This is the fourth blog in the series and addresses the third of the four steps of how to be resilient in the moment.
Step 3. How can I keep perspective?
Perspective is at the heart of the conviction that one is able to influence the direction of one’s life and that the inevitable problems encountered along life’s journey can be solved. Resilient people choose to have a positive rather than negative attitude. This echo’s Viktor Frankl’s thoughts and logotherapy concepts: “…everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way”.
We all tell ourselves stories about ourselves to make sense of our experiences of life. These stories mould and ultimately define who we are, and in this way, the stories we tell ourselves actually continually create ourselves. In this way optimists view the good things they experience as permanent and affecting everything, whereas the bad things they experience are perceived as temporary and having limited effect on their overall lives.
Some people are born more optimistic than others, but fortunately realistic optimism can be developed and so one does not need to be stuck in the mind-set of persistently seeing doom and gloom. One of the ways of enhancing optimism is to reframe the adversity to find what can be learnt from it or what you would do differently next time. Changing the story one tells oneself, enables one to choose a more balanced and positive outlook on life. Negative thoughts become more balanced which in turn leads to feeling more positive and ultimately one’s outlook becomes more optimistic.
Two additional simple but powerful exercises can assist building resilience by enhancing realistic optimism. The first is to reflect on the good that has happened to you over the past 24 hours and why it has occurred. This builds perspective and reinforces positive links to other people. The second exercise is to reflect on what you are really grateful for and why, which in turn involves reviewing and thinking of the many things for which you are grateful. This definite mood-lifter works immediately and is wonderfully long-lasting. For best results, the reflection should be carried out daily at a fixed time, either mentally or with the aid of a journal.
The benefits of deliberately maintaining a positive and optimistic outlook are profound: people who regularly use these balancing perspective exercises report enhanced optimism, positivity, energy and connectedness. Our perspective is thus a choice we make about how we decide to perceive and relate to our circumstances. Adopting and maintaining a realistic and optimistic perspective is a way of thinking and an attitude that can be learnt to enhance resilience. It even works for people that are naturally inclined to be pessimistic.
Next week this blog will continue with the fourth step. Watch out for it!