What Is Resilience?

Change is always present, so building resilience is crucial. Stagnation is death, change is necessary for life. So then, too, developing resilience is necessary for life.

Resilience is survival

Resilience is the ability to adapt to difficult experiences. We all have some ability to recover, to adjust. I have had setbacks or surprises in my life, big and small events that have changed me. I am changed by how I dealt with each incident, sometimes successfully, sometimes perhaps not as well as I would have liked. I have recovered and adjusted in my own way. I have developed resilience in the process. So have you, through your own experiences. Building resilience is a natural part of living.

We are who we are through lived experience. We are all products of endless minor and major changes, some intentional, some beneficial, some detrimental, all formative in their own way. We are survivors of change, and resilient because of it.

This is true individually, and can be true of groups in relationship, together.

Resilience is generative

Resilience is a process of pattern formation, over time, related to change – patterns of growth and adaptation emerging from tension and its release. Such tensions come from everyday decisions, and sometime from difficult disruptive scenarios. Whatever the source of the tension, and however stressful it may be, change is set in motion.

When we are not seeking a particular change, it may be seen as unwelcome or even sometimes quite harmful. In psychology, resilience is what allows a person to rebound from adversity while becoming a strengthened and more resourceful person. Consider how that notion of resilience can be scaled up to a group of people, an organization, or to a network that encompasses people and their interactions with their environment.

This defines being generative. No matter the scale, resilience is generative when we go beyond simply snapping back to a former state, with outdated responses, but use experience to be stronger and better prepared for what comes next. Being generative requires creating novel options that provoke cogent and practical forward-thinking actions. Being resilient requires being generative.

Change is always present, so building resilience is crucial. Stagnation is death, change is necessary for life. So then, too, developing resilience is necessary for life.

“Not everything that is faced can be changed; but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” -James Baldwin (As Much Truth As One Can Bear, New York Times)

Resilience is adaptive capacity

Being resilient over time means that we have adaptive capacity – a skill developed from experience to adapt, using inquiry, reflection, and action to respond appropriately to whatever comes our way. We learn this skill as we weather our own emergent challenges. Our adaptive capacity emerges through living.

Adaptation is an essential survival strategy today. Economic, political, social, technological, and cultural change affects us all, competes for our attention and resources, and can overwhelm in any given moment. Adaptation leverages the power of individuals and groups in complex systems, to help us see opportunity, understand options for action, choose wisely, and assess results. To cycle through this over time, improving and re-evaluating is the essence of Adaptive Capacity.

From the Harvard Business Review on How Resilience Works:

““Resilient people possess three characteristics — a staunch acceptance of reality; a deep belief, often buttressed by strongly held values, that life is meaningful; and an uncanny ability to improvise. You can bounce back from hardship with just one or two of these qualities, but you will only be truly resilient with all three. These three characteristics hold true for resilient organizations as well.…Resilient people and companies face reality with staunchness, make meaning of hardship instead of crying out in despair, and improvise solutions from thin air. Others do not.””

Examples of Resilience in Action

You may be working for restorative justice in the midst of gang warfare. You seek resilience for yourself and your community while initiating ways to change conditions that encourage gang formation.

You may be engaging with elected officials to develop wise policies, yet gerrymandered districts protect the politicians’ status to the point your efforts seem useless. You realize this could be a long-term issue requiring persistence and resolve, and find others with similar goals to align with, and to learn from.

Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world. -Harriet Tubman

You may feel stifled in your work organization, where innovation is seen as risky. You cultivate relationships with people in your broader community as an outlet for your creativity, keeping an eye out for emerging opportunities for your skill set.

You may be dealing with the aftermath of a huge storm, where you and many others have lost the comfort of home and an assurance of safety. New networks of volunteers emerge in the aftermath, and resources are improvised and shared in surprising ways.

So what are we offering in this course - Build Your Resilience: Thrive in the Midst of Chaos?

We want to help you find new options for building effective resilience for yourself, and for the efforts that you are passionate about.

We will facilitate an exploration of HSD-based concepts, tools, and models that help you develop and build resilience that keeps you strong and irrepressible in spite of the tensions and change you encounter. At the end of the course you will:

  • Make sense of the patterns in your life and community regarding change and resilience.
  • Understand how to see and understand tensions to develop more effective options for wise action.
  • Navigate differences in perspectives, beliefs, and perceptions.
  • Create generative conditions that help you work effectively with others during change, regardless of the differences that divide you.
  • Understand how to play within boundaries, as well as play with boundaries themselves.
  • Stretch your resilience development into a reflexive action.

For more information about the Adaptive Action Lab – Build Your Resilience: Thrive in the Midst of Chaos

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