Adversity is Inevitable
I absolutely believe that resilience is one of the most important characteristics we need to instil in our young people. Or all people for that matter. Without it, how can we expect people to successfully adapt to adversity? If we can’t expect people to successfully adapt to adversity then we can expect them to miss learning opportunities, to stray from the road of self-improvement, and ultimately fail to be in control of their own destiny.
Change is the only constant. Acknowledging this took a long time for me. When I reflect on my childhood it is clear that it was fairly idyllic. Adversity wasn’t something I had to deal with. If there was change, it was foreseeable and therefore manageable. It wasn’t until I left school that I became aware that change was inescapable. I was faced with a teenage pregnancy, the death of a loved one, single parenthood and the list goes on. At times my anxiety would take hold. At times my coping mechanisms were exhausted. What I find when reflecting on these times, is that this change can break us or it can make us stronger. We want it to make us stronger. We want to thrive, not just survive. Adversity is inevitable. Change is the only constant. We need to expect it, prepare for it, and deal with it effectively. And, we need to learn how to do this from the moment we are born to ensure that we thrive.
There are times when we will genuinely question the ceiling of our ability to effectively deal with the unexpected. It is in these times that we need to demonstrate resilience, draw on our own resources, and implement strategies that ensure we survive, and eventually thrive. Our last blog post was about the importance of resilience. This post will more specifically suggest strategies to prepare for the unexpected. The suggestions have been adapted from Bonnie Benard’s (2004) characteristics of healthy development and successful learning: social competence, problem-solving, a positive sense of self, and a sense of purpose and future. When teaching resilience and strategies for thriving in the face of adversity, we define these characteristics as follows to increase accessibility for school students:
Social Competence: Know and continue learning how to communicate effectively. Be articulate. This will help you to build and maintain healthy relationships as well as effectively resolve conflict which is key to possessing resilience. In saying that, it’s also paramount that you recognise when a relationship is unhealthy and you need to be able to leave it behind. Remember your sense of humour, and show empathy where appropriate.
Problem solving skills: Step outside your own little box and look at your problem from multiple perspectives. This allows you to be more flexible and more creative; more resourceful. It’s also paramount to recognise when you need to ask for help.
Autonomy: Be independent. Know you can face the world alone, but take comfort in knowing that you will rarely need to. Know who you are, if you’re not happy with who that is, change it. Remind yourself: I can and I will.
Optimism: Know that the future is bright. Never lose hope. View challenges as opportunity. Know you can do anything and can deal with any situation.
It is developing and continuing to develop these skills and attributes that enables us to persist in times when we’re not sure we’ll make it through.