“ The goal of resilience is to thrive.”
– Jamais Cascio
The goal of resilience is to thrive, and we all want to thrive, right? Resilience has been defined as that quality that allows some people face adversity and come back even stronger than before. Unfortunately though, as writer Maria Konnikova points out, the word ‘resilience’ is often overused. It is too often used in ways that drain it of meaning. But resilience doesn’t have to be an empty or vague concept. In fact, decades of research have revealed a lot about how it works. This research shows that resilience is, ultimately, a set of skills that can be taught.
Psychologists have identified some of the factors that make someone resilient: a positive attitude and optimism certainly help. Resilience is considered such an important trait that in February this year, The New Yorker Magazine did a piece about the secret formula for resilience – ‘How People Learn to Become Resilient.’
The good news is that resilience can be taught. In research at Columbia, the neuroscientist Kevin Ochsner has shown that teaching people to think of stimuli in different ways—to reframe them in positive terms when the initial response is negative, or in a less emotional way when the initial response is emotionally “hot”—changes how they experience and react to the stimulus.
Positive Psychology is the scientific study of the strengths that enable individuals and communities to thrive. The field is founded on the belief that people want to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives, to cultivate what is best within themselves, and to enhance their experiences of love, work, and play. Resilience is an important character strength in Positive Psychology. A resilient person works through challenges by using personal resources, strengths and other positive capacities of psychological capital such as hope, optimism and self-efficacy. Being resilient is absolutely linked with personal happiness.
But it’s easy to lose touch with that sense of resilience after facing a difficult time, and instead we can struggle with feeling purposeless and directionless. It is very easy to fall into a sense of listlessness and ‘stuck-ness.’ This belief that nothing will change can become embedded in your brain, creating a negative neural pathway. A neural pathway is the way that information travels through the neurons, or nerve cells of the brain. We create new neural pathways every time we hear or experience something new. The more we experience something, the more embedded this pathway becomes.
Once those neural pathways are deeply embedded, changing them is not an easy task. I’ve talked a lot about the process, Creative Positive Reframing (CPR) on this blog. But as we enter the holiday season, I thought it would be a good time to look at the 3 key actions involved in this process: Identify, Reframe, Embed:
- Identify Negative Messages
Action: We all have them – limiting beliefs that have become embedded in our head. Negative thoughts such as, “I can’t do it!” Or “It’s too hard!” are self-sabotaging.
Practice: Interrupt it! Once you’ve identified those negative messages, shift your focus. Take a deep breath and interrupt your own train of thought . . . and get rid of it!
- Reframe the negative with positive statements
Action: Negative self-talk can be replaced by positivity with the help of a series of deliberate affirmations or questions. This creates new neural pathways and frees you from the negative spiral.
Practice: Affirm it! Create positive statements and questions. Affirmations often work, but sometimes questions work better. If your affirmation is, “I can do it. This is easy!” and your brain argues back “No you can’t It’s too hard!” then use a question instead. Something like: “What can I do today to move forward?” Or mix the two in this way: “I am moving forward easily and effortlessly. What can I do today to move forward?”
- Embed it! Use Creative Visualization to picture the ideal and embed it in your brain
Action: This next step takes the previous step and solidifies it; it is a powerful process. Creative Visualization is a technique which uses your own power of ‘seeing’ to attain that which you most want or want to change. You already use this technique every day. Unfortunately, we often use it in the negative by imaging all the things we DON’T want.
Practice: Visualize it! The key to visualization is to first see what you want, and then create a mindset that you already have it and you believe you deserve it. Relax and be sure you won’t be interrupted. Close your eyes and let the movie of you having your heart’s desire run in your mind. Enjoy the process. The more you do this, the more deeply embedded this vision becomes.
I’ll close by linking in the visualization from my book in which you can create your own sacred space to work from.
I hope you’ll take some time today to do this visualization. I’d love to hear your thoughts about this visualization, and how you manage to stay resilient. And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit. I appreciate it.