Resilience – high on the agenda again

Resilience is a term that currently comes up very often in articles and lectures these days, clearly also because of the Corona crisis. The term resilience actually has its roots in physics and refers to the restoring force or spring force of a material, i.e. the extent to which a material can return to its original shape when it has been deformed, stretched, pressed or bent. A good example of this is a coil spring, which we expect to recover after compression or strain. Regarding ourselves, we speak of resilience if we are able to recover quickly and live a fulfilled and successful life despite adverse circumstances such as poor social conditions, trauma, illness, deprivation or disadvantage. To put it more simply, resilient people handle difficulties and setbacks quite well and demonstrate a high resistance to stress, which basically means they restore their mental health relatively quickly after a crisis.

Characteristics of resilient people

In professional literature and also in coaching courses, you can find long lists of typical characteristics describing a resilient person. Here, the term resilience is used in many different ways, and the characteristics attributed to resilient people are quite complex. The most obvious ones are optimism, positive attitude, resistance to stress, acceptance of the unchangeable, the ability to enjoy and rest, a healthy lifestyle and for many people also spirituality. But what else characterizes a resilient person? It is certainly important to have clear visions and goals and to pursue them with high commitment. Also, being able to adapt flexibly and quickly to new circumstances helps to deal with problems and challenges more easily. Another important factor is to be well integrated socially, for example to have good friends or a broad professional network. Emotional intelligence, high self-awareness and sensitivity for values are also part of it. This list could be continued endlessly. I am sure that everyone can think of a few more characteristics, also based on his or her personal experience.

Innate or learned?

People generally deal with crises in many different ways. This is partly genetic, but experiences from childhood and adolescence can also have a major influence. How did my parents deal with crises? What beliefs have been burned into our brains from that time? If my parents were very anxious, perhaps I am too, and thus rather less resilient. Narcissistic people are typically quite resilient because they are very convinced of themselves and even major problems and negative events cannot change this. On the other hand, also sensitivity and empathy are a part of resilience. But regardless of what is innate or has been trained, you can also learn resilience yourself. The areas to concentrate on are of course individually different and very much depend on the respective person. It can be the acceptance that certain things cannot or can no longer be changed. It can be assuming responsibility or setting goals and pursuing them consequently. Taking on an active role rather than always feeling as the victim. Or building a network that you can rely on when things don’t really go as planned.

Resilience on the job

Resilience can also mean leaving a supposedly secure job and, for example, becoming self-employed, because the role or the task in this role no longer suits you or does not correspond with your own values. If you cannot realize your own ideas and goals any longer, if your own style no longer fits the corporate environment, if you only feel like the extended arm of management, then you have to consider what is more important to you. Is it the subjectively perceived security of looking at your bank account at the end of the month or the feeling of being able to do what really corresponds with your own ideas and abilities. This does not necessarily always have anything to do with a fair and objective assessment of your employer. It is simply a personal decision, which depends on your own personal resilience.  

Strengthen your resilience

To learn how to strengthen your resilience, you don’t have to go to a therapist. Just a few sessions with a good coach can be a big help already. In the first step, you could just start to consciously deal with yourself, based on a book about the topic or even on the suggestions in this article. From my own experience, you should first “take inventory”. Is there a pattern regarding situations that repeatedly evoke negative emotions? What about the other way around? Which situations motivate you and leave you with positive emotions? It is absolutely important to have positive goals. These can be bigger medium and longer-term goals, but also the very small ones like “this is what I want to accomplish today” or simply the question “what am I looking forward to today?”. I have already mentioned the acceptance of the unchangeable. You should simply turn that around. Don’t constantly think about what you can no longer change, but rather reflect on what was positive, where you have been successful and what you have accomplished. And very important: don’t surround yourself with complainers, eternal critics and procrastinators, but with positive and optimistic people.

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