Personal resilience

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Written by Liggy Webb on 23 February 2016 in Features
Features

Resilience a popular topic right now and Liggy Webb explores it through a personal story

Resilience certainly seems to be a hot topic right now and is mainstreamed more and more through business thinking. A consistent theme among the range of definitions of resilience is a sense of adaptation and recovery in the face of adversity or change.

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Some people describe resilience as the ability to bend instead of breaking when experiencing pressure or the ability to persevere and adapt when faced with challenges. These abilities help people to be more open and willing to take on new opportunities. In this way resilience is more than just survival, it is also about letting go and learning to grow.

Personally I find the highly pertinent topic of resilience fascinating and have spent the last few years deep in research exploring the habits and behaviours of resilient people.  In the work that I do with the United Nations travelling to some very challenged parts of the world I have had the opportunity to meet people from all walks of life.

For my latest book I interviewed over 100 people who had experienced varying degrees of setbacks. From these interviews and various other research channels I was able to create a competency framework around resilience, developing a deep understanding of the necessary coping strategies for dealing with adversity.

There is a certain irony, therefore, given that resilience is my specialist area of work, that I was given a huge opportunity to personally put my knowledge to the test!

Last April, and really quite out of the blue, I was diagnosed with a very rare tumour actually growing inside my heart. The prognosis was critical and open-heart surgery apparently was the only way to proceed. For someone who is in good health and still in my forties it came as a huge shock. I guess we never really imagine things like this are going to happen to us until they do! The most significant thing that I learnt was that whilst we may not be able to control some of our circumstances, we can absolutely choose the way we respond to them.

I think in many ways I surprised myself, you never really know how you will react in these situations and it’s amazing how resourceful we can be when we need to.

I learnt so many things and I can honestly say it has certainly taught me a few things about recovery and indeed my own resilience. It was without doubt, life changing, with so many defining moments.

Recently I was interviewed about my own experience with regards to recovery and asked to define the three most important resilience behaviours and this is what I concluded.

1. Accept your current situation
Let’s face it we all like to be in control, however, in some situations you have to put your trust in others hands. For example, if you found out that we were going to be made redundant or you were diagnosed with an illness you would need to accept that you couldn’t just wave a magic wand and make the situation go away. Sometimes acceptance and learning to go with the flow is the best use of energy.

Tips for accepting your current situation

  • Remember acceptance is not about resignation, it is the recognition that fighting a situation that you cannot change may be a waste of personal resources
  • Acceptance will put you in state of flow which will help to reduce stress and anxiety
  • Manage your inner control freak and learn, where appropriate, to let go.

2. Take personal responsibility
Life can be very unpredictable and invariably we will all be subjected to various setbacks and personal challenges. You can’t always control what happens to you in life.

You do however have total control about how you choose to respond to those situations. By taking personal responsibility for your reactions and attitude you will be far more empowered to cope and manage the ultimate outcome.

Tips for taking personal responsibility

  • Acknowledge that you are in total control of your response to any situation that presents itself to you
  • Be aware of the victim trap and indulging in a ‘personal pity party’
  • Avoid blaming others and find a scapegoat – spend your time instead seeking solutions.

3. Be positive
Thinking positively is not about putting your head in the sand and being unrealistic, as some people may believe. With a positive attitude you can recognise the negative aspects of a situation and then make a conscious decision to focus instead on the hope and opportunity that is available. This releases you from getting locked in a paralysing loop of negative emotion and allows you to bounce back from adversity and challenging experiences.

Tips for seeing the glass half full

  • Make a conscious decision to challenge each negative thought and flip it over into a positive thought
  • Understand that every experience in your life whether it is good, or bad will bring a valuable lesson with it
  • Remember that life is ultimately what you make of it and your attitude can have a huge impact on everything you experience.

In summary

Being resilient takes effort and practice. It may well feel sometimes as if you are taking one step forwards and two steps back, almost as if you are doing a little dance with life. The key however is to keep moving and to not lose the faith that you can, and will, pull through if you remain positive and hopeful. The quicker that you can recover and bounce back the better because life can pass so quickly and this is your golden opportunity to make the best and the most of it. 

In a few weeks time I will be delivering a resilience masterclass at The Bristol Heart Institute. I will be able to stand in front of people who work there and say “If it wasn’t for your skills and your care I wouldn’t be here today sharing with you what I know and understand about resilience!” I can’t think of a better way to say “Thank you”! 

About the author

Liggy Webb is an author, presenter and managing director at The Learning Architect, or follow Liggy @liggyw, email liggy@liggywebb.com or visit www.liggywebb.com.

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