What is your resiliency quotient? Picture this: You are walking along the beach enjoying your holiday weekend. The sky is blue and sun is warm. You are snapped from your daydreaming by people screaming and running. Above this noise is the screaming of the emergency sirens.
What do you do?
Do you immediately jump into action? Are you running away for a fast escape? Do you become paralyzed and wait to see what happens next? Fight, flight or freeze are the common reactions to unexpected frightening circumstances. How we react to the simplest frights, is often how we react to big frights as well. We all have a natural tendency for how we respond to moments of crisis. But we can become better in our response. Our crisis management skills can determine if we are a victim of circumstance, survive the ordeal, or if we can thrive from the experience.
Crisis, at one level or another, is a fundamental part of the human experience. I don’t know of anyone who has gotten through life without experiencing some type of emotional trauma or crisis. It happens to all of us. It might be getting laid off from work, going through a divorce, witnessing a violent crime, or experiencing a grave illness. Levels of crisis can vary greatly, as can our reactions to these crises. The more skilled you are at managing your reactions in a positive way, the more resilient you are.
“Resilience is all about being able to overcome the unexpected. Sustainability is about survival. The goal of resilience is to thrive.” —Jamais Cascio
Although we tend to describe resiliency as an innate personal characteristic, it involves utilizing a set of skills. And if it involves skills, then those skills can be learned and practiced. Improving these skills can increase your resiliency during difficult times. So, what is this skillset?
Resilient people are aware of key situations, their own emotional reactions, and the behavior of those around them. In order to manage our feelings, it’s essential to understand what is causing them and why. We have to become aware of how we are reacting and not allow ourselves to be blinded by emotion. Reflecting upon how have reacted in past crisis situations is one strategy for becoming more aware.
We have to understand and accept that life is full of crises. Some of these crises will be traumatic and some will just be little speed bumps. While we cannot avoid these problems, we can remain open, flexible, and willing to adapt to change. We have to accept that things happen. There is no judgement in acceptance.
Sense of control.
It is the combination of awareness and acceptance that allows us to feel a sense of control. The more we are able to take in and understand what is happening, the more in control we will feel during the situation. While we might not be able to control the situation, we can learn to control our reaction to the situation.
Resilient people embrace a survivor mentality over a victim mentality. This is closely connected to feeling a sense of control. Victims have no control; they suffer hardships and remain in a state of suffering. Survivors suffer hardship, but they come out on the other side ready to move forward with their lives. Being a victim or a survivor is all about an attitude choice. And that choice is yours to make.
Once you see yourself as a survivor who has control, you have the ability to take action. The better your problem-solving skills, the more options you’re able to consider in determining your best course of action. You need to have strategies for making quick decisions when time is limited and strategies for decisions when you have the more time to plan your response.
Strong social connections.
Each person’s social network will be different. Some of us need to feel like we have a large group of like-minded supporters who have our back. Others only need one or two people to serve as coaches or mentors. You have to determine what type of social network is best for you. The important thing is that you don’t allow yourself to become isolated. Social connections provide us with perspective on our crises and can serve as a support system in times of need. Humans are predisposed to function in groups. The size and design of these groups may vary but no one makes it through life completely on their own.
Ability to ask for help.
When we have strong social connections, we generally have an easier time asking for help. No one overcomes all the crises in their life by themselves. On the other hand, having strong social ties doesn’t ensure help will arrive in times of trouble. We must ask for emotional support, physical help, or logistical assistance acquiring specific resources. Sometimes you have to do the hard work of reaching out and asking for help. Asking for directions or for a little boost isn’t a sign of weakness—it’s a sign of strength. The strength of being a survivor and maybe even being able to thrive rather than the weakness of being a victim.
Putting It All Together
Everyone handles crises in their own way. One person’s coping skills vary from another’s, but knowing how to identify when you are in crisis and then being able to respond in a positive and productive way is what will highlight your resilience and lead you to success. Experiencing crisis is a fact of life. Resilience is what allows some people to be knocked down by life and come back stronger than before.
It is important to remember that all of us have the ability to be resilient. Resiliency skills can be learned and practiced so they are honed and ready to use when crisis strikes. You shouldn’t wait until you are in a moment of crisis to start thinking about learning these skills. Practicing resiliency should be done proactively. These are skills you will need at some point – probably more than once. Learn them now and be ready to do more than just survive, be ready to thrive.
Are you a resilient person? Are you able to overcome crises when they come your way? I challenge you to think about the skills you need to be resilient. Do you have those skills in place? Is there more you can do to strengthen those skills so you’re ready to take on anything that life hands you? I challenge you to hone your skills. I challenge you to become more resilient and to help those around you become more resilient.
Revised January 2022. Originally published under The OD Pro in October 2019.