No matter how much you plan, or think positive thoughts, life will inevitably throw you a number of challenges. Physical, emotional, relationship, career, financial - whatever area of life you choose, you will face unexpected obstacles, some of which can seem insurmountable at the time, especially if they come in waves.
So what are the qualities or inner strengths that can help us become more resilient? To help us to recover or find a way to keep moving forward?
According to Resilience and Emotional Intelligence expert and author of books like 'Hardwiring Happiness' and more recently 'Resilient: Find your Inner Strength', Dr. Rick Hanson, PhD says there are certain mental resources that we are all capable of cultivating that will help make us more resilient, and these are all strengths that can be learned.
While you can't necessarily control or find certainty in the world, other people or even your own body, you can rely on these inner strengths, and you have the capacity to 'hard-wire' them into your own nervous system as you intentionally connect with and learn from experiences.
According to Hanson, we all have 3 basic needs, that date back to our ancestral beginnings - the need for safety, the need for satisfaction and the need for connection. And in those ancient times, we could fight, flee or hide in our cave, satisfy our hunger from time to time, and bond with other humans.
He suggests we can now meet our modern basic needs in 4 ways:
1. Recognising what's true
2. Resourcing ourselves
3. Regulating thoughts feelings and actions, and
4. Relating skillfully to others and the wider world
When we apply these 4 approaches to our 3 primal needs, then, according to Hanson, we can grow 12 key inner strengths which can lead us step by step on a kind of 'pathway' to lasting and inbuilt resilience:
1. Compassion - for yourself to begin with. Cultivate feelings of 'being on your own side' which can help you be kinder to yourself and others
2. Mindfulness - Cultivating present moment awareness without judgement
3. Learning - A life long journey, little by little
4. Grit - Dogged tough resourcefulness and endurance
5. Gratitude - Learn practices to give thanks - supports your physical health and helps you see the bigger picture
6. Confidence - Value what you are and silence your inner critic
7. Calm - Learning how to relax and centre yourself, frequently
8. Motivation - Learning the distinction between 'like' and 'want/need' - how to desire without attaching
9. Intimacy - We all need to connect and belong while remaining autonomous
10. Courage - Expressing feelings and speaking your truth
11. Aspiration - If you believe we have one life, what do you plan to do with yours? Going for it, and being at peace with the outcome
12. Generosity - Contribution to others - a major force for meaning and connection, and the freedom of forgiveness.
This strengths path starts with Compassion, because you need to learn how to recognise your own needs and be kind to yourself first, and the path concludes with Generosity because when you grow your own inner strengths it gives you more and more to offer to others.
These strengths support each other like a connected network, and as you grow these strengths and become more Resilient you’ll experience less anxiety, irritation, disappointment, hurt, loneliness and resentment. Then when the challenges of life come at you, you’ll feel more peace, contentment and love in the core of who you are.
There are many ways that we can all begin to build our 12 inner strengths, although it must be noted that these are qualities we need to learn by creating multiple experiences of them, and repeating and practicing, so we can truly create positive neural plasticity
To build true and long lasting resilience, we need to grow our inner strengths through connecting to positive experiences multiple times a day and drawing those positive experiences into ourselves.
The great news is that no matter how tough your life, no one can prevent you each day from moving toward your potential and toward your strengths and resilience. You can connect to and draw in simple joys and acknowledge your own inner resources, and you can learn a little bit or get a little bit more skillful or happier or capable every single day.
The other side of that truth is that no one can do it for you. Only you can help yourself grow into who you hope to become and build your resilience.
Personally, I highly recommend 'Resilient: Find your inner Strength' as Rick takes you through a range of experiential practices relating to each of the 12 strengths, and these can become resilience building meditations that can propel those strengths forward.
“Life doesn’t get easier or more forgiving, we get stronger and more resilient.”
― Steve Maraboli
Until next time,
The PLS team