I can clearly remember the first time that resilience was mentioned to me in terms of leadership. I was in a really low point in my life after suffering a setback and my manager at the time suggested that I start a leadership growth assignment on building my resilience.
Thinking back to this time I can clearly see how far I have come and the significant difference that intentionally working on and growing my resilience has made in my life. This has been a catalyst that has led me to want to make a difference in the early childhood profession. It has prompted me to work to support the building of resilience and well-being of leaders and teachers in our profession.
With all that is going on in our professional and personal lives, resilience (or our ability to cope with change and stress and to recover) is a vital quality that all of us need.
Resilience can be broken down into the following dimensions:
Which can be broken down into – Physical flexibility, endurance, strength and vitality.
Which speaks to – Our emotional range and how flexible we are, our self-regulation abilities, the quality of our relationships and how adaptable we are to change.
Which can be broken down into – How flexible and adaptive we are to mental challenges, our ability to focus on a problem and to find a solution, how optimistic we are and whether we are able to see things from other’s point of view.
This blog is mainly focused on our emotional and mental resilience and the good news is that most of us already have a natural human survival skill to experience stress and to recover from it. In some of us, this is stronger than in others, however, resilience is a skill that can be learnt and developed and we are all capable of this.
Life is a mixture of good and not so good moments. We all have to live with disappointments and sometimes experience loss and devastation in love, life and work. Resilience does not mean that you won’t feel devastated, hurt or pain or be affected deeply…It is rather your ability to experience the loss or disappointment and then to recover and thrive again.
There are no quick fixes and magic pills, but rather a series of small intentional steps that accumulate over time. You can’t just want to be more resilient – you have to put in the work.
Helping our children to develop resilience
Building resilience starts right from when we are babies. Every time that a baby cries, they experience stress and when their need is met in a respectful, responsive way, or they are comforted or cared for by an empathetic caregiver they recover growing their resilience. Children learn resilience by actively doing – free play and nature-based play is important for supporting children to develop a host of skills including resilience.
It is not our job to shield our children from adversity but to allow them to have opportunities to experience challenge, take safe, age-appropriate risks and make mistakes and then to be there for them and to support them to recover. They learn this through repeated experience and by our role modelling, our empathy as well as our attitude to mistakes and failures.
“Remember always that our children are learning how to be human by watching you”
As teachers and leaders, this can be challenging than at times – especially during times of stress when our ability to bounce back can be diminished.
We can all use a little boost from time to time, here are some ways that I have found have helped me to boost my resilience over time.
I get in tune with your internal cues and acknowledge your feelings when they come up. Studies have shown that people who allow themselves to experience a full range of emotions are more resilient because of it.
Try keep things in perspective recognise whether the thing that you are worried about is in fact something that is in your influence to change or if it is something that concerns you, but you are unable to change at this point and time.
An example of this might be: You might be concerned about the prevalence of workplace bullying and the general wellbeing of early childhood teachers in the profession. However, it is probably not in your power to do anything about this for the whole profession. What you can directly influence is your thoughts, your mindset, actions and interactions at your place. You can control how you promote teacher wellbeing in your setting, how you support the teachers in your team or the example that you set as the leader for the other teachers in your setting.
When we spend time worrying unnecessarily about things out of control, this just causes us unneeded stress and anxiety about things that we can’t change. This can really deplete our resilience levels.
When we work within what we can influence we are more likely to experience more success which in turn energises us and empowers us and those around us. The changes that we make within this space accumulate over time. This can end up having a positive trickledown effect which influences others and can indirectly influence some of the things that are in our area of concern.
Learn to change your mindset around mistakes. Mistakes are not the end they are just part of the learning process. Try to nurture a positive view of yourself as a curious researcher on a life-long journey of discovery. Many well-known inventors made many mistakes along the way to success.
Research has shown that truly resilient people don’t take their failures and mistakes personally, because they know that to learn is to fail. Instead of beating themselves up about their mistake and asking “Why?” they look for the lesson – instead, they ask “What is this here to teach me?”
