AUGUST 4, 2016

Resilience: When Your World Falls Apart

resilience growth mindset flower

By Ms. Grace Jackson, School of Applied Leadership at CityU

One of the core values that we hold steadfast in the School of Applied Leadership is resilience, a value we hope to find and encourage in each of our doctoral students. In the initial interview an applicant is asked to describe a time when they failed at something.

And then they’re asked, “What did you learn from that failure?”

The thinking behind this question is our desire to find students who, as Dr. Carol Dweck says, have “a growth mindset that thrives on challenges and sees failure not as a lack of intelligence or specific skill set, but as a heartening catalyst for growth and stretching our abilities.”  Dr. Dweck is a developmental psychologist and author of the book, Mindset.

According to Dweck, a growth mindset versus a fixed mindset may explain why some people become paramount in their field while others deteriorate.

Resilience is an indefinable characteristic that allows some people to face extraordinary challenges.  A growth mindset is one tool to help you develop resilience.  Those who are resilient can overcome challenges and come back stronger than before. Rather than allowing failure or setbacks to drain their resolve, they find a way to rise from the ashes and are transformed as a result.

Recently, my resilience was tested when I was diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. While disease is not a failure, the mindset is the same: what can I learn from this? When I first got the call that everyone dreads, it was a crisis of momentous proportions. Yet other crises quickly arose that dwarfed the phone call and so many other issues needed to be dealt with that I had to stop calling everything a crisis. The only way I could deal with the changes was to learn to redefine my world, look at my life in a completely new way and identify what I needed to survive.

Here are my top five resilience tips that have helped me through:

  1. Construct a system of support. My team consists of family, friends, and CityU coworkers who have supported and loved me from the first day of my diagnosis. Each group offers a different perspective so it’s good to know who you can rely on for different situations.
  2. Cultivate a sense of humor. It’s easy to wake up depressed every day, so finding reasons to laugh and have fun is important. I surround myself with people who encourage me to find joy and make me laugh. I avoid situations that make me feel anxious.
  3. Trust the process. I have a quote pinned on my wall, “Slow down, calm down, don’t worry, don’t hurry. Trust the process.” I am a Type A, extremely organized and deadline driven person. During this time I released some of those stressful behavior patterns. It helped me to realize that we are not always in control of our world.
  4. Continue your work. It’s good to have something other than the crisis to focus on. Whether you are a student or mother of two children, concentrating on things that were important before the crisis is highly effective.
  5. Be transformed. Rising from the ashes is a good metaphor for resilience and becoming the best person you can be as a result of a crisis.

Experiencing moments of deep despair is part of the human condition. I learned that having a cache of resilience tools in place, including a growth mindset can help deal with and overcome most of life’s foibles and follies.


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