Essential Skills for Overcoming Life’s Obstacles

Atlanta Marriott Marquis
Photo by Bonnie Morét Photography 

How resilient are you? How well do you react to unexpected challenges and conflicts? Resilience is fundamentally underpinned by the concept that it is not so much the hard times we face that determine our success or failure as the way in which we respond to those hard times. In particular:

· the accuracy of our analysis of events;
· the number of alternative scenarios we can envisage;
· the ability to be flexible;
· the continued drive to take on new opportunities and challenges.

Although many of the external pressures on our resilience can neither be controlled nor reversed – the rain will continue to fall, the market will often be slack and we will never be able to regain those lost hours spent in traffic jams – evidence suggests that our internal thinking processes can both moderate the impact of these adversities and provide a valuable resource in moving forward from them, focusing on the things we can control rather than those we cannot.

The key to resilience is the ability to recognize your own thoughts and structures of belief and harness the power of increased accuracy and flexibility of thinking to manage the emotional and behavioral consequences more effectively. This ability can be measured, taught and improved.

There are seven key skills proven in both clinical and corporate settings to boost resilience.

1. Emotion Regulation – the ability to manage our internal world in order to stay effective under pressure. Resilient people use a well-developed set of skills that help them to control their emotions, attention and behavior.
2. Impulse Control – the ability to manage the behavioral expression of thoughts emotional impulses, including the ability to delay gratification, as explored in Daniel Goleman’s work in Emotional Intelligence. Impulse Control is correlated with Emotion Regulation.
3. Causal Analysis – the ability to accurately identify the causes of adversity. Resilient people are able to get outside their habitual thinking styles to identify more possible causes and thus more potential solutions.
4. Self-efficacy – the sense that we are effective in the world – the belief that we can solve problems and succeed. Resilient people believe in themselves and as a result, build others’ confidence in them – placing them in line for more success and more opportunity.
5. Realistic Optimism – the ability to stay positive about the future, yet be realistic in our planning for it. It is linked to self-esteem, but a more causal relationship exists with self-efficacy and involves accuracy and realism – not Pollyanna-style optimism.
6. Empathy – the ability to read others’ behavioral cues to understand their psychological and emotional states and thus, build better relationships. Resilient people are able to read others nonverbal cues to help build deeper relationships with others, and tend to be more in tune with their own emotional states.
7. Reaching Out – the ability to enhance the positive aspects of life and take on new challenge and opportunity. Reaching out behaviors are hampered by embarrassment, perfectionism and self-handicapping.

More than education, more than experience, more than training, a person’s level of resilience determines who succeeds and who fails.


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