Sunday, April 18, 2010

How resilient are you?

I am sure we all know of someone who despite all that has happened to her, she seems to bounce back and carry on.

In a recent book, Resilience: Bounce Back From Whatever Life Throws at You, business psychologist Jane Clarke and Dr. John Nicholson, set out to discover which personality characteristics help people triumph over difficult life circumstances.

Why do some people remained confident no matter what? These people found stress energizing rather than debilitating and seemed to relish change.

Their research isolated five key factors that set the most resilient individuals apart:

• optimism,
• freedom from stress and anxiety,
• taking personal responsibility,
• openness and adaptability, and
• a positive and active approach to problem-solving.

One surprising result was that women scored consistently lower in their Resilient Quotient (RQ) than men. The researchers found that the differences between the sexes could be accounted for by level of optimism. Optimism is key to resilience because if you don’t believe things can improve, it’s hard to carry on.

The authors believe that much of the difference has to do with how men and women view their abilities versus their actual ability to cope. In other words, men overestimate what they can do, while women put themselves down.

Another interesting finding was that the most resilient in their study, had had terrible childhoods. These individuals were often the eldest child who had taken on the job of looking after the younger siblings. Essentially they learned they could cope.

The good news, regardless of childhood experiences, we can all learn to be more resilient. “You can train yourself,” says Clarke “Women especially need to stop beating themselves up and recognize how well they do actually cope.”

And recently I have interviewed several successful women entrepreneurs who have done just that. None would change what had happened to them, as these difficult life circumstances have shaped who they’ve become.

While many of us spend too much time debating where we went wrong and beating ourselves up over mistakes, these women see mistakes as life lessons to learn and move on.

Their struggles have made them more determined to succeed and given them the impetus and drive to change their lives. Challenges are viewed as opportunities to grow, rather than difficult situations to overcome.

Their optimism and resilience has enabled them to take action, rise above the challenges and achieve success. They are our role models, giving us faith that we can do it too.

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