambling our time away with the frivolous notifications that come through, which gets us to take some kind of action we weren’t otherwise thinking about and steals our attention and energy away from more meaningful and important pursuits we were doing.
The developers and manufacturers need us to use them, need us to rely on them to work and live, otherwise we might stop using their app that generates them advertising revenue, or worse still we might realise we can actually live without these smart device at all and not pay thousands of dollars in hardware each year. I recently considered getting rid of my smartphone altogether, and going back to one of those analogue phones with giant buttons and no apps. But by taking proactive steps to control the apps and notification settings, I’ve been able to get the best from this incredible technology, without gambling my time.
So that’s the ABCDs of threats faced right now… Ambiguity, Burnout, Consumption and Devices and what to do about each. But everyone is facing unique daily challenges. Resilience training equips individuals and teams with the skills and tools to face life’s inevitable setbacks and hardships, for keeping people and teams high performing during times of adversity, change and growth.
Are there ways in which our levels of Resilience are linked to mental health challenges like depression and anxiety? Are there any links to levels of joy and contentment?
For anyone who is experiencing mental health challenges but doesn’t have any support with this, then it’s important to know you are not alone and help is always available. One of the key habits Resilient people have developed, and often apply on a daily basis, is asking others for help. They know that their social resilience is about building strong, trusted relationships, and asking others for help is a way to build trust and connection with others.
Asking for help from others also provides a different perspective, which ties into the Resilience skill of mental agility. So if you are someone who thinks asking others for help is a weakness, or you don’t currently have someone to get help from, then a quick Resilience boosting strategy you can immediately try is seeking and finding an expert to assist you, and see for yourself the benefits it brings 🙂
I’ve read that exercise can make us more Resilient to stress. Is this true? Does exercise and diet have an effect on Resilience or vice versa?
It’s important to remember that we now live in a world where for the first time in our long evolution most of the stressors we face today are psychological, not physical. We are no longer facing the stress of fighting saber tooth tigers or hunting and killing an animal to feed ourselves and our family, but fighting with deadlines and keeping bosses, or clients or stakeholders happy. Exercise is one Resilience boosting strategy we can all engage in and it’s relatively low (or Zero) cost.
Aside from exercise, are there other activities to help us become more Resilient?
There are a set of proven skills and abilities that can be learned for building and cultivating Personal and Team Resilience. This is where Resilience training comes in. A key part of our Resilience training involves empowering people to understand the skills and identify the habits they know work for them, or are perhaps doing unconsciously and without proper awareness, and then building a routine that makes prioritising their Resilience a ritual. You have probably already got a lot of habits you know about or have tried, but maybe didn’t think of as being Resilience boosting. So the first activity we suggest is taking some time out to identify 2 or 3 habits you know work for boosting your (or your teams) physical, psychological and social wellbeing, but for whatever reason you have let these habits slip or stopped doing them. For you personally this might be an exercise regime, or meditation twice a week, or doing a silent walk with the dog before breakfast, or reading a book for 30 mins before bed instead of watching Netflix. At a minimum, the most critical activity we can all do more of to boost our Resilience is prioritising time for self-care. The analogy I use for self-care is the safety announcement you hear before taking off on a plane. You know the one that says…
“In the event of an emergency, an oxygen mask will fall down from the overhead compartment…please put on your oxygen mask before assisting others”.
Self-care is about putting on your oxygen mask before assisting others in your day-to-day life. You are no use to others, your family, your friends, your colleagues, your team if you haven’t taken care of yourself first. This is a hard one for most people, especially parents and leaders to do as it’s in our DNA to prioritise those we care for. But Individuals of elite teams, athletes, military personnel, frontline healthcare professionals, are trained to manage themselves and their needs, so they don’t put their team mates or others at risk. So set alerts or reminders or notifications in your devices or on post-it notes that prompt you to inject some self-care into your day. You might even find putting self-care on your daily to-do list as an action item you need to tick off can be helpful to. I literally write on my to-do list “Time for my oxygen mask.” And don’t let time be an excuse, as the most important time to relax or get some exercise is usually when we don’t have the time for it!
If someone is struggling with making necessary changes in their life, what would you recommend they do to get less stuck?
To quote the German Theologist, Albert Schweitzer…
“In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.”
There is absolutely no shame in struggling or needing help to get less stuck. When feeling stuck or feeling helpless ask yourself; “what do I need right now and who can help?”. We are social beings, we’ve become the most dominant and Resilient species on planet Earth because of our ability to socially organise and collaborate and support each other. We can’t achieve greatness on our own, and we typically can’t get through great threats on our own. So seeking help is a strength, not a weakness, and it can provide an immediate boost in our Resilience.