What is Resilience?

(Taken from a post from Ben Bergeron/CompTrain, and slightly changed for the audience and with my comments below)

“Resilience is a hot buzzword right now. It’s a quality coaches and companies alike look for when recruiting; regarded as more important than education, experience, and training in predicting who will succeed and who will fail. It is no less true for Triathletes/Runers—the ability to bounce back from hardship is a character trait that separates the elite from everyone else.

Why do some people buckle under pressure? Why do others suffer real hardships and not falter? What exactly is that quality of resilience that carries people through life?

It’s a question psychologists have been trying to answer for 50 years. Researchers at the Boston Psychoanalytic Society & Institute have examined an increasing body of academic research on resilience, and discovered that they all overlap in three consistent ways:

Facing Down Reality
A common belief about resilience is that it stems from an optimistic nature. And that’s true, as long as optimism doesn’t distort your sense of reality. Research suggests that people often slip into denial as a coping mechanism. Facing reality—really facing it—is grueling work. Resilient people have very sober and down-to-earth views of those parts of reality that matter for survival. Optimism has its place, but for bigger challenges, a cool sense of reality is far more important. When we truly stare down reality, we prepare ourselves to act in ways that allow us to endure and survive extraordinary hardship. We train ourselves how to survive before the fact.

The Search for Meaning
We all know people who, under duress, throw up their hands and cry, “How can this be happening to me?” Such people see themselves as victims, and living through hardship carries no lessons for them. Resilient people devise constructs about their suffering to create some sort of meaning for themselves and others. For example: The resilient person, when fired or laid off, tells themselves that it’s an opportunity to find more meaningful work that they truly enjoy, then sets about doing exactly that. 

Ritualized Ingenuity 
The third building block is the ability to make do with whatever is at hand. Psychologists call this skill “bricolage,” which literally means “bouncing back.” It is a kind of inventiveness, the ability to improvise a solution to a problem without proper or obvious tools or materials. When situations unravel, resilient people can muddle through, imagining possibilities where others are confounded. 

You can bounce back from hardship with just one or two of these qualities, but you will only be truly resilient with all three. The good news? Research on resilience suggests that it is not an innate trait but a learned skill. If you can learn to be better at something, it’s a skill. And if it’s a skill, it’s yours if you want it. 

For a deeper dive into how resilience works, check out the full essay by Diane Coutu. “

My Personal Experience

Three years ago I decided that I would ‘try’ to qualify for the CrossFit Games.  Not that year obviously as I couldn’t even do one strict pull up, but I thought maybe a year would be enough.  When we got closer to the start of the CrossFit Open (5 weeks of a different workout each week) I started to really doubt myself, my abilities, did I really want to try for this?  Did i really want to go to the Games?  Why not go back to doing something I was good at (Triathlons)?  This was probably the first athletic endeavor that I had committed to (well at the time I really wasn’t that committed to be honest) that scared me since high school.

What if I fell short?  What if I got injured?  What if I wasn’t good enough?

How many times have we asked ourselves those questions?  Especially the last one?  We all do at some point or another when we decide that we won’t go for that bike ride because ‘I’m not going to qualify anyway’ or I am not going to go do that run workout because ‘I’m not going to qualify for Boston anyway (even though I’m only a few minutes away from that time)?  Or why swim?  It’s only a small portion of the Ironman, and I know I can tough it out (not realizing that it actually is going to tax me more for the areas that I’m strong in later).

Resilience, Grit, or just plane hard headedness is what you need some days.

You have to realize that every workout you do is money in the bank – even if you didn’t perform like you expected or wanted to.  That every time you do your mobility, your massage, your activation, getting sleep, eating well…..that you are putting money in the bank so that you can stay healthy.

And when that day comes to compete you know you will have what it takes to accomplish YOUR goals.

Never waver from them because you don’t know how far you can really go with what you’ve got.

This is coming from a person who used to always never believe in herself, until someone else believed in me.   Once I had my eyes opened I have never looked back.  Every year I find ways to get better than ever before, and it has lead me to such a good life with so many great people who share it with me.

Be RESILIENT, because believe in all of you.