Most of us at some point in our lives come up against a major setback, it could be a big thing that blows us off course. For some, it’s a job loss or a divorce. For others, it could be the death of a parent or child. Sometimes these are adversities that we face every day, like arguments with friends and family, or disagreements with the boss. When faced with these challenges, we need resilience to navigate through them. Life is rich in stress and challenges, but if you’re resilient you will be able to not only navigate but also grow through those challenges. Even when there is a lot outside of our control, there is always something within our control. In this book, the resilience factor, I learned 7 key techniques that we all can develop, and as we practice them we will strengthen the muscles that enable us to be resilient. The authors have grouped the seven skills of resilience into two categories: know-thyself skills and change skills.
The three know-thyself skills are designed to guide you toward a better understanding of how your mind works. They will help build your self-awareness.
Key #1: Learning your ABCs
This is knowing that our emotions and behaviors are not triggered by outside events but by how we interpret those events. When faced with a challenge, this is how you run the ABC. A is the adversity. It’s What Pushes Your Buttons. It can be losing your job, a bad breakup, or being diagnosed with a serious illness. B is your beliefs when that adversity happened. These are thoughts that go on in your head that determine how you feel and what you do in the midst of that adversity. And finally, C stands for consequences which are your feelings and Behaviors. It’s the way you feel and what you do in the moment of adversity.
So when adversity happens, the way you process it, determines how you will feel. That’s why Beliefs are important because they shape the quality and intensity of your feelings. Some of the most often B-C connections are as follows.
Violation of Your Rights Leads to Anger. If you believe someone has intentionally violated your rights, you will feel anger toward the person.
Real-world Loss or Loss of Self-worth Leads to Sadness and Depression.
The Violation of Another’s Rights Leads to Guilt.
Future Threat Leads to Anxiety and Fear.
Comparing Yourself Negatively to Others Leads to Embarrassment.
The knowledge of these B-C connections is the foundation of self-awareness. So when you feel a certain way, you can use this B-C connection to identify your beliefs or vice versa.
Key #2: Avoiding Thinking Traps
The second skill of resilience—is Avoiding Thinking Traps. While almost all of us have made all of the thinking errors at one time or another, this one I am most vulnerable to. There are 8 main thinking traps.
THINKING TRAP 1: JUMPING TO CONCLUSIONS. This is a thinking trap of making assumptions without the relevant data.
THINKING TRAP 2: TUNNEL VISION. This is when you focus only on the small part of the reality.
THINKING TRAP 3: MAGNIFYING AND MINIMIZING. Most people who magnify the negatives and minimize the positives in their lives are not aware that they are in a thinking trap.
THINKING TRAP 4: PERSONALIZING. This is when you attribute problems only to what you have done and it usually leads to guilt.
THINKING TRAP 5: EXTERNALIZING. This is the flipside of personalizing. This is when you ignore your part in creating the adversity.
THINKING TRAP 6: OVERGENERALIZING. This is when you overgeneralize global characteristics in others.
THINKINGTRAP7: MIND READING. Many of us are mind readers. We believe we know what those around us are thinking and we act accordingly. Some mind readers expect others to know what they are thinking.
THINKING TRAP 8: EMOTIONAL REASONING. This is about drawing conclusions, usually false conclusions, about the nature of the world based on emotions.
We probably could avoid the traps if we were more logical, but research shows that humans are mainly emotional.
Knowing these traps can help us to question our thinking and come up with a more accurate understanding of the world.
Key #3: Detecting Icebergs
Icebergs are the deeper beliefs and values that affect our emotions and behavior. These are fundamental, deep-rooted beliefs about who you are and your place in the world. Have you ever had a time when your emotions seemed too intense? Or maybe there have been times when your behavior seemed overboard or out of line. It’s a sign that you are affected by an underlying belief. Examples of underlying beliefs can be “I should succeed at everything I put my mind to” or “Getting emotional is a sign of weakness.”
Underlying beliefs are general rules about how the world ought to be and how you should operate within that world. Because they’re general rules, they apply to many different challenges. As you practice this skill, you probably will find that you have a core set of iceberg beliefs that affect your mood and behavior over and over again. Once you’ve identified and challenged them, you’ll become more resilient in many areas of your life.
