It’s been a difficult few years, but having a strong mindset and building resilience can help you overcome all kinds of adversity, says Karlin Sloan
From the Covid-19 pandemic to an epidemic of economic loss and deep uncertainty about what’s in store, this is a time when even the toughest of us can find ourselves feeling stress, fear, and exhaustion.
How do we recover despite the changing world around us? We need to tap into our innate human capabilities of resilience. Resilience is the capacity to bounce back from change and challenge – no matter what the circumstance. If we listen to the stories we tell about ourselves, about others, and about what happens to and around us we can re-shape our world-view.
This approach is called altering our ‘explanatory style’. It is how to explain events in the world. Numerous researchers have associated an optimistic explanatory style with better academic, athletic and work performance, better coping skills, less likelihood of succumbing to depression, and better physical health.
Explanatory style revolves around the ‘3ps’ that were identified by Martin Seligman, author of Learned Optimism. These are:
- Permanence: Believing a bad situation will last forever.
- Pervasiveness: Believing that situation applies across all parts of your life.
- Personalisation: Believing that the problem is you, instead of considering that outside factors are at play.
If you are experiencing challenges, you’re in good company. Einstein’s teacher told him he would never amount to much and he became the most renowned scientist of the 20th century. The Beatles were told
they had no future in showbusiness yet became the best-selling recording artists of all time, and Oprah Winfrey was told she ‘wasn’t fit for television’ before she became the world’s most influential talk show host. What unifies these people? They kept going in the face of obstacles.
The stories we tell become self-fulfilling prophecy. When we have a pessimistic style we can defeat ourselves before we start. An optimistic style positions us to take action and keep going in order to tackle the obstacles in our way.
3 tips for becoming an optimist
- View your situation as temporary versus permanent. Tell yourself ‘It is difficult right now, but nothing lasts forever’ or ‘There are things I can do to move through this situation gracefully.’
- Stop taking things personally. For example, ‘I didn’t create the economic challenges in my city, it’s not about me. I just need to find a way through this circumstance.’
- Envision that whatever is happening is sectioned into a specific aspect of your life, versus pervasive throughout all areas. For example ‘I’m struggling in school, but that doesn’t mean I’m struggling with my friends and family or my sports team. There are areas of my life that are working well.
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