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Resilience means "bouncing back" from difficult experiences. It is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, catastrophe, threats, or significant stress. Research has shown that resilience is ordinary, not extraordinary. People commonly demonstrate resilience. Being resilient does not mean that a person doesn't experience difficulty or distress. In fact, the road to resilience may involve emotional distress.
Resilience is NOT a TRAIT that people either have or do not have. It involves behaviors, thoughts, and beliefs that can be learned and developed in anyone. Just as a strong core is important to physical health; the Resilience CORE is important to our success.
The Resilience CORE is comprised of four components:
Refers to the importance of social relationships in our lives. Some key connections that foster resilience are:
- Relationships with friends and family
- Identifying role models who are examples of resilience - View videos of people discussing how adversity resulted in resilience.
- Engaging in activities that provide a service to others (for example volunteering, tutoring, coaching, etc.).
- Dayton area volunteer opportunities:
Optimism refers to our tendency to see the potential for positive outcomes in our experiences - it is that tendency to "see the glass half full versus half empty." What we think is very powerful - "Whether you think you can, or think you can't--you're right" (Henry Ford). One of the keys to developing an optimistic outlook is to adjust our explanatory style and develop a growth mindset.
Research shows that it's not what happens that determines your mood but how you explain what happens that counts. This affects how we view success and failure.
The optimist encounters a math problem that she can't figure out, she's likely to say, "Either the book is unclear or this problem is hard or maybe I'm having an off day." The optimist keeps the rationale for failure outside herself ("the book"), specific ("this problem"), and temporary ("an off day"). A pessimist might think "I'm stupid! I'm never going to get math! How am I ever going to succeed in school." The pessimist makes the explanation for failure internal ("I'm stupid"), global ("How am I ever going to succeed in school"), and permanent ("I'm never going to get math!").
When success occurs optimists say, "Of course I did well on my test: I studied and I'm smart." The optimist views success as being caused by internal factors while noting that specific behaviors supported their success. The pessimist might view success by saying "Boy, was I lucky today. I doubt that I'll do this good next time." The pessimist does not internalize the reason for their success. It is viewed as being external ("luck") and temporary ("I doubt that I'll do this good next time). To better understand optimistic and pessimistic thinking and its impact on resiliency, we need to look at the work of Martin Seligman.
Martin Seligman, a social psychologist from the University of Pennsylvania, and his colleagues developed the term "explanatory style" to refer to those thinking habits, or preferred ways of looking at the world, that can help or hinder our ability to respond to the world in a resilient manner. Our explanatory style helps us to theorize why things happen and the impact that they will have on us. We may find that our explanatory style is the same in all environments or situations or may vary by situation and role. There are three key components to explanatory style: Personalization, Permanence, and Pervasiveness.
- Personalization asks the question "Who caused the problem?" (Internal/Me or External/not me).
- Permanence asks the question "How long will this problem last?" (Long Lasting or Temporary)
- Pervasiveness asks the question "How much of my life does this problem affect?" (Global or Specific)
Here are some explanatory styles and their associated feelings:
Explanatory Styles Associated with Depression and/or Anxiety
When we have an explanatory style that leans toward ME, LONG LASTING, and GLOBAL.. we tend to view the world and our problems in a pessimistic manner. Problems can become overwhelming and we may struggle with feelings of depression and/or anxiety.
Here's an example: Tim has been working on working on being more social at school. He and his roommate have been hanging out with a group of people and he if thinking that he is beginning to develop some new friendships. Tim learns of a party that his roommate was invited to that he wasn't. Tim's explanatory style for this event was "I'm such a loser, I never get invited to anything. No one likes me and things will never change." This is an example of the INTERNAL-LONG LASTING-GLOBAL explanatory style. INTERNAL - "I'm such a loser"; LONG-LASTING - "things will never change"; GLOBAL - "I never get invited to anything."
Explanatory Styles Associated with Feelings of Anger and Resentment
Another problematic explanatory style is EXTERNAL, LONG LASTING, and GLOBAL. People with this style tend to view the world with anger and resentment. If we take the example above, if Tim were to think "He always gets invited to things. This is never going to change. I don't know what's wrong with those jerks." Tim's explanatory style of EXTERNAL - "I don't know what's wrong with those jerks"; LONG-LASTING - "This is never going to change"; and GLOBAL - "He always gets invited to things" could lead him to feel anger and resentment toward his roommate and their friends.
