The 5 essentials of resilience

At the age of 62 Charles Bradley was able to realise his dream of becoming a soul singer and song writer. As a young man Charles lived on the streets and slept on the subway, travelling on the trains all night for 2 years. He enrolled in the Job Corps and trained as a chef. People told him that he looked like James Brown; he could sing but he was too shy to tell anyone. Later he did become a singer and made his living as a James Brown tribute act. When Charles was discovered while performing as James Brown, the person who discovered him wanted him to write his own songs. People say that Charles sings from his soul; his songs are not happy songs, but stories from his life experiences.

Charles was signed up by the record company and in 2012 his story was made into the feature film ‘Soul of America’, detailing his hard struggles in life. I watched the film recently and was humbled to see how this man had come through and made it. What was it that made him so resilient? And how did he keep going though all those tough times?

So what is resilience and can we develop it? The dictionary defines it as the “ability to recover from or adjust to misfortune, change or disturbance”. Some people are able to successfully integrate change into their life, which can make them stronger. Think of it like a spring or an elastic band that has the ability to be stretched and return to almost the same shape, but not quite.

I recently attended a seminar on resilience, and according to Mandy Rutter of Validuim there are 4 elements to building resilience;

Physical

How you look after yourself, the food you eat, exercising regularly, taking enough rest and recovery for the life that you lead. When people feel that they are under stress the tendency is to take short shallow breaths and not actually breathe correctly. This can have a detrimental effect on physical health. All of these factors can impact on the way that you deal with the world and what life throws at us on a daily basis. 

Emotional

Making sure to make time for fun and enjoyment is important and laughing is especially good for you. So too is having challenges and finding your own opportunities in life. Having people in your life that are important to you and that you are important to is a key factor in helping you to become resilient. The ability to think about your situation differently and take another perspective can also help. Having independent support for yourself either from a friend or a professional such as a coach can also be helpful.

Spiritual

For some people spirituality is related to their faith if they have one; for others it is about how they live their lives and understanding their beliefs and values and living their lives accordingly. This can become an issue when, for example, the values of an organisation a person belongs to or works for change and the person no longer feels at one with that organisation.

Mental

The ability to think creatively, to be able to transfer positive feelings from situations that have worked well in other parts of your life and  applying similar strategies to help with the matter at hand; drawing on an ability to recreate what has worked well in the past and adapt to the situation facing you now; recognising how have you coped before and the fact that you can cope now. The desire to recover and finding a way to keep a positive view point of view.

I also add Social Integration to this list. Being connected to a social network, friends, family or a group of like-minded people, from whom to draw energy, support and a listening ear, also helps feel as though they belong. This can also help in developing resilience.

Charles Bradley may not have had much money, but he did know how to cook and feed himself well; he made the most of his friendships and the people that supported him and believed in him over the years. He kept his faith and never gave up on himself. He has become a phenomenon.

We can all learn from Charles. I am not suggesting that we can all become soul singers; but if we believe in ourselves and make sure that we are armed with as much information as possible to keep ourselves resilient and we don’t give up, who knows what we can achieve?

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