What is Resilience?
At Indeed.com I run across a job posting that requires Resilience from a candidate. Really? I have to demonstrate resilience in order to get a job? But it sounds great…I should definitely get some of that. Anyone know how I can get more Resilient?
My children’s school is spending the whole year talking about Resilience, hiring speakers from Stanford University to come and work with parents in an attempt to address the rising numbers of kids who are both massively anxious AND depressed AND less capable than ever before. I fell out of a chair when I saw the new directive for “Playtime, Downtime and Family Time, or PDF.” Apparently our culture has taken a detour from common sense and now requires a catchy mnemonic in order to remember to spend time with people we like, doing things we enjoy.
If you ask someone what resilience is, they start waving their hands around saying, “you know, like, when you bounce back after something bad happens to you?” Merriam-Webster defines Resilience: an ability to recover from, or adjust easily, to misfortune or change. But how are you supposed to measure such a concept, never mind develop it as a strength?
What makes up resilience as a character quality? Persistence and optimism… the perception that you are capable, so you are willing to keep going in the face of challenge.
Resilience and Success
Let me tell you about my fridge. It’s a mess. My son stands in front of the fridge, staring, and shouts, “Mom, where is the cheese?” The problem is that he thinks there is probably cheese in the there, but he isn’t quite sure. So he didn’t really look that hard, and he wasn’t willing to keep looking. I KNOW that there is cheese in there because I did the grocery shopping. When I spend a few minutes really hunting because I know that it is there, I find it. I persisted because I was confident of the outcome, while my kid was not. Apply that concept to your capability for learning, or managing under very challenging life circumstances, and you have RESILIENCE.
Neuroscience has shown that our capacity for mastery of concepts is not a fixed quota. Our ability and mastery is constantly shifting as our brain adapts to new challenges. The person who assumes he can work through the problem is going to keep looking for new ways to understand until the problem is solved. If you are hiring employees wouldn’t you hire the person who looks at challenges as an opportunity to learn, rather than the person who runs the other way because their ego can’t take failure?
This new conception of intelligence has been embraced by parents who are looking for different ways to push their kids to the top of the pile. Unfortunately the message seems to have translated into, “we need to succeed in order to perceive that we can succeed.” Now we have parents who look for any opportunity to smooth the way for their child, assuming that this is going be the golden brick road to success. But we got the message wrong. We need to know that it is O.K. if we fail, success comes when we keep going even when we experience setbacks.
We don’t want our children to feel bad, we want them to be happy, and happy is not discomfort. So we smooth the way. They probably will never know, right? But kids Do Know. We all know.
Building a Resilient Mindset
What if your Resilience was the best predictor of your life satisfaction? Would it change the way you looked at roadblocks?
Here is my radical idea. (not.) Be OK with discomfort. Learning new concepts, mastering new ideas, requires feeling out of your depth. Life is meant to be joyous, but there is no joy without grief. Let go of the notion that you can’t be happy if you are uncomfortable. Stop smoothing the way for yourself– and you will create a life that is masterful, interesting, and authentic.
Victor Frankl asserts that “everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms– to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.”
Will you embrace the growth mindset, or the fixed mindset?