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I am often asked what contributes to personal resilience and have recently been writing a new guide for one of my clients to accompany their training on the topic. I came across Clark and Nicholson’s book, Resilience; Bounce Back from Whatever Life Throws at You, and I have listed some other titles below that cover similar ground but each from a different perspective.

Clark and Nicholson conducted research that identified five key elements which they believe are central to personal resilience. These elements are given in descending order of importance these below, and I have added short explanations for clarity:

Optimism

The degree of optimism that an individual can marshal when faced with a challenge is an important factor in deciding how they react to it.

Freedom from stress and anxiety

We all experience stress and anxiety to some degree. Being resilient does not mean being stress-free. Resilient people however can mediate the effects of stress by the way they explain it to themselves and the way they think about it. Certain thinking styles tend to dramatise and exaggerate the impact of stress, whil;e others can help ut to be more resourceful when dealing with stressful events (see the section on Thinking later in this document).

Individual accountability

While it is important to have good social networks and collaborative relationships – both at work and elsewhere – resilient people recognise and accept those things for which they are responsible and accountable.

Openness and flexibility

Openness to others, their ideas and suggestions but also their needs and wishes, and the ability to discuss these as necessary is key attributes in social teamwork and leadership. This in turns implies receptivity to ideas and the flexibility to adapt to change.

Problem orientation

This slightly misleading expressions used by the Jackson and Nicholson in fact means adopting a positive orientation towards problems, which translates as the ability to:

  • Create success from disaster
  • Anticipate difficulties
  • Find solutions to problems
  • Strive to control events rather than being a victim of circumstances
  • Make sound judgement
  • Know when to cut one’s losses.

Each of these patterns is associated with a distinctive set of attitudes and behaviour, and taken together they signify personal resilience. Everyone is different and so individual capacities for each will vary. By studying these key elements and thinking about how they apply to us, we can make an individual assessment of our strengths, and decisions about areas we may need to develop.

References:

Clarke, J., Nicholson, D. (2010). Resilience: Bounce Back from Whatever Life Throws at You. Crimson Publishing, Richmond, Surrey.

Goleman, D. (1996). Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, Bloomsbury, London.

Seligman, M. (2007). Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realise Your Potential for Deep Fulfillment, Nicholas Brealey, London.

 

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