Resilience is the ability to react appropriately in an uncertain and changing environment. In an earlier issue, we ran an article about resilience at the organisational and societal level; now, we focus on the last domain of resilience, the individual level, which can be described as the ability to adapt, rise from adversity, and join others to create positive change.
This article is based on the Copenhagen Institute for Futures Studies’ report Individual Resilience – Survival Guide for the 21st Century (2016), and below, we particularly focus on the resilient mindset that helps contemporary individuals to handle the challenges in their professional and private lives.
We also examine the competencies that 21st century individuals need to not just survive, but also thrive in a world that is more characterised by technology, more automated, more globalised and more demanding on the individual than ever before, as old social structures dissolve and new ones arise.
How to become resilient
Scientist who study resilient individuals observe that they respond and adapt effectively to changing circumstances, recover rapidly from hardship or illness, and find innovative strategies for coping with stress.
Some people seem naturally more resilient than others, but it is important to realise that resilience is not genetically encoded – resilience can be learned. Just as you can train your body to perform better under hardship, you can also train your mind to not only endure hardship, but grow from it. The latest findings from neuroscientists’ studies on resilience show two things:
Firstly, the brain activity of resilient people differs from that of non-resilient people, and secondly, resilience can be learned. There is an inseparable connection between mind, body, and behaviour that we are able to influence.
We can basically divide resilient traits into four categories or focus areas for building resilience:
Resilient body: Being physically fit and of good health, to better handle physical stress and hardship
Resilient mind: Having a mindset that is prepared for change and able to cope with mental stress and hardship
Resilient behaviour: Cultivating social behaviour that helps us during crises and changes in a globalised and urbanised world
Resilient competencies: Learned skills and tools.
As with most things human, these areas are shaped partly by nature, partly by culture. Some people may be born with genetic advantages or raised with social advantages (like coming from a functional family with educated parents in a cultured environment), but any disadvantage can be made up for in part or in whole through a focused effort of improvement.
In the following, we will look at ways to improve or retain resilience in the four areas.