August 2011

Resilience

Some people seem to have a remarkable ability to bounce back from adversity—a strength that many assume is just something you’re born with. But a recent article in the journal Academic Medicine demonstrates otherwise. Resilience, it turns out, is actually a composite of many different factors. It’s a quality that can even be measured!

Even more significant, in my eyes, is the degree to which resilience can be learned. Its component parts fall into two main categories—mental habits and attitudes.  

The mental skills include focus (the ability to prioritize and keep an eye on long-term goals), organization (the ability to distinguish quickly between the forest and the trees), and flexibility (the ability to keep an open mind and avoid black-and-white thinking).

The attitude piece is essentially a matter of seeing the glass as half-full rather than half-empty—looking for solutions rather than excuses, and being proactive rather than passive in the face of change. 

Most thought-provoking of all, perhaps, is the observation that resilience—which we tend to think of as a very personal trait—is in fact also largely shaped by how much one values other people. Listening to the opinions of others, being a team player, recognizing that we are dependent on each other…all contribute to one’s inner strength.

It seems to me a powerful insight that being appreciative of what others have to give is one of the surest ways to reinforce your own ability to cope.