Another great TEDx talk we’d like to share with our readers. This one is by a resilience expert it turned out to be an essential survival skill for i.e. someone who’d studied the academic theory, done applied research in the US and New Zealand, used it to help others through struggles, and also applied it in her own life. In her words: “I’d done the research. I had the tools... How useful [would] they would be to me now in the face of such an enormous mountain to climb?”
Dr Lucy Hone, in a touching, powerful and personal talk, shares three strategies which helped her through unthinkable tragedy, and can help all of us face our own challenges. Struggle is part of life and completely normal, says Lucy, and being vulnerable and not always perfect is absolutely part of being resilient. She reiterates that there are ways of thinking and acting that we know boost resilience.
While she references diverse aspects of life at the start of her talk, such as loss, heartbreak, divorce, infidelity, natural disasters like earthquakes or tsunamis, being bullied or made redundant, miscarriage, infertility, mental illness, dementia, and physical impairment, resilience and wellbeing can also help with general career-related struggles and even with managing change.
See Lucy’s other videos on YouTube for more on her experiences, work and philosophies. She is a codirector at the New Zealand Institute of Wellbeing and Resilience, and a research associate at AUT University in Auckland.
Wellbeing is about the balance between your physical, intellectual, social and psychological resources and the challenges you’re up against.”
Read more below to see why we need resilience (including to try new things and learn), explore Lucy’s suggestions for dealing with adversity and change, and watch her TEDx Christchurch talk.
Why we need resilience
Resilience is the ability to steer through all kinds of different adversity and challenges, but also to learn from those experiences. It is a topic we’ve written about before, including in Bouncing Back: Surviving our own Success where we discuss Elizabeth Gilbert’s views on how success can be as disorienting as failure, and also look at how to self-restore and carry on, regardless of the outcome.
Lucy explains that “humans require resilience for four reasons:
1) To overcome early childhood adversity
2) To overcome the daily trials and tribulations and stresses of life...
3) All the really big [suffering] whether it's bereavement or divorce
4) Reaching out, learning new things, being prepared to fail and try new things, and inherent in that is a willingness and capacity for being vulnerable”
Knowing that suffering and change are part of life
The first of Lucy’s suggestions for dealing with adversity and change is that resilient people know that suffering is part of life: difficulty is part of every human existence, and knowing this stops you from feeling discriminated against when when the tough times come.
Adversity doesn’t discriminate. If you are alive, you are going to have to, or you’ve already had to, deal with some tough times.”
Rising up & taking an active role
She emphasises that we can rise up from adversity and that it is “utterly possible to make yourself think and act in certain ways that help you navigate tough times”. There are strategies that work, based on “a monumental body of research on how to do this”.
She shares her own experiences of being supported through grief, including how experts advised what the risks were (such as future divorce and mental illness), what the upcoming stages would be (anger, bargaining, denial, depression, and eventually acceptance), and that it would take a long time to heal. But, she says all that advice “left us feeling like victims, totally overwhelmed by the journey ahead and powerless to exert any influence over our grieving whatsoever. I didn’t need to be told how bad things were... What I needed most was hope. I needed a journey through all that anguish, pain and longing. Most of all, I wanted to be an active participant in my grief process.”
Carefully choosing where to direct our attention
The second suggestion is to select carefully what to pay attention to by “realistically appraising situations and… managing to focus on the things that [we] can change and somehow accept the things that [we] can’t”. This is a vital learnable skill, she says, related to taking an active role.
It includes practising gratitude and making an intentional, deliberate and ongoing effort to tune into what’s good in our world. “Don’t lose what you have to what you have lost,” she appeals. Being able to switch the focus of your attention to also include the good has been shown by science to be a really powerful strategy, Lucy explains. And, realistic optimism is strongly associated with being resilient.
Grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference”
It’s also important to allow ourselves to feel a full range of emotions. Lucy states: “There’s nothing wrong with experiencing fear, sadness, anxiety or anger, but a resilient person doesn’t get stuck in any one emotion.”
Asking ourselves whether what we’re doing is helping or harming us
Her third suggestion is to regularly ask ourselves whether our actions are helpful or harmful. This question, says Lucy, can be applied to so many different contexts: is the way I’m thinking and acting helping or harming me in my bid to get that promotion, to pass that exam, to recover from a heart attack?…
...Asking yourself whether what you’re doing, the way you’re thinking, the way you’re acting, is helping or harming you, puts you back in the driver’s seat. It gives you some control over your decision-making.”
Another incredibly important element of wellbeing is having good, strong, supportive relationships with others who care about our happiness, success and growth. It’s important to build a solid community around us who, when we face adversity, will offer practical, emotional and psychological support, including listening.
We end with Lucy’s roughly 16 minute talk, “The three secrets of resilient people”. We hope her suggestions are are helpful to you all.