Improving your resilience
A key aspect of confidence is resilience, the ability to bounce back quickly when things go wrong. The American Psychological Society defines it as ‘the process of adapting well in the face of stress, trauma etc.’ But when we’re stressed, or have suffered a major setback, it can be difficult to know how and where to start that process of adapting, especially if you start to believe that your situation will always be as bad as it is right now. The suggestions I make below can be applied to any setback but let’s use the example of a project you’ve been working on for a long time that went badly wrong. You’re bitterly disappointed and feel like giving up. Here’s what to do:
- Start by thinking around the problem. Whatever situation you’re in right now, things will definitely change, and there are lots of different ways it could go. Martin Seligman, one of the founders of positive psychology, helped develop the Penn Perspective Check, three questions to ask yourself about the situation you’re in:
- What’s the best that can happen?
- What’s most likely to happen?
- What’s the worst that can happen?
This immediately opens things up. Instead of a black, very limited view of the world there are now three possible outcomes you can think about and plan for. If you have a plan, you start to feel more in control which in turn helps with confidence. Instead of throwing that pity party, focus on working out how you make the best outcome more likely and the worst outcome less likely. Remember, even if something bad has already happened you can choose how you respond and mitigate any negative impact.
- Another option is to reframe the situation you’re in, telling yourself a different story about it. For many women, the typical story is ‘My project failed. I’m useless. Who am I to think I could pull it off. I should have known. Nobody will ever want to work with me again. I should just go and work on a checkout somewhere.’ A better story is: ‘That project didn’t go so well. But I’ve learnt that next time I need to make sure I understand what’s required and prepare really well. I did get helpful feedback on some aspects of it too. I’ll get myself some coaching and training to help with the things that weren’t so good and make sure I do much better next time.’ You can download my reframing guide by filling in your details here:
- Develop your own SSRI toolkit. This helpful tool is described by Dr Chris Johnstone in his book ‘Find your power: a toolkit for resilience and positive change’. Our choices and actions can make us feel better (or worse). It is not what happens that causes the problem, it is our response to it. He suggests looking at the situation from four different angles.
- Strategies, or things you can do both now and next time.
- Strengths, or inner resources you can draw on, or perhaps need to develop.
- Resources: where you can go for help and support – people or places, even pets. If you don’t have enough external support, think about what you need and where you can get it. A mentor, coach or buddy can be invaluable. If you do not have enough, or the right, resources now, think about where can you get them.
- Insights: different ways of looking at things (like the reframe exercise described above), pieces of wisdom, perspectives that help you move forward.
To use the SSRI toolkit, think back to a time when you had a problem, or were in a difficult situation, and got through it in a way you were proud of. Then think about the strategies, strengths, resources and insights you used. What has worked in the past, what helped you before? Can you use those tools again? Are you doing those things, or approaching those people this time? If not, what do you need to add to your toolkit now? What would help? As you develop your SSRI toolkit, you’ll find that your resilience strengthens.
- While the SSRI toolkit can be used in specific situations and added to over time, for long-lasting resilience you should work on developing a growth mindset. As described by Carol Dweck, (if you haven’t seen it, watch her TED talk at this link: https://www.ted.com/talks/carol_dweck_the_power_of_believing_that_you_can_improve), people with a growth mindset believe things can change and get better through hard work and effort and so they constantly grow and achieve more than they thought possible. People with a fixed mindset however tend to think things won’t change and see every setback as a disaster. They tend to be less resilient and so they may stop trying and settle for something they don’t really want. One of the best ways to develop a growth mindset in my experience is to try new things, get out of your comfort zone and see what happens. I know that can be hard, so here’s the blog I wrote about it: https://www.alquimia.co.uk/2017/01/10/tips-outside-your-comfort-zone/
I hope that this has given you some ideas about what you can do to develop your own bounce-back-ability. Next time, I’ll share another idea that may help you understand what affects your resilience levels.
If you’re interested in finding out more about your own resilience or confidence book you can book a free 45 minute session at this link: https://calendly.com/jackiefitzgerald/strategy-session