• Alisa

The importance of resilience and bouncing forward

Updated: Jan 28

I believe we all possess the tools to deal with any challenges life throws our way.

In life, there are things we can plan for and things we can't. Sometimes the bumps in the road are small and frustrating; other times, life-altering circumstances can hit us for six. Resilience is about how you can emotionally and cognitively work forward from a point of difficulty, one step at a time.

While the notion of resilience may seem daunting, it’s important to realise that we all have some level of resilience inside of us, which can be strengthened through knowledge and deliberate practice. Resilience often starts with a choice – stopping to take a breath, shifting your perspective, or looking for the positives in a situation – and then consciously acting in a way that gives you back some control.

What is ‘bouncing forward’?

The most common phrase used when people are trying to describe resilience is ‘bouncing back’, but I prefer the term ‘bouncing forward’. Sometimes you can't get back to where you were before a serious challenge came your way – and that’s OK. To bounce forward implies that, while you might have been knocked off course, you can move on from it.

It's about believing that setbacks are often just a problem we haven’t solved yet, and that things can and will get better. The key is recognising the realities of your situation and figuring out your options to move forward, without getting overwhelmed. Practising resilience means avoiding catastrophising – exaggerating negativity and assuming that is the most likely outcome – by keeping things in perspective.

While this may sound difficult, or something reserved for those facing life-changing adversity, resilience is actually a capability that can be used every day in everything you do. People who are resilient are often referred to as being strong – particularly, mentally strong – when in fact, they've usually found different techniques like resetting, using positive self-talk or flexible thinking to work through problems.

It might not seem obvious, but reaching out and asking for help is also a great way to develop resilience. It's allows you to stretch and to grow though hardship and difficulty, while knowing that you have options and support.

Seeing setbacks as a way to grow

One thing that I’ve found useful is learned optimism, which is the idea that a talent or skill can be cultivated with effort, that failure is temporary, and that negative thoughts and behaviours can be replaced by positive ones. By better understanding our own beliefs and reactions in the face of adversity, we are empowered to more positively respond to the tricky situations we encounter. It’s learning to see the glass as half full and not half empty. It doesn’t matter to me whether I fail or not. It’s about knowing that I genuinely tried, grew through the process and had no regrets, instead of sitting around wondering ‘what if’.

Without a doubt, hardship can make you feel vulnerable, particularly when your emotions are involved. But from this vulnerability comes great learning, so it’s important to practise digging deep and being courageous when things seem most difficult.

Throughout my years as an athlete, there were all sorts of challenges and hurdles that I had to get through in order to succeed, and each small win along the way gave me the strength and self-belief that I could get over the next hurdle. Taking the time to appreciate what went well and why gave me the evidence and confidence in my own ability to create positive change in my life. It also enabled me to find great satisfaction in the journey, not just the outcomes.

For me, it’s about reprogramming. We shouldn’t think that life is a quest for ongoing happiness. It’s about overall wellbeing and building your capacity to not just enjoy the ride, but to direct it.

How to practice resilience

Part of resilience is learning how to first stop and observe, and then considering all of the options you have before acting. Quite often, things aren't as bad as they seem, so calming down and stepping back for a moment is a valuable technique in itself.

Learning how to be more resilient is also about understanding that you can separate your emotional response from the reality that you're faced with. Sometimes, because of the totality of everything we're all trying to deal with every day, we can overreact to certain situations and put an undue amount of emphasis on something that's really not that important. Building up our emotional regulation and practising impulse control is another key to thriving in life.

Sadly, there is an increasing amount of self-judgment and pressure to be perfect these days, which can sometimes leave us feeling stressed, overwhelmed and dejected when we don’t meet these unrealistic expectations. It’s in these day-to-day moments that practising resiliency techniques – from decatastrophising, to breathing, to reaching out or having a plan B – can help us regain control and bounce forward in life.

Dr. Monique Crane is a lecturer at Macquarie University and academic Member of the College for Organisational Psychologists, her primary area of research examines how organisations are able to foster psychological resilience in the workplace.

"When facing difficulty and life-stressors, it’s important to take time out to reflect. Stop and spend time thinking about your answers to the following questions. You can do this on your own or discuss it with someone else:

1. In situations such as these, what are some of the characteristics or behaviours that you would like to have (not necessarily what you do have) under pressure?

2. What do you think you could learn or improve about yourself in response to this stressor?

3. How could these new skills help you in the future?

4. What are you doing well and what personal skills and attributes are you using to achieve this?

5. What changes would it take in your behaviour or thinking to make your response slightly more effective and closer to your ideal?"

Originally published on www.onelife.aiavitality.com.au on July 16, 2017.

Alisa Camplin is an Olympic Gold Medalist, in-demand Keynote Speaker, Corporate Ambassador, and Human Performance Consultant who delivers results-driven Resilience and Human Performance Training and Development Programs. Connect with Alisa.

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