After you’ve mastered these three skills, you will have greater insight but insight alone is not enough for change. The next four skills are about how to create change. These skills will change your thinking to view the world more accurately and to be a better problem solver when faced with challenges.
Key #4: Challenging Beliefs
Challenging your beliefs will help you to clarify your problems and find better, more permanent solutions to them. When faced with adversity you start with ABC. Then pay attention to your Explanatory style. It is usually your learned response to adversity, a pattern of ready-made explanations for the problems we experience. Then, you map out how your explanatory style hurts your ability to solve problems. We’re blind to most causes outside our explanatory style, we come up with useless old solutions that try to reverse those same old causes, and we fail at solving the problem yet again. To get out of this loop, we need to break out of our explanatory style and be more flexible. And finally, we need to be as accurate as we can in describing the challenge. The biggest obstacle to becoming more accurate is our confirmation bias, a mechanism that leads us to hold on to information that’s consistent with our explanatory style while filtering out details that don’t fit into our thinking system. For this reason, you have to search deliberately for evidence against each of your beliefs.
Key #5: Putting It in Perspective
Putting It in Perspective is a skill that, by changing your beliefs about future threats, brings your anxiety down to a manageable level, a level that is more in proportion with the real degree of threat. That’s when you are best able to prepare for the most likely consequences of adversity. The key to ending your catastrophizing is, of course, to break free of the chain of future-threat beliefs. And the best way to do that is to find out what you know as fact. Then establish what’s most likely to happen and take steps to prepare for it. Constructing an equally low probability best-case scenario can be helpful here. Because it forces you out of your worst-case scenario thinking and it can even make you laugh. It will also help you to identify the Most Likely outcome. And when you have that figured out, you can start thinking about how to deal with it.
Key #6: Calming and Focusing
Calming and Focusing—is a powerful tool that helps you to quiet your emotions when they are out of control, to focus your thoughts when they are intrusive, and to reduce the amount of stress you experience. The more you practice Calming and Focusing, the more resistant to stress you will become. And that’s important because stress is a serious threat to your emotional and physical health. To be more resilient, you need to be able to handle stress well. You can learn to prevent or minimize the amount of stress you experience by changing the way you think when confronted with stressors. But let’s face it; you’re not going to be able to avoid stress completely, so you also need a way to calm yourself down once stress overtakes you. The body cannot simultaneously be in a state of relaxation and in a state of stress—they’re incompatible. So, if you learn how to relax, you will be able to control the amount of stress you experience. One good technique to put the body in a relaxed state is CONTROLLED BREATHING. When you are feeling stressed, what happens to your breathing? Most people find that they begin to take shallow, quick breaths. When you take a deep breath, your body feels different. The breaths are deeper, slower, and fuller. And this reduces the stress by putting the body in a relaxed state.
Key #7: Real-time Resilience
This takes the essential ingredients of Challenging Beliefs and Putting It in Perspective and uses them to fight back against counterproductive beliefs as they occur. Here you can use the following questions to develop real-time resilience. When you are faced with a challenge, try to fill out the following sentence. “A MORE ACCURATE WAY OF SEEING THIS IS ....” This will help you structure your thinking. Here, the goal is to come up with just one other way of explaining the situation that is more accurate than your initial belief. Using evidence to test out the accuracy of your beliefs is the second strategy. “THAT’S NOT TRUE BECAUSE ....”, and fill the sentence. This helps to focus your thinking and fight confirmation bias. The goal is to be as specific and detailed as possible. The more concrete your evidence, the more effective your response. And the third strategy is to identify one of the most likely outcomes and one step you can take to deal with it. You can do this by filling in the following sentence. “A MORE LIKELY OUTCOME IS ... AND I CAN ...TO DEAL WITH IT.”
These tag lines are a great way to practice Real-time Resilience, but as you become more skilled, you probably won’t need them anymore.
You don’t need to use every skill every day to see improvement in your resilience. So many people find huge changes in their resilience after mastering and using just two or three of these skills.
I’ve made a one-page infographic summary of the book Click the link below and I’ll be happy to send it to you.