Search for something

Developing resilience: how can we develop resilience?



I am particularly interested in resilience. Understanding what it means to both individuals and organisations; working with the challenges and questions it poses and exploring it through other people’s eyes. It is a topic we work with as an organisation and a word I hear in our network time and time again. So this summer, I decided to explore the topic through a series of interviews I conducted with a cross-sector of professionals.

The information I discovered was so rich and varied that I wanted to share it in a series of blogs, with each one discussing a particular theme or question to try and weave a broader picture of what resilience means in the wider world and how aligned opinion is.

One of the questions I asked was: “How do we develop resilience?”

When I asked that question, a lot of the interviewees countered with: “That would depend on what is meant by resilience.”

Personally, I like the definition of it being the capacity to bounce back into shape – being able to pick myself up; noticing how I do that and learning from the experience. If I get stressed, I can go into overdrive, so the ability to take a step back is very important. This is the definition of resilience I’ve held during these interviews and encouraged others to think about.

Born resilient?

Extensive research by American psychologist Dr Emmy Werner supports a theory that a third of us are born resilient.

Jane Senior is a personal developer and an age group GB Triathlon bronze medal winner. She agrees that resilience can be part of our ‘make-up’, although she adds the caveat that some people have more resilience than others. For her, it is not a fixed state and can be lost consciously and unconsciously. If we don’t have awareness of our shape, we are less likely to be able to know what resilience means to us or if we need to develop it.

When I spoke to Louise Malmstrom, COO at The Unlimited Mind, a consultancy that applies neuroscience to create innovative models of Leadership and team coaching, she mentioned that, to an extent, our capacity to be resilient is set in childhood. If you have a secure home, achieve well and learn that failure is not a bad thing, then this will help you be resilient. But this does not mean we cannot learn and develop resilience as adults, too.

Julie Barnes, a counsellor, facilitator and personal developer, believes that we need to have awareness and acceptance when we are in a difficult situation. We may have to practise this, as for some people there can be a natural tendency to be in denial of a situation they are in. Sometimes we also have to accept that the outcome is not always in our control. Wanting and wishing for something badly enough might not give you the outcome that you want. That’s when you need your resilience!

Developing resilience later in life

I also discovered that you could develop resilience later in life.

Key to this is meaningful and supportive relationships and the ability to reframe stressful situations into something calmer or positive. This is all about how well you bounce back from being stressed and how it can deepen your ability to be resilient.

Professor Jo Clarke from Petros adds that if you are in a culture where ‘disenfranchised distress’ is encouraged, i.e. you are not allowed to feel what you feel, you are less likely to be able to develop resilience. Having a strong support network is therefore increasingly important to encourage this development.

So the development of resilience can be attributed to a combination of who we are; our own inner resources; being able to have a perspective and being able to reframe situations you find yourself in. Perhaps most importantly, you also need to have good human relationships and connections.

A final thought on resilience: kintsugi

As I was winding up my conversations on the development of resilience, Jacqui Wilmshurst, a Chartered Psychologist and Health & Wellbeing Consultant, gave a lovely example of bouncing back and learning from an experience.

She said: “I like the Japanese practice of kintsugi, where broken items are glued back together using liquid gold. It is then clear that it was broken and where the scars are, but the whole item is different and more beautiful than before.”

I like that, too.

[island]To talk more about wellbeing and resilience in your organisation, contact Lise on 01937 541700 or email her.[/island]