This is the fifth in a series of articles on resilience.
The fifth habit is: Resilient people are hard realists.
Another way of putting this is that resilient people see things the way they are, not as they wish they might be. In a crisis they deal with facts rather than worries and similar fantasies.
People who don’t practice mind control can get lost in thoughts about the past (wish it was different), the future (hope it doesn’t happen) and about problems (wish they weren’t there). Resilient people live in the present and, mostly, focus on making the present work. For this reason resilient people tend to be very clear-sighted; one reason why other people tend to go to them for advice.
When crises come round resilient people will do a number of inter-related things first:
- Look at what they can influence
- Ignore what they can’t influence
- Identify the best short-term outcome
- Focus on each small step, one at a time
The outcome depends on the nature of the crisis. I once worked with a client whose platoon was ambushed in Afghanistan by the Taliban. He was the only unwounded survivor. He told me that when under fire he expected to be killed but did not think about that. Instead he decided that his priority was to find a way to move six feet towards a nearby wall. It took him 45 minutes to do that.
If someone close to you has died you might decide that your target is to get through the first day with a few friends. If you have lost your job you might decide that the first thing to do is to work out how much you need to live on. If you have been told you have a life-threatening illness you might decide to focus on getting the best possible medical advice. And so on.
Non-resilient people, by contrast, tend to give in to despair, which paralyses their ability to act. The state of despair can take several forms:
- Worrying that you won’t be able to cope
- Thinking about the worst that could happen
- Wishing that you didn’t have to go through this
None of these reactions is realistic and none of them will help you come to a decision about the next step forward. Realism focuses on actions to take; negative judgments keep you stuck in the theatre of your own mind.
This is the fourth in a series of articles on resilience.
The fourth habit is: Resilient people know what to do with their emotions.
Another way of putting this is that resilient people are emotionally intelligent. That is to say: resilient people understand what emotions are for, pay careful attention to their own emotions, and practice speaking up about them. I referred briefly to this trait in the first article in this series: Resilient people tell it the way it is.
Emotions are largely related to your own self-preservation and your relationships with other people. If you are following the wrong path in life and doing things which are not right for you then your emotions will warn you about that. If you are in the wrong type of relationship then your emotions will warn you about that too. Similarly, emotions are there to guide you through a crisis.
This is the third in a series on the characteristics of resilient people.
The third habit is: Resilient people exercise mind control.
The opposite way of saying this is that people who get stressed, anxious and depressed are not in control of their minds. Rather, their minds control them. Their heads are filled with a constant stream of thoughts which dictate their feelings, behaviour and activities – even their brain chemistry.
To use an old cliche about fire: the mind is a good servant but a bad master. The secret to making your mind work for you is to be selective abut which thoughts you pay attention to. Because thoughts are not real; they are only versions of reality, like paintings are. Some are stupid, shoddy and ugly; others are clever, inspired and life enhancing. You should only be looking at the latter sort.
This is the second in a series of nine articles on resilience.
The second habit is: Resilient people have solid boundaries
A common source of what some people call stress is to become over-loaded with demands from other people. Another, equally common is to become so isolated that you have no one to turn to when things get bad.
Knowing when to open up to people so that they become your friends and supporters, and when to say ‘No’ to people when you can’t take on any more is what ‘boundaries’ are for.
This is the first article in a series of nine.
The first habit is: Resilient people tell it the way it is
Another way of putting it is that resilient people are authentic. They can’t lie to themselves and they don’t lie to others. When they are happy they will tell you so; when they need help you will hear that too.
This truth-telling rests on deeper principles. Resilience relies on seeing things the way they really are (see Habit No. 5). Some delusions are based on wishful thinking; others are based on Junkmind worries. Resilient people don’t listen to worries and neither do they kid themselves when they are really up against it. Seeing the way things really are has survival value: if you know the truth about things then you are better equipped to handle adversity.
Another principle relates to emotional intelligence (see habit No. 4). Because emotions are the brain’s way of mobilising us to take action it is vital that we both recognise and articulate our emotions. Resilient people will therefore tell you when they are sad or scared in the same way they will tell you when they are angry. They will freely express their joy and excitement too. They know how to move closer towards their friends and they also know how to defend themselves against attack.
This is a new series on resilience.
I have been fortunate in meeting hundreds of resilient people in my time, some of them very humble people who were not obvious heroes and who yet overcame some terrible personal tragedies.
The nine habits are the stand-out, most commonly recurring traits I have noticed. In my work – whether in coaching or psychotherapy – I am always on the watch for resilience in my clients and will do whatever I can to turn their attention back to their strengths.
By ‘resilience’ I mean the ability to manage adversity. Adverse events can range from parenting out-of-control children to rescuing 70+ wounded soldiers while under intense Japanese sniper fire, as Desmond Doss (pictured) did on Hacksaw Ridge. It can show in the way you handle an argument at the office or in the way you help your friends. Or in your approach to disability, deprivation, abuse, poverty, unemployment, relationship breakdown, illness and death.
Here are the 9 habits:
- Resilient people tell it the way it is
- Resilient people have solid boundaries
- Resilient people exercise mind control
- Resilient people know what to do with their emotions
- Resilient people are hard realists
- Resilient people practice self-renewal
- Resilient people fight tooth and nail
- Resilient people act from love
- Resilient people are (mostly) spiritual people
I have been practicing psychotherapy for nearly 30 years now, continually asking myself (and others) the question: how and why and where and when does therapy get results?
Here are some of the things I have learned:
- No one technique or type of therapy works all the time (or even most of the time)
- The experience of the therapist is more important than any other qualification
- Therapists who can work on different levels – thoughts, emotions, relationships, the body/brain, behaviour and the environment are more likely to be effective
- Therapists who adapt to the client with different styles of communication: listening, teaching, nurturing, challenging, directing and humorous – are also more likely to be effective
- Analysis of past events or ‘the unconscious mind’ is only marginally useful
- It is not what the therapist says that is important; it is what the client does with the information given
- Most of the changes the client hopes for will come in the first few sessions