THE OBSTACLES ARE THE PATH – Remember our children are watching, stay courageous and curious!
“I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.”Albert Einstein
It is a universal truth that what we focus on grows. Take stock of your attitude and what you are focussing on. If we are focussed on the negative aspects of our lives and our jobs, we will experience more negativity. If we are instead focussed on the positive aspects of our day, our lives and the people around us we will experience more positivity. I urge you to get into the practice of looking for the GOLD in every situation – there is always something to be grateful for even if it is small.
Trade your expectation for appreciation and the world changes instantly.Tony Robbins
Often when we are going through a tough time, our self-esteem can take a bit of a knock. Spend some time making a list of all the things that you are good the obstacles that you have already overcome and the problems that you have already solved in the past. Now list all the skills that you already have to solve this problem. Reinforce this message by feeding yourself positive comments, such as “You can do this”, “I am great at solving problems” or “I am good at my job.”
RELAX, REST, REFUEL, RECHARGE
Give yourself permission to rest when you need to. As teachers, leaders or parents we often place our happiness and joy way down on the priority list. As people who are outwardly focussed on caring for others, we can sometimes think that prioritising having fun or focusing on what brings us joy as selfish, frivolous or unimportant. However, resilient people place a priority on their own happiness and on the things that energise them.
Joanna Barsh, author of “How Remarkable Women Lead” worked women leaders including those from fortune 500 companies. During her research, she discovered that resilient leaders manage their energy by identifying what saps it and what recharges it. They make strategic adjustments to allow for this in their environment and schedule.
They also utilise “flow” – a phenomenon that happens when your skills are well matched to an inspiring and challenging task and you or working towards a clear goal. She discovered that “flow” reinforces resilience.
We have all experienced this at some point in our life – when we are doing something where we are totally focused and present, busy, effortlessly enjoying and in “the zone” with what we are doing. Some people experience this during exercise, some during creative pursuits, perhaps you experience this while cleaning, pottering in the garden or walking attuned to nature or your surroundings?
Take some time to think about things that bring you joy and energise YOU. What things that sap your energy?
How are balancing energising activities with ones that sap your energy? Are you doing things that bring “flow” into your life?
Perhaps it is time to rediscover some of these things and make more place for them in your life?
It is okay to take some time to reflect, re-evaluateand regroup.
What is your purpose, do you know what motivates you and what your values are?
Resilient people have a strong sense of purpose and meaning. They know “why” as well as “what” the end goal is. This sense of purpose gives their life, their work and their struggles meaning. A sense of purpose helps them to keep going and push themselves towards their goal when things get tough.
In his book “A Man’s Search for Meaning” Viktor Frankl survived and remained resilient as a Jewish prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp. In his book he describes his experiences, and how he survived his ordeal by identifying a purpose in life, creating a positive feeling about this purpose and immersively imagining that outcome.
Viktor connected with his purpose and his end goal. He focused on the fact that the war wouldn’t last forever, that he had the power to choose his attitude and on his end goal which was seeing his wife again and delivering an academic lecture on the horrors of being a prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp.
“Pain is only bearable if we know it will end, not if we deny it exists.”Viktor Frankl
When problems arise, we can often not want to bother other people with our problems or appear weak or vulnerable by asking for help or leaning on someone else.
Studies have shown that resilient people have good support systems. They recognise the importance of strong relationships with family, friends, colleagues and within their communities. Good relationships are critical for physical and mental health – they draw strength from these connections.
To be vulnerable, it means to show up and be seen. To ask for what you need. To talk about how you are feeling. To have the hard conversation.Brene Brown
When times are tough it can be part of our cultural programming to push people away. However, fight against this and reach out, vulnerability strengthens connection – don’t isolate yourself.
Stress is an unavoidable part of life, but it doesn’t have to rule your life. Remember to have self-compassion – building your resilience is a skill that you will continue to grow and develop over time.
For more great information about building your resilience visit The American Psychological Association for lots of great tools that might be able to help you build your resilience.
I would love to hear your resilience story why not email me at firstname.lastname@example.org?
Until next time…