Tag adversity

Resilience VI – Closing Thoughts

As you have seen, the ABC resilience methodology is useful to map out and truly understand your beliefs and whether those same beliefs are working for or against you in your daily life.  The example that I shared about my dog was based around a belief that was clearly flawed, and thus a deeper investigation through the Q&A approach allowed me to ultimately understand and change this belief.  It also allowed me to uncover what the authors call “hidden icebergs” that can steer one’s thought processes and behavior in unique ways.  My concern about being able to achieve an effective work-life balance in the future was one such iceberg.

The first and third examples, while triggered by different adversities, both ended up in the same place; my feelings of frustration / sadness was tied directly to the role in which I was operating, and the subsequent lack of control that I needed to “survive” – or so I believed.

While these feelings are perhaps “natural”, my challenge was to alter my belief structure so that the resulting consequences (negative emotions) could be cast aside – leaving greater “room” for positive change.

But these changes need to be based in reality as well – simply changing my perspective to “this job is great, what am I thinking!” is an inappropriate response.  A more suitable belief system is “this role is not exactly what I am looking for, but it is bringing in income and I can start to look at other opportunities that make the most effective use of my skills” or some derivation thereof.

Of course, while the solution is clear on paper, it’s not as easy to correct – but mapping out this thought process in concrete form allows one to obtain a grasp on the situation that enables more constructive thought processes to develop.

And to be clear, this methodology is not always required in an explicit sense.  In many circumstances, a quick glance at the standard B-C connections will allow you to see why you feel a certain way and whether the underlying beliefs are appropriate in a given situation.

The key is to understand what beliefs are working in your life and which are not.

Resilience II: The ABC’s

“Resilience, then, is the basic strength, underpinning all the positive characteristics in a person’s emotional and psychological makeup.  A lack of resilience is the major cause of negative functioning.  Without resilience there is no courage, no rationality, no insight.  It is the bedrock on which all else is built.” – Karen Reivich and Andrew Shatté, The Resilience Factor

In my last post, I introduced the topic of resilience and how the key to greater self-esteem is self-efficacy.  The path towards greater self-efficacy is resilience, and the path to greater resilience begins with an understanding of the ABC model – a resilience-building methodology presented in The Resilience Factor by Karen Reivich and Andrew Shatté:

  • Adversity – What pushes your buttons?
  • Beliefs – What are your beliefs at that moment?
  • Consequences – What do you feel and what do you do about those feelings?

While it would be easy for me to fabricate an example to illustrate this technique, I think it’s beneficial if I share a personal example from my own professional experience.

In a previous role I was responsible for maintaining a project schedule of nearly 1500+ tasks.  Since the team was still getting familiar with the overall PM structure and methodology, there was bound to be some communication breakdowns, and I eventually found myself in the middle of one.

Prior to this event, I had established a weekly schedule where updates would be collected from the various workstream leads and subsequently incorporated into the larger program schedule.  This particular breakdown occurred because the schedule was compromised, the reasoning was unclear, and I found myself in the spotlight for issues I was also unaware of.

Let’s walk through this example to illustrate how the system works.

First, let’s summarize the Adversity in an objective and specific manner:

“Shortly after responding to inquiries about the project schedule, my colleagues sent follow-up emails that highlighted the urgency of the related changes and asked that these changes be made as soon as possible.”

Next, I’ll describe what I was feeling at that very moment: (my Beliefs)

“What is wrong with these people?  What happened to the schedule that was established weeks ago?  If they are unhappy with the manner by which I am maintaining the schedule, why aren’t they updating it themselves?”

“Ticker-tape” beliefs are beliefs that you may not be immediately aware of.  In this particular case, my ticker-tape beliefs centered around my desire to do work that took greater advantage of my strengths and skill set.  And this task, while important, was not aligned with this desire.  In retrospect, my mind was already looking for potential issues.

When utilizing this approach it’s important that you avoid filtering what you are feeling at that moment.  Doing so can cause you to skim the surface of your true emotions, and you’ll gain less from the experience in the long-run.

The third and final component of this resilience methodology is Consequences: “the way you feel and what you do in the moment of an adversity or challenge.”

The authors go on to present a few standard B-C connections that one can refer to in the midst of an adversity:

  • Violation of your rights … results in … anger
  • Real world loss or loss of self-worth … results in … sadness, depression
  • Violation of another’s rights … results in … guilt
  • Future threat … results in … anxiety, fear
  • Negative comparison to others … results in … embarrassment

In this particular example, my immediate and initial B-C connection was about a violation of my rights and the feelings of anger that soon followed.  But the B-C connection was actually less about my rights and ultimately about loss of self-worth.  After all, in this role I wasn’t really leading – I was maintaining, and to receive any sort of “criticism” dealt a blow to my self-worth.  ”Can’t I do even THIS correctly?”

While I chose to deal with this adversity head-on, expressing my concerns directly to my colleagues, I let the combination of anger and sadness result in a criticism of their abilities in managing related tasks.  Thus, I was faced with yet another B-C connection – one where I inadvertently violated another’s rights, and felt a sense of guilt for doing so.

Events and experiences that I have been faced with over