Resilience is a whole system experience. It affects how we function, and how we experience life, in so many different ways. From how you respond to negative behaviour directed against you to how able you are to visualise a fulfilling life for yourself – and make it happen – resilience is always in there, defending, fuelling, supporting. When it’s low we lose confidence, flexibility, creativity, clarity and courage. It can make us feel like we want to withdraw from the world and energy is hard to find.
Building resilience up is like a vitamin shot for the entire system – more resilience means higher self-esteem, being able to be adventurous and take risks, set clear goals and find the motivation to meet them, feel a strong sense of self and feel grounded even if the world around you is chaotic – among many other things.
Resilience tools work
The most basic definition of resilience is to be able to adapt and bounceback in times of adversity. Perhaps you’ve also come across the idea of remaining psychologically steady and focused when faced with challenges or adversity (i.e. to keep trying). It also involves a process of learning about yourself, accepting who you are and healing what you can – because it’s not possible to be truly resilient if you’re ashamed of part of you, unaware of part of you or trying to hide a vulnerability. And then there is the momentum for transformation that resilience creates – not just enabling you to discover a new attitude to your difficulties but to take the steps that previously seemed impossible and to think bigger and bigger.
So resilience is good. Resilience is vital. And it’s not at all about gritting your teeth and getting through something. That kind of rigidness and compartmentalisation might get you through a very acute situation but in the long term it’s just going to create very shaky foundations and internal resources, whether you’re trying to survive something hard to create something amazing.
4 pathways into resilience
In my training and in my practice there are 4 key areas that come up again and again when it comes to building resilience. Although resilience will look different for everyone, and what makes us feel resilient will also be different, there tend to be 4 pathways that lead us all to a more resilient place. These paths take us through the unconscious mind, the conscious mind, the physical body and resilience tools that activate. Let me explain..
1. The unconscious mind
In a coaching context this is often most about your core beliefs and unconscious limits. The subconscious or unconscious mind influences feelings, beliefs, emotions, attitudes, instincts. It’s one of the most powerful influences on how many of us experience life and yet we don’t take a lot of time to investigate it. Whatever is in the unconscious mind is the reason we are where we are in our lives today so if that isn’t where we want to be it’s an obvious place to start. I have found it really useful to guide clients through looking at the way the mind functions and how this has an influence, for example examining the negativity bias and the reticular activating system, which acts like a filter between the conscious and unconscious mind ( and is the “scientific” explanation for manifestation).
2. The conscious mind
This is essentially your awareness of yourself and the world around you. Here you’ll find the intellectual processes. It’s where you’ll get a big chunk of insight into your mindset (and how to change it). It can also determine to a certain extent what kind of habits you’re in – and how able you are to evolve them. The conscious mind influences communication and organisation. It’s very useful to look at information such as whether you have a fixed or growth mindset as well as negative narratives and the inner critic. Self-learning and understanding starts in the conscious mind and this can help pave the way for greater self acceptance.
3. The physical body
It’s often the case that we react to something first in our bodies – or they can be a signpost that something isn’t right or to how we really feel. That might be an instinctual reaction or it could be tuning into your nervous system. Noticing fight, flight, freeze responses and learning how to deal differently with physical reactions is a part of becoming more resilient. Somatics is increasingly a big part of my coaching practice – being able to use the body to influence the thoughts and feelings and not just the other way round. We often dismiss the role of the physical body in how we think and feel, as if our body and mind are separate systems. Learning how to tap into this again can be very powerful.
4. Resilience tools that activate
Sometimes the best way to build resilience is to experiment with lots of different resilience tools. Resilience tools that work for the individual will be a unique combination of activities and exploration like this – play, self belief, confidence, intuition, pleasure, rest, vulnerability, adventure, courage, comfort zone, compassion, creativity, learning. They are tools because they stimulate responses, inspiration etc and help to build new perspectives and activate a shift in mindset.
How aware are you of your iceberg?
There’s a lot of Freud’s work I don’t rate (mainly anything to do with women as he had a very misguided and bigoted understanding of the way women work). However, his Theory of the Mind that looks at the different parts of the mind like an iceberg can actually be quite useful. Freud felt that this was like an iceberg with the conscious mind above the water level, the preconscious mind (anything in the unconscious that could be brought into the conscious) just below and then the unconscious mind the biggest part below that. As the diagram below illustrates, the bulk of this is below the waterline. Which is why so many of us feel like we are stumbling through life at the mercy of external forces. What coaching does is to create a way to make more of ourselves knowable by exploring the conscious, unconscious and physical systems as well as resilience tools that activate the resources we need for tenacity and change.
It is definitely a process, to start using these pathways more. Working with a coach is an incredibly effective way to explore them – but you can also do it under your own steam. That’s why I created the Making Change Happen course.
Making change happen
Most people come to coaching looking for change. That might be emotional, financial, career-focused or in areas such as relationships, purpose, goal setting, coping better with challenges or feeling more confident. Being more resilient will give you energy, momentum and ideas for wherever you need to make a change, from overcoming self-sabotage and low self-esteem to being able to adapt, bounce back and go on to achieve real transformation. It’s a powerful force for professional development and career coaching as much as relationships and personal growth.
This course is structured around exploring the 4 pathways to resilience, giving you the insight, understanding, resilience tools, motivation and strategies to start creating the life you want to live today.
Find out more about the Making Change Happen course.