Knocked Down, Get Up Again

I think by the time you’re an adult learner, you’ve been knocked down and gotten up again a few times.  Maybe not so much for some of our younger students (how great is that!). Sometimes it can feel that’s all you do.  But studies have shown time and again that perseverance is one of the major factors in success.  So the question becomes how do we learn to persevere when things get tough?  If you didn’t learn resilience as a child, can you pick it up as an adult?  Luckily the answer is YES!

What are Resilience and Perseverance?

So first what exactly is ‘resilience’ and ‘perseverance’?  A quick use of google give us:

resilience
rɪˈzɪlɪəns/
noun
the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.
the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity.
perseverance
pəːsɪˈvɪər(ə)ns/
noun
persistence in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.

So we want to develop a sort of elastic bounce to our mental psyche that will let us ‘bounce’ back when things don’t work out, it gets tough, we want to give up, we engage in self-defeating behaviors (go self-sabotage!), when we kid ourselves we’ll do it later..

As a child you may have been taught this essential life skill, but unfortunately many of us didn’t.  I wasn’t.  I was the proverbial give up at the first sign of any difficulty and I was never encouraged to persevere at anything.

How Resilience is Developed in Childhood

Resilience is developed in childhood by a combination of factors including:

  • exposure to supportive calm adults who help the child to regulate their emotions and stress response,
  • adults who help them build executive functioning skills such as a regular routine, regular creative play, modelling positive social interactions.
  • being told its ok to ask for help, the myth of rugged independence does not support resilience.
  • being encouraged to exercise, its well known that exercise will help regulate stress hormones and promote feel good endorphins.
  • being encouraged to try things outside their comfort zone, this helps to build feelings of efficacy and mastery.
  • being supported to face fear.
  • having someone trust in their ability to cope and manage and not rush to their rescue.
  • and finally being taught to ‘reframe’.

In this post I just want to look at the last one, reframing.  It’s such a useful tool and oh so simple.

Reframing

The saying ‘every cloud has a silver lining’ refers to reframing.  Yes its corny, its old, but seriously, while we can’t always control what happens to us, we do have a choice of how we think about things and what we focus on.  We can stare at the hole in the middle of the donut, or we can focus on the yummy donut itself.  Now you’re situation might only be a very slim donut with a great big whole in the middle, but there is still some donut there!  Focus on that donut.  Maybe this is the first donut you’ve ever made, maybe its the 100th!  But you’re going to get better at it.

Reframing is the art of taking something less that ideal, and putting your own ‘spin’ on the situation so that it sits easier within you.  You find a way to think about it that doesn’t hurt or drag you down quite so much.  Yes, you might have failed an assignment.

But rather than say to  yourself  ‘Well that sucked, I’m obviously not good at this, I’m so lousy at this subject’, you can reframe it and say ‘Well I’ve now learnt what not do in my assignment, I know now that x, y and z are not correct, and next time I’ll not make that mistake again.‘   You see the shift?  Try it now.

 

Take a difficult situation/event.  Write down how you normally think about it. 

The chances are it probably doesn’t feel good.  If you pay attention to your body it probably makes you feel unmotivated, tired, maybe even sore.

     Now reframe it.  

    How does it feel?

It’s important to remember that generally we learn by failure.  It provides us with a process of trial and error.  If we remember to look at it this way (trial and error) we de-personalise the mistake and we don’t beat up on ourselves for not being perfect. One of the best analogies I remind myself of all the time is the fact that a baby will fall over 2000 (yes 2000) times when learning to walk.  Reframe that one!

Can you cope with falling over 2000 times to get something right?  Well yes you can.  You already have.

Further Reading

Reframing: The transformative power of suffering – https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/stronger-the-broken-places/201712/reframing

Building Resilience in Children – 20 Practical, Powerful Strategies (Backed by Science)