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Building Resilience From The Ground Up


Today’s post comes to you from Family-Endorsed Provider, Alex Diaz, Ph.D. He discusses how to build resilience so we can better handle the challenges of day-to-day life. Thank you, Alex, for sharing with us at www.rtor.org. –Veronique Hoebeke, Associate Editor 

In terms of human development, resilience is known as the ability to successfully overcome challenges and handle stressors while facing adversity. We develop resilience by confronting rather than avoiding difficulties. As we successfully overcome challenges, we develop a greater self-esteem and a higher level of confidence. We cannot develop resilience unless there is adversity to navigate.

Is resilience an in-born trait or a human quality that can be developed? Although genes do play a role providing an initial physiological framework, resilience is mostly a learned experience. From the time we are born, we are constantly facing challenges. We do not remember it, but learning how to stand up for the first time was surely a challenge for all of us. It took quite a few attempts before we are able to grab on to an object and stand up, even if it was for only a few seconds. Such a moment was a great success. We learned to overcome a challenge and, I am sure, we showed the greatest smile ever. Most importantly, our brain learned to celebrate such an outcome to the point where we wanted to do it again and again. This simple, and not so simple, task is an example of how resilience is built.

As life goes on, we face different challenges: school, sports, work, and life in general. We are faced with navigating constant obstacles. However, the essence of building resilience rests on the same learned processes we used to stand up for the first time. We try, and try, and try until we finally get it. And, most importantly, such an achievement is celebrated as an act of personal perseverance. The personal gratification that comes when success is achieved is due to its continued effort. This successful experience translates into building confidence and self-esteem.

We can also say that the opposite is equally valid. If we lose our temper when we face obstacles, give up when challenges come up or expect others to rescue us, the brain is equally learning from these experiences. If personal gratification is not embraced when we achieve success and, instead, we minimize it, the brain will associate success with an unpleasant response. How we respond when facing obstacles becomes learned experience that eventually becomes patterns. If unhealthy behaviors follow when facing obstacles, the brain will absorb these experiences as part of our memory. As a result, we will be less likely to develop resilience.

In her article, Overcoming Performance Errors with Resilience, Dr. Gloria B. Solomon discusses her a four-step process that fosters resilience by allowing one to learn from failures and use those learned experiences as information to make constant adjustment and continue improvement. Although these steps are intended to be used by athletes, they are equally applicable to any individual who wants to learn from daily life experiences.

These four steps are known as ARSE, which stands for the following:

A: Acknowledge: the athlete takes responsibility for the mistakes and accepts the emotions that accompany those experiences. These mistakes are not seen as punitive, but rather as a source of learned experiences.
R: Review: the athlete uses this opportunity to examine how and why the performance did not materialize as expected.
S: Strategize: a plan is executed to correct the error. This strategy may be reviewed with a coach or teammates. However, the individual athlete takes full individual responsibility to make the needed personal adjustment toward improvement.
E: Execute: the athlete attempts the next performance based on updated information or adjustments.
The quicker the individual adheres to this four-step process, the easier will it be to make the necessary changes that lead to continued growth. Resilience can be learned. It requires steady effort, positivity, and encouragement. And, most importantly, resilient individuals embrace the notion of constant learning and self-exploration attitudes knowing that each experience will give them a greater source of knowledge.

Alex Diaz, PhD
Sports Mental Edge

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