Resilience Builds Character

Every person in every generation in every part of this planet deals with adversity at various times in their lives. This is an inescapable fact. Another inescapable fact is that people react to adversity with different responses. Some are calm, controlled, and measured while others react with anger, or perhaps feel overwhelmed, helpless, or behave irrationally.

Those of us who can analyse our negative reactions to adversity admire those who seem to be in charge of their emotions, who remain rational, accept the situation and look for solutions. They are not overwhelmed and keep their inner equilibrium when coping with adversity or difficult situations. The good news is that you can learn how to cope with adversity and develop the habit of resilience by controlling your responses and thereby reducing stress, anger, and fear.

Mental and emotional resilience is really about mental toughness and we can all learn to toughen up and be better people or leaders. To do so, you need to be emotionally aware so that you can assess your own feelings and control them. You need to be proactive by taking charge of how you cope with pressure or adversity.

Resilience is the capacity to bounce back quickly from life’s inevitable difficulties, misfortune, or any adversity that you may occasionally experience. Resilience stems from the Latin word ” resiliens” which means to “rebound” or “recoil”. When coping with a crisis each of us reacts in different ways from calmness to panic and all in between. Those of us with strong coping skills and who can bounce back from adversity are those with the most resilience.

Resilient people do not succumb or overreact to adversity because they have learned true awareness of their own emotional reactions and behaviour. They are never victims; they understand that challenges are obstacles that require solutions. They understand the need for flexibility and have taken charge by developing their own coping skills.

Mental and emotional toughness is what personal resilience is all about. Resilient people have good coping skills; they don’t succumb and they don’t overreact. They have learned to mind themselves emotionally by keeping an inner equilibrium when coping with adversity.

Adversity can make you bitter or make you better. Your reaction is your choice. We have a choice in how we interpret adversity, threats, or setbacks in our lives. Setbacks are challenges that test us but they can also be opportunities to perform at a higher level in the future. According to the Roman poet, Horace;  Adversity has the effect of eliciting talents, which in prosperous circumstances would have lain dormant. 

Psychologists tell us that adversity plays an important role in our personal growth. We can learn to build and strengthen our character if we learn to overcome adversity. A strong character will not become unbalanced by his or her emotions or emotional reactions. Being able to remain emotionally positive can be a buffer against stress

( Photo by Lucas Sankey on Unsplash).

Crises situations are not necessarily traumatic; it is the nature of our reactions to crisis situations that can cause us personal trauma by seriously upsetting our equilibrium. We have a choice in how we interpret adversity in our lives. By remaining clear-headed and composed and by managing our mental and physical well-being we will enhance our ability to cope with stressful situations.

Resilience has always been a core attribute of all great leaders because they know that it is their reaction to adversity, not adversity itself that matters. They view threats as challenges to be addressed. They seek to take control of a crisis by looking for solutions and by remaining positive, calm, and measured in their responses. To remain effective, good leaders know they must manage their own emotional, mental and physical health in order to cope effectively in times of adversity.

Resilient leaders are emotionally aware and can assess and understand their own feelings. They are solution-oriented and versatile; they are socially skillful and are not afraid to seek advice and support from others.

We can learn from those leaders who have displayed great courage and resilience in the face of adversity. Winston Churchill knew that attitude was a little thing that made a lot of difference. His courage, positivity and defiance provided great solace to the British people during World War Two. Likewise, the American civil rights activist, Rosa Parks, displayed unwavering resilience in the face of racial discrimination. Nelson Mandela, the celebrated South African leader, was tenacious, courageous and resilient. He was patient and calm and needed to be as he spent 27 years in jail for his principles and beliefs.

Such leaders remained calm and in control because they also had deep inner conviction and strength; they managed their emotions and could address difficulties and setbacks without drama. Their strength of character is derived from their determination not to become unbalanced by their emotions. They did not default to negativity when challenged. They refused to be crushed.

The pace, intensity and complexity of our lives can mean that many of us are wired for stress. Fast-lane living, where we are always on call, can leave us prone to be constantly stressed. This may mean we can lack equanimity and composure when faced with difficult situations. Therefore, we must unlearn some behaviours and learn new behaviours to become more measured and strategic when addressing our personal and professional difficulties.

If successful people can learn from failure so can we. We can look for learning in difficult situations rather than succumbing to emotional reactions or self-pity. Building our resilience means we need to be more aware of our own emotional reactions and behaviour and, if required, we need to change our reactions to adverse situations.  We should not let our emotions define us.

How do you know you are resilient? If you are in control of your emotional responses and behaviour when dealing with the pressure you are behaving with equanimity. You are not letting circumstances or other people control and define you. You have looked at what you can control, accepted the situation and looked for solutions. You are not helpless and overwhelmed; you have learned to trust your attitudes and abilities because you have learned to accurately self-analyse. You have a genuine belief in your self-worth.

As well as being determined, resilient people are very motivated and also have learned the art of empathy. They will readily enhance their coping abilities with practical, emotional and psychological supports by engaging with trusted friends or professional colleagues. Pride or stubbornness will not block a solution. They don’t blame others for the wave of adversity that confronts them because their focus is on finding a solution or a way out of the difficulty. They will not let adversity define them.

Those resilient people who are problem solvers and who seek successful solutions are people who have an internal locus of control-a term used by psychologists for those who feel they can control, to some extent, their own destiny. They tend to have a  survivor rather than a victim mentality. Those who feel more empowered tend to be less stressed and happier,

There is no education like adversity – Benjamin Disraeli. In dealing with adversity you can learn new behaviours while unlearning old behaviours. If you are self-aware you can begin to look at your choices, review your options, and change to a more positive mindset. You will need willpower, conviction and a positive mental attitude to bring about change in how you react to adversity. The benefits are worth the effort-less stress, a better quality of life and the admiration of your friends.

You are stronger when you are more resilient. You do not try to hold onto the past as you look to a different future. You become a better person because you can bounce back from failures or adverse circumstances.  You are a renewed, calm and composed person. A personal goal worth achieving.

Do not judge me by my success; judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again – Nelson Mandela.

( Feature photo by Cam Adams on Unsplash)

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