In physics, resilience is an object's ability to return back to its original shape after pressure or strain has been applied. Psychologists borrow this word to describe one's ability to "bounce back" and adapt to stress or setbacks. As covered in our post on what stress is (click here for that read), stress is anything that demands a change, and if there is something we can absolutely count on, it's that the world is an ever-changing environment. Therefore, our ability to adapt and quickly recover from adversity is a significant factor in our happiness. How we respond to life is in our control.
Psychologists have studied resilience for a long time. They've been curious about how people recover after traumas, tragedies, natural disasters, health concerns, school stress, and workplace problems. More specifically, psychologists have explored what factors enable a person to recover faster and why some people might get stuck. Understanding this helps us cope with life's demands more effectively.
Angela Duckworth is a psychologist who has become today's poster child for the importance that resilience, or grittiness, plays in our success as human beings. Her research has demonstrated that being gritty is a better indicator of success than intelligence and income (watch her TED talk for inspiration). Why is this exciting? Because being gritty is something anyone can develop. There is a potential for change, growth, and development no matter who you are. We are not stagnant creatures. We have the power to change our lives and our futures.
We used to think that success was dependent upon someone's IQ or intelligence, which many people equate to as unchangeable. Well, believing that our futures are tied to our intelligence sucks. It's limiting, it's fixed, and it disempowers. Yuck.
With research like Angela Duckworth's, success in life isn't tied to a fixed trait or factor. Everyone has the capability to be resilient. Age, money, and education don't matter. All you need is the willingness to practice.
So, how do we get gritty? Just like any other skill. Practice, practice, and more practice.
Building your resilience takes work, but it doesn't have to be overwhelming AND the ROI (return on investment) definitely pays back dividends. As with any skill, start small and commit to making small changes consistently. Committing to as little as a 1% change on a regular basis can make a big difference in the long run.
For example, building your resilience might start with reshaping how you think about yourself or what you say to yourself. Instead of saying "I'm never going to get this" when faced with a hard or challenging task, you can say, "This will get easier with practice."
How about being able to know when you need help and having good communication skills to ask for the help you need? Using an "I" statement to express feelings and to make requests can be a great tool for recovering from social ruptures.
You can also help others build their grit by encouraging and reassuring them when they've faced a difficult time or situation in their life.
Still needing more ideas? Check out our CleverParent training program, where we guide parents and their children with over 100 practical activities that build resilience (among other things).
No matter where you turn for ideas to build your resilience, know that there is hope and as long as you actively work to improve grittiness, navigating life with confidence is sure to follow.