Today I’m going to do some thinking out loud on the blog. Sorry guys, but Mike’s been in Vientiane for the last three days, so you’re it.
You see, I’m doing a consultancy project at the moment focused on resilience as it’s related to managers in humanitarian organizations.
I’m loving this project. It’s given me the perfect excuse to call up some really smart people the world over and ask them all sorts of questions that I haven’t yet decided how I would answer. This morning I talked to a friend and colleague in New Zealand. Last night I was chatting to a new acquaintance in Bali – she and her husband are starting a program to provide retreats for international aid workers (Satori Worldwide). On Friday night it was someone in the Central African Republic.
Among many other things during this last discussion, I learned that skype does have immutable limitations. To whit… it will not work for longer than one minute and sixteen seconds when you are trying to connect Laos and the Central African Republic.
(Thank you to the person I was interviewing for ringing me after the fourth time the line was dropped. I do not even want to think about how much the mobile-mobile call cost her, but she had some awesome insights to share and I’m grateful.)
Of course, at some point (like next week) I’m going to have to start weaving all of these insightful commentaries together, figure out what I think, and write a big thought/research paper. That sound suspiciously like hard work to me. But in the meantime, good times!
You might think that by this stage of the process I would have figured out exactly what I mean when I say the word resilience.
Yeah, well, you’d be wrong.
Apologies for perhaps sounding like a professor here, but the definitional waters around this concept of resilience are incredibly, frustratingly, muddy.
The Latin root of the word resilient is resilire – meaning to spring back, to recoil, to return to the original form after being bent back or stretched.
When it was first grafted into the psychology domain, resilience was used in precisely this manner – to denote someone’s ability to “bounce back” or recover quickly from traumatic events and other types of adversity.
Over time, however, resilience has also come to be used in at least two other ways.
Some researchers argue that resilience goes beyond the ability to bounce back from trauma. Rather, they claim, it is an ability to cope well with fast-paced and continuously changing environments – to cope well with high levels of pressure rather than simply being able to recover quickly when you’ve been knocked for six.
Another group of thinkers and researchers have been even more ambitious in trying to broaden the scope of the term. Steve Wolin, for example, defines resilience as, “the capacity to rise above adversity—sometimes the terrible adversity of outright violence, molestation or war—and forge lasting strengths in the struggle.” This takes the concept well beyond merely bouncing back to the status quo and burdens it with the expectation of positive post-traumatic growth.
What to do with all of this? I can’t very well write a thought paper if I don’t settle on a definition now, can I.
This is still a work in progress, so I reserve the right to change my mind – but the definition I’m kicking around at the moment is: The ability to successfully navigate high levels of challenge and change.
I could go on and on in detail, trust me, but I’d much rather hear from you on this topic at this point.
If you’re still with me: What do you think of when you hear the word resilience? Do you consider yourself resilient? What behaviours, beliefs, or attitudes do you think are related to being resilient in life?
To close, here’s a mini-story I stumbled across recently that made me laugh out loud. I think it’s a gorgeous illustration of one facet of resilience:
Daniel Boone was asked by a reporter if he had ever been lost in the wilderness.
Boone thought for a moment and replied, “No, but I was once bewildered for about three days.”