The last couple of weeks have caused uncertainty, anxiety, and a whole lot of other undesirable emotions, probably in everyone all over the world. It is always interesting to see how individuals who experience similar situations, often react differently to the situation. Of course, there is a number of explanations for this. One of the reasons has to do with resilience. But why are some people more resilient than others?
In the engineering world, resilience refers to the ability of an object, or structure, to spring back into shape after it was exposed to a severe force or pressure. Other terms associated with resilience are elasticity, flexibility, pliability, plasticity, and adaptability. In human terms, resilience refers to the ability of a person to recover from setbacks, adapt well to change, and keep going even when facing difficult circumstances. In order to survive in uncertain and difficult times, resilience is probably one of the most important skills for anyone to possess.
The characteristics of a resilient person remind us a bit of Aesop’s fable of the neighbouring willow and oak trees. The Willow envied the mighty Oak for its power and strength. One day, during a violent storm, the Willow challenged the Oak to a trial of strength. The pliant Willow, swaying and bending, escaped the force of the storm; but the huge Oak was unrooted and fell over. Although the Oak was mighty and solid, it was rigid and inflexible. It collapsed under the pressure of the storm. The Willow survived.
Chances are good that willow trees have an innate ability to be flexible and adaptable to weather storms. They also continuously strengthen their flexibility and adaptability whenever the mildest winds move through their branches. How can we as humans cultivate such a willow-like character? Although researchers have made strong links between resilience, genetic and biological factors, the good news is that we can also learn to be more resilient! During the last couple of weeks, we have already shared many ideas with you in this series on how to build your resilience. These include things like having a good understanding of your strengths and development areas, believing in your own abilities, being optimistic, using humour, and learning a new skill. I would like to invite you to revisit all the podcasts from time to time, as and when you need to build your own strengths and resilience.