Is resilience “mental grit”, tough mindedness or perseverance? The answer is that all of this but much more.
Most people understand resilience as the ability to “bounce back” and “stay the course” during tough times. And it is indeed correct that resilience is the ability to not buckle, but rather to persevere and recover from tough times. In this way, resilient individuals at work remain task-focused and productive in the face of personal and organisational difficulties.
But resilience is not just about fortitude and persistence. Resilience is also about healing, recovery and becoming stronger than before.
Now we all wish for good times; those times when we feel we’re on an even keel, when we can cope and when most things in our lives go smoothly. But we also know that personal development does not occur during good times. It’s at times when we are challenged, our resources stretched, and we have had to move out of our comfort zone to find new and different ways of coping and dealing with adversity, that we develop.
Abraham Maslow, the noted early psychologist, understood this and proposed that people evolve as they move through various states of being towards the highest level of personal development, which he called self actualisation. This theory has been further developed by thinkers like Richard Barrett, who has identified different values associated with each level of what he calls consciousness.
From these perspectives, the experience of tough times may have a benefit to us. Whilst not sought or welcomed, tough times can facilitate personal growth and development. When this happens, adversity, difficulties and real challenges have the potential to give us the opportunity to become better individuals, and live our lives more in tune with our real values. In this way, personal resilience helps us to heal, recover from adversity, and move on with our lives.
Thus a more comprehensive understanding of resilience is that it is the life force to cope with tough times, heal and move towards self actualisation. It enables living an authentic life, true to one’s values, and achieving one’s purpose.
With this broader understanding, resilience is truly a life force we all need!