Why Does Resilience Matter?

By Carole Pemberton

We live in a world which is marked by disruption: whether it is the impact of the financial crisis on organisations and individuals; changes in social patterns in how we live, or climate change. The certainties which marked previous generations are no longer available to us. That is why resilience is now on the agenda of those involved in working with communities; of organisations trying to adapt to shifts in economic power, and individuals. In the past change was viewed as something which caused disruption, but would then be followed by a period of stability as the new order solidified. Now disruption is constant. That tests our adaptive capacities, and adaptation is at the heart of resilience.

Listen to the media and how it talks about resilience and it is often linked to a sense of rigidity, of having the backbone to withstand demands, whether it is talking of soldiers in battle or footballers going through a rough patch in their performance, but that is a misunderstanding.. Resilience is about the ability to deal with difficulty through being adaptable and creative, of not denying difficulty, but working through it. It is when we lose resilience that we become rigid in our thoughts, narrow in our emotions, and unable to see that we have choices.

The question that raises is how do we retain that flexibility in the face of high demand, and the answers come interestingly from looking at the experience of children. 50 years of studying children’s resilience in communities which are marked by multiple deprivations, has shown that the children who do best are those who are optimistic in their outlook. If that was all then, it would be easy to see resilience as a ‘have or have not’ quality, an advantage for the genetically blessed, but that is not the whole story. Equally important, is a finding that has been replicated again and again in research, is that those who do best are marked by 2 protective factors: they have a sense of purpose which supports them in being persistent in the pursuit of goals and they seek out social support, so that they do not feel alone in dealing with tough times.

What that means when looked at from the wider perspective of teams, organisations and communities is that having clarity on purpose acts as an anchor around which creativity can be accessed., and acknowledging that tough times and high pressure are managed better when it is OK to be open about the need for support.

Resilience matters, because we cannot avoid the shocks of life, but we can absorb them more readily, if we understand and access what helps recovery.

What do you think?  Get in touch and share your thoughts and experiences

 


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  1. […] This includes individual resilience (take a look at Carole’s blog of 6 Nov where she discusses individual resilience and what we can learn about dealing with the shocks of life).  This is a subject we at Achill are […]