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Realistic Optimism

Realistic Optimism can feel elusive during times when reports of corruption, economic pressure, gender based violence and crime flood our digital screens … add a dash of year-end fatigue, plus life’s usual surprises and family dynamics and the festive season can either not come quickly enough or feel daunting and scary. Either way pessimism is not the answer, but neither is blind optimism. Realistic Optimism, the knowledge that you will prevail in the end no matter what, is the way forward. And yes, optimism can be learned … as discovered by Tim Dowling in this acerbic and pretty funny article from The Guardian

Written by Gabi Lowe

Attitude and Gratitude

“Your living is determined not so much by what life brings to you as by the attitude you bring to life; not so much by what happens to you as by the way your mind looks at what happens” – Khalil Gibran

In the 3rd R of Authentic Resilience we talk about Response-ability. No, that is not a spelling mistake, it is about our Ability to Respond to what happens to us in life. Much of what happens to us in life is not our doing, we have not created it -it is random. In such circumstances one can feel like a victim, be outraged as we did nothing to create this, we did not bring this upon ourselves. How is it possible then, when bad things happen to us, to develop a stance that stays open and curious, that accepts the good and the bad, and maintains perspective?


One answer to this is an attitude of gratitude. This can seem like an impossible feat, especially when times are tough, but the secret  is a daily practice of gratitude. Start right now – start today! One of the practices which we introduce to those on our Authentic Resilience Workshops is starting a Three Good Things practice: at the end of every day list – either to yourself in your head, or in a journal, or to family members, three things which you are grateful for today. On bad days it can be a struggle to name even one! Perhaps it could just be the fact that you are grateful that you got through the day and are now in bed. And here’s the tricky bit..you can’t just ramble off the same things every day, “I’m grateful for my home, my family, my dog” – you need to be creative and notice the small things that you can be grateful for.

This is a practice that works. Why don’t you commit to do the Three Good Things practice for the next month, starting from today. And check in with yourself at the end of the month – is it easier to spot the things we can be grateful for? How are you feeling now? And have you managed to cultivate an attitude of gratitude.

Written by Pippa Shaper

Earthquakes

Every day, all around the world, tiny earthquakes occur multiple times. Most often they are tiny, they can’t be felt, they register really low down on the Richter Scale. At other times, fortunately far less frequently, massive earthquakes cause widespread decimation across whole regions and cause enormous loss of property and life. Often in earthquake prone areas, buildings are constructed to be ‘earthquake proof’, with a strong central core yet with a degree of flexibility, so that a building is able to move with the earth’s movements rather than standing rigid and become damaged. Where structures are not built with the same strict building codes (unfortunately all too often in the poorest areas of the world), we see devastation.

We can liken this to our own lives. Every day we withstand small seismic shocks which we hardly register – traffic, crime, dealing with difficult people. Occasionally in our lives we will suffer a massive earthquake, the ones that register 8 or 9 on the Richter Scale -the death of a loved one, a divorce, a life-changing health diagnosis. And in between that are plenty of other seismic shocks which can threaten to damage us, shake our core.


How do we become like earthquake proof buildings? The answer is by investing in ourselves just as we invest in a building.  By building and cultivating our resilience before the earthquake strikes we enable ourselves to be better equipped to withstand the everyday shocks and the big ones. The quakes which would see others who haven’t invested in themselves be shaken to the ground.

Written by Pippa Shaper

Photo by Andrew Buchanan on Unsplash

Photo by Dawid Zawiła on Unsplash

The Capacity for Authentic Resilience

“Life doesn’t get easier or more forgiving, we get stronger and more resilient”. We are often asked whether resilience is something that people are born with, or whether it something that you can develop – and the answer is both. We are all born with some degree of resilience- the human race would not have survived without it! However some people appear to be born with naturally higher levels of resilience than others. Author W Thomas Boyce, in his book “The Orchid and the Dandelion” refers to “orchid children’ who need delicate handling, and ‘dandelion children’ who are hardier and seem more resilient.

Whatever our inbuilt levels of resilience, the good news is that we ALL have the capacity to cultivate greater levels of resilience. Whilst resilience can be developed and honed by through going through difficult times, learning the tools of Authentic Resilience can also help us ‘resilience proof’ ourselves, preparing the way for when the shocks and stresses of life hit us.

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Stress

I was struck recently by someone saying that they were ‘suffering from stress’ and started reflecting on the nature of stress. In her TEDTalk ‘How to make stress your friend”, Kelly McGonigal talks about how we need to actually embrace stress and make friends with it, not be afraid of it. That stress is actually a GOOD thing! Stress, or perhaps it could be called ‘ increased pressure’ can – up to a point – make us perform better.

When we are under increased pressure – the deadline draws near, finances are tight, we find ourselves in a high stakes situation – our attention is increased – and this is a good thing! However, when we reach a certain point (and that point is different for all of us ) our anxiety levels also increase, which bring about physiological changes in our bodies. And that’s when we feel like we are ‘suffering from stress’. Given that we will all face times when we under increased pressure, how do we increase our capacity to deal with it, so that we are able to withstand more?

In our second Five R’s of Authentic Resilience, we talk about the aspects we need to cultivate in our everyday lives, from Gratitude and Flexibility, to setting times for Reflection and Renewal, and grappling with Meaning and Purpose.  We need to put these aspects into practice in our everyday lives to counter our stress levels so that we are more able to deal with pressure and less likely to feel we are ‘suffering with stress’.

-Written by Pippa Shaper

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Authentic Resilience

Authentic Resilience is a multi-faceted capacity that requires dedication and practise. Our Ten R’s Model keeps on developing and growing organically as we learn from the hundreds of people who come through our workshops. An important part of authentic resilience is the ability to grow, adapt, change and learn on an ongoing basis… that means not holding on too tightly to our own perspectives and hard earned opinions and rather being willing to remain open to new possibilities.  “Let go of who you think you are and become who you might be” Janine Shepard is a thought-provoking sentiment. It is true that a leopard never changes its spots … but humans change all the time, both in noticeable ways with visible paradigm shifts and in subtle yet powerful ways on a daily basis. Every experience, every thought, every emotion goes into the pot of making up who we are. We are constantly learning, constantly shifting and constantly changing – best we learn to flow with change rather than fight against it as it is the only constant.

The Relentlessness of Change

One of the BIG concepts we talk about within our resilience work is that of impermanence, which falls within the 6th R – Relentlessness of Change. It is a concept that can take a life time to wrap our heads and hearts around.
Impermanence acknowledges that everything changes, continually, whether we want it to or not. When we cling to what was, we don’t allow for what is and what might be.  The concept of impermanence is about “allowing”, about surrendering our idea of how we think things should be and embracing what is.

Reality Check

Our Ten R’s of Authentic Resilience  starts with number one -Reality: staring down the brutal truth and making meaning of the mess. When we are faced with change, challenge or adversity we can tend to take one of several positions. One of them is denial. “This isn’t happening to me” , “If I don’t think about it, it’ll all go away!” or even the optimistic sounding “Oh it’s fine! It’s all going to be OK!”

Other people can go to the opposite extreme: dramatisation of the facts, “My whole world has come to an end!”, “This is going to affect everything!” The truth is that resilience lies in the middle ground- that of realistic optimism. Being able to look at the facts head on, but with hope. Remaining positive about the future, but without a Pollyanna like approach. Realistic optimism means truly acknowledging your situation and balancing optimism with realism.