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Developing Resilient Leaders and Loved Ones

Part I

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Karen Woodard-ChavezKaren Woodard-Chavez

Resilience is such an important quality to have at any time in our lives, and especially these days, when we are seemingly faced with new challenges that test us each day. What you will find as you read on is how to define resilience and how you can deepen it for yourself, those you lead and those you love.

Ping Fu, author of Bend, Not Break, has a beautiful quote, "Be like the bamboo... bend but do not break," which is a very good description of the concept of resilience. If you are to develop and deepen resilience within yourself and for others, how do you define resilience? Let's define it in the following way:

The power or ability to return to the original form or position after being bent, compressed or stretched. The ability to recover readily from illness, depression or adversity. It is similar to having a sense of buoyancy. Perhaps not just bouncing back but bouncing forward. Resilience exists when you use mental processes and behaviors to protect yourself from the potential negative effects of stressors. Why is resilience important? Resilience is important for several reasons:

  1. 1. It enables you to develop mechanisms for protection against experiences, which could be overwhelming.
  2. 2. It helps you to maintain balance in your life during difficult or stressful periods.
  3. 3. It protects you from the development of mental health difficulties and issues.

There are three types of resilience:

  • Psychological Resilience - The ability to mentally or emotionally cope with a crisis or to return to pre-crisis status quickly.
  • Emotional Resilience - The ability to adapt to stressful situations and cope with life's ups and downs... resilient people do not allow adversity to define them or their lives and are able to "roll with the punches." Less resilient people have a harder time with stress and life changes.
  • Physical Resilience - The ability to respond to stressors that acutely disrupt normal physiological homeostasis.

Some questions to ponder: Is resilience a trait or a skill? When faced with adversity in life, how does a person cope or adapt? Why do some people seem to bounce back from tragic events or loss much more quickly than others? Why do some people seem to get "stuck" in a point in their life, without the ability to move forward?

A person with good resilience has the ability to bounce back more quickly and with less stress than someone whose resilience is less developed. Everyone has resilience. It's just a question of how much and how well you put it to use in your life. Everyone can learn to increase their resilience abilities. So, let's be clear... resilience is a skill that we can all develop so we do not get "stuck" and can move forward faster.

Exercise: How resilient are you? Rate yourself on a scale of 1 - 5 with 1 being "needs improvement" and 5 being outstanding. Why did you rate yourself that way? Take a moment to articulate that. Now, take a moment and rate those you lead and those you love with the same scale. Why did you rate them the way you did? Take a moment to articulate that, and then, you will be clear about which tools from this article to utilize.

There are Five Pillars of Resilience. They include Self-Awareness, Mindfulness, Self-Care, Positive Relationships and Purpose. By strengthening these pillars, you in turn, become more resilient. Instead of experiencing an overwhelming downward spiral when you encounter stress in your life, these five pillars work together to lift you up out of the chaos you may feel. Obtaining and maintaining these skills takes practice. Before we talk about how you develop them, lets define them:

  • Self-Awareness┬áis having a clear perception of your personality, including strengths, weaknesses, thoughts, beliefs, motivation and emotions. Self-Awareness allows you to understand other people, how they perceive you, your attitude and your responses to them in the moment.
  • Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When you're mindful (not to be confused with Mind-Full), you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to the experience.
  • Self-Care is unique for each person and can be understood in many different ways. In its simplest form, the term refers to our ability as human beings to function effectively in the world while meeting the multiple challenges of daily life with a sense of energy, vitality and confidence. Self-Care is initiated and maintained by us as individuals; it requires our active engagement.
  • Positive Relationships are the people who support and care for us, and we care for them. One of the most profound experiences we can have in our lives is the connection we have with other human beings. By building positive relationships with others, we will be happier and more fulfilled. We feel more supported, supportive and connected. Positive and supportive relationships will help us to feel healthier, happier and more satisfied with our lives.
  • Purpose is a recognition that we belong to and serve something bigger than ourselves. Our purpose helps to shape the mindset and attitude we have toward others and the events we experience. We can find purpose in our faith, family, a political party, being green or being part of an organization, such as work or a group with which you volunteer.

Exercise: Now, take a moment and rate yourself on the 1 - 5 scale for each of the Five Pillars. Be mindful about why you rated yourself the way you did. Again, be introspective and rate those you lead and those you love.

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In Part II, as we have defined resilience, its elements and you have rated yourself, those you lead and those you love, you will now be ready for an exercise to strengthen your "resilience muscles." The exercise is called Doors Close, Doors Open. Check it out in the December 2020 Edition of Club Insider.

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