I’m going to start with a perverse admission; I’m not a naturally resilient person.
As a shy child and overweight, under-confident teenager, I struggled to identify with many of my peers and reacted badly to failure when I managed to summon the confidence to take action in the first place.
Subsequently, my seemingly ill-suited aspirations of joining the army seemed all too difficult to realise in the face of setbacks in the pursuit of that dream. Needless to say, my first interview at the Army Recruitment Office was not an obvious success (I was told that I was wholly unsuitable for a career in the Army) but, in hindsight turned out to be the first concrete example of me building resilience.
Up until that point, I had let my feelings – mostly negative and unhelpful – dictate my actions and thus my achievements – or lack of them – were the result of unproductive emotions. The challenge laid down caused me to unwittingly re-calibrate my whole approach to moving forwards. I decided that my identity as an aspiring soldier would come first, which then informed my actions.
My actions – exactly because they weren’t subject to my feelings – became more focussed, more positive and were driven by the desire to create an identity as a soldier. The outcome was that I was accepted into the Army and passed out within the top ten percent of my peer group. But crucially, nobody showed me how to do this – I somehow stumbled upon the process and didn’t even realise I had, really only understanding it twenty years later.
The following twenty years gave me plenty of other opportunities to develop my resilience; getting hit by a car, falling off a mountain, treading on a Taliban IED and the subsequent undiagnosed brain injury to name a few.
All too often, we end up developing resilience as a by-product of struggling against challenge or adversity. Something bad or unexpected happens and hopefully, with the support of friends and self-help books, we come out the other end. However, if we understand true resilience to be the ability to grow through adversity, rather than simply bouncing back, that can often take more resources than we have within ourselves. Hence, the prevailing realisation that we should be teaching resilience – in schools, community groups and the workplace – is a welcome if not slightly misdirected intention.
As with any kind of genuine insight, the practical wisdom that comes with the growth of resilience cannot – in the most obvious understanding of the concept – be taught. We cannot say that in certain circumstances if x happens to you, then do y and you will be resilient. The circumstances in which resilience is a helpful response are experienced in such an intensely personal way that no two people will react the same way to the same event.
Genuine resilience won’t be the product of attending a seminar or lecture. As with any genuine internal evolution, it takes habit-forming repetition, reflection, practice and hard work for sustainable progress to be made.
Just like nobody else can do exercise for you, nobody can make you wise. At The Eleos Partnership, we don’t simply deliver insightful workshops with credibility and authenticity; they are just the starting point. We don’t teach our clients resilience but we do explore strategies, psychological tools and perspectives in depth that help them to shape their own insights, develop practical wisdom and build resilience in their people and teams in a wider context of mental fitness.
Rather than just teaching from a standardised set of courses, we use our experiences to bring out the observations from our clients and turn them into strategies that will make a real difference to their performance and lay the foundations for sustained and effective change.
At The Eleos Partnership, we use the hard-won insights from our own challenges to cultivate mental fitness in individuals and organisations. If you think that your team would benefit from working with us to improve performance through building resilience, get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.eleospartnership.com