There are so many tragedies around the world and it is inevitable that each and every one of us has either already experienced some kind of material set-back or knows someone who has. It is also inevitable that we will experience various set-backs throughout our life time, whether at home, at work, or in the community.
Some people, organizations and communities ‘bounce back’ quickly, others don’t. Why is that? Resilience is the ability to recover, become strong or successful again after something bad has happened. At the individual level there are some biological factors at play with regard to how our brains work that somewhat influence that process, but I’m afraid they’re above my pay grade. Given businesses and communities are networks of people, what I want to explore is how we can help develop or coach resilience through a process of encouraging and practicing healthy habits. Whether we are self-coaching, life-coaching, parenting, leading a team at work, or mentoring others, I believe these habits can be applied. The younger they are learned, the better. I have outlined 7 steps to develop resilience. Let me know what you think and please share any additional recommendations you have learned from your own coaching / experience?
Some of the young people we work with at Play Rugby USA it seems have experienced enough set-backs already for life. Some of them have had to grow up quickly as a result. It is truly inspirational to see how so many of them continue to go-forward and support each other in achieving success. We are proud to be able to provide them with some passionate Youth Development Mentors who they can trust to help them along the way. So this brings me to the first of my 7 steps to learning resilience:
1) Go-Forward mindset: Yes, this is easier said than done but we remind our students regularly to “Go Forward”. As I have stated in previous blogs, Go Forward in rugby means to advance the ball forward to maintain possession (control), challenge and ultimately penetrate the defense (adversity). Off the field this means to learn, improve, experience personal growth and to never give up. A Go Forward mindset therefore requires learning from the past but always looking to the future knowing we may not always be able to control every outcome, but so long as we are going forward (making progress) to never give up. A Go-Forward mindset isn’t enough on its own to be learn resilience, but it’s a solid start. Just saying to yourself regularly “Go-Forward” is a gentle reminder to keep focus on what’s next, not what has gone before.
2) Understand that change is constant and set-backs are an inevitable part of change: We have likely all been told at some point in our childhood “life isn’t fair”, and we have it drummed into us that “the only constant is change”. But, how do we prepare for change? When coaching / mentoring we can communicate that goals & benchmarks can change, expectations can be adjusted and that there is always something can can be learnt from every outcome, whether it was desired or not. We can encourage people to “play what we see” and make the best decisions they can on the fly taking into account those around them. We can communicate that sometimes bad things may happen, and we appreciate that bad things suck. But because we know that, we shouldn’t be surprised; we can handle them. Also, we need to appreciate point #3:
3) Step back to broaden your perspective: Picture your issue / set back. It may be all consuming. Then take one massive step back in your head. What else is there in your life? What is going well, what and who do you love, who do you know, who has been through this before, who can help? I’m not exactly a philosophy expert but Budda did say: “Our life is shaped by our mind. We become what we think. Suffering follows an evil [replace with “negative”] thought as the wheels of the cart follow the oxen that draws it”. Thinking broadly, thinking positively helps dilute the concentration of adversity.
4) You can’t change the weather: (Although you can move to improve it!). We can only control what we can control. So, we have to make the most of the things within our sphere of self-influence. Also, if there are too many external factors negatively influencing our sphere of self-influence, how can we control (i.e. get rid of / minimize) some of them? For the things within our control, imagining our ultimate outcome (vision) for each, helps set our course. For example, if you’re a personal trainer working with someone looking to loose weight (it is New Year after all) how do they want to look and feel in 12 months time? Then, we help them set small goals in bite sized pieces, to help them move them forward. Then:
5) Self-Leadership: This is a broad and much documented topic but there are some basics we can employ that help us maximize point #4 above. Once we have set our ‘ultimate’ or longer-term direction for a particular factor we can control and we’re motivated to get there, imagining what that could look like (motivation), we can now employ 3 R’s: a) Reward ourselves for our achievements, and b) Reflect upon our outcomes (whether good or bad); and c) practice self-Respect. That is – put your positive hat on! If we respect ourselves, we can look positively at each step we take towards the vision we have for ourselves and be honest about whether we’re still going-forward. And if we’re struggling, we can always remember the old English proverb: “where there’s a will, there’s a way”.
6) Balance routine with enrichment: Personally, I’ve always been one to “keep busy” to keep my mind and body active & challenged and in some respects this has helped me go-forward after some set-backs. Routine for me traditionally has been work (running a small portfolio of sports-themed social enterprises) and training (gym, running, biking, rugby practice). However, having a routine it is not enough and at times can be a cause of stress and anxiety by taking on too much and loosing control of too many outcomes. So, just as important or helpful as a routine may be, it’s equally important to have fun. Take a break, play a game, go out with friends, watch a movie, write a blog..haha, etc.
Lastly, and absolutely not least:
7) You do not have to be alone: One of the themes that comes out most prominently from many of the students we work with is that since they have started playing rugby they realize they have a new “family”, “teammates” and “support”. They “look for help” want to become “role models” and feel a “connection” to and “respect” for each other. They make each other want to be a “better player / person” and they “learn” from each other along the way. They have chosen to participate in a game that has provided them with a new network of friends and supporters. So, to develop resilience, you need to ensure that YOU DO NOT HAVE TO BE ALONE. Being resilient however isn’t just about asking others for help. Resilient people exhibit the following behaviors: a) make connections with other people; b) help other people and c) ask for help, when they need it.
I’m interested to hear your thoughts? Can resilience be coached / developed? What are the challenges? What has worked for you?
Resilience is coachable! Thanks for these 7 points, Mark.
I am constantly talking to my teenage sons about life issues and the troubles they have at school and at home. These will help frame the conversation with a bit more structure.
Good stuff Mark, this message has to be delivered on a consistent and persistent basis.