Explanatory Styles Associated with Feelings of Optimism
The explanatory style that leads people to look at the world in a more optimistic way is the EXTERNAL, TEMPORARY, and SPECIFIC interpretation of events. With this explanatory style, Tim might think "That's a bummer. I guess that they have known my roommate longer than I have. Hopefully, as I become better friends with them, they will think to invite me to the next party." Tim's interpretation of the event as EXTERNAL - "I guess that they have known my roommate longer than me"; TEMPORARY - "Hopefully... they will think to invite me to the next party"; and SPECIFIC - "Hopefully as I become better friends with them...". This explanatory style provides Tim with a way to experience both disappointment (that he wasn't invited) and hope (things will change in the future). Tim is more likely to continue to work on the change that he made to his behavior and achieve his goal of becoming more social.
The Growth Mindset refers to an individual's tendency to view their intelligence and ability as qualities that can be developed and enhanced over time. This compares to a Fixed Mindset in which individuals view these factors as fixed traits that you either have or do not have. The benefits of having a growth mindset include:
- Freedom from anxiety around skills and intelligence. If a person believes that they have the ability to grow and develop their skills and intelligence, then they do not have to waste time worrying about how smart or skilled they are as compared to others. Challenges become exciting because they help you to learn.
- Seeing the value of effort. Individuals who see the value in the effort are intrinsically motivated to continue in an activity as they see it as an enhancement to their growth as an individual.
- Mistakes and setbacks are ok. Individuals with a growth mindset understand that mistakes and setbacks are inevitable and are a necessary part of the learning and growth process.
Reaching Higher refers to our ability to commit to those values that are supportive of personal growth and engage in effective goal setting and planning. When we Reach Higher we understand that each failure is a lesson from which we have learned something that can help us to move forward. We will look at Grit in this section.
A characteristic of people with high resiliency is Grit. Grit refers to a person's tendency to value perseverance and passion for the completion of long-term goals. There are five characteristics of people who have grit:
- Courage—People with grit tend to be able to manage feelings of fear over failure. People with grit are not afraid to fail, they value failure as it is seen as part of the process leading to success (much like a growth mindset - see optimism section).
- Conscientiousness—People with grit tend to be achievement-oriented and value being meticulous and doing a good job at the task at hand.
- Long-Term Goal Endurance—People with grit value perseverance toward the achievement of long-term goals.
- Resilience—People with grit tend to be resilient, optimistic, confident, and creative.
- Excellence—People with grit tend to value excellence versus perfection. Perfection is inflexible whereas excellence is ever-evolving.
Do you want to find out how you rate on the grit scale? Take a survey.
Nike Advertisement in which Michael Jordan shows his grit. Watch the video and notice when Michael is talking about the five characteristics of people with grit.
Goal Setting is critical to achieving success. A goal is a specific level of performance on some task that typically has a desired outcome identified within a specific time frame. Goals may be short-term or long-term. Typically many short-term goals are met in pursuit of a long-term goal. For example, a person may have the long-term goal of increasing their GPA from 2.5 to 3.5 by the end of the next academic year. That would be considered a long-term goal. There may be many short-term goals identified toward the pursuit of that long-term goal. For example, obtaining a grade of "A" in each class, establishing a study schedule, and many other goals could all be short-term goals in pursuit of the long-term goal. Go to the Goal Setting Section of Academic Success Strategies for more information.
Emotional Acceptance refers to our ability to be mindful. Being aware of our thoughts and feelings in the moment with acceptance is the hallmark of living in a mindful way. Mindfulness refers to the ability to focus one's attention on those experiences occurring in the present moment in a way that is accepting of the experience. Mindfulness is a skill that is typically taught through mindful practice.
Just as the pianist needs to practice his scales or the basketball player her free throws, to improve the mindfulness skills we need to practice those behaviors that enhance our ability to be mindful. If we pay attention to what we typically focus our attention on, we often notice that our attention/thinking is focused on the past or the future. We typically think about what happened in the past or what we want to happen in the future. This typically results in our making poor decisions in the present. The present moment is really the only place that we can be, and yet we focus quite a bit of our attention on being somewhere else. Being Mindful increases our ability to concentrate, be successful, be compassionate, and experience happiness more often.
This typically occurs through the practice of meditation. Meditation is an activity during which a person focuses their attention on an object, sensation, activity, thought, or other present moment experience. Meditation is the tool through which we develop the skill of mindfulness. Mindfulness meditations use focused concentration to teach our minds to maintain focus and awareness of the present moment in a manner that is nonjudgmental and accepting of the present experience. Meditation has been shown to impact our brain in many positive ways supporting neuroplasticity or the ability of our brain to form new connections through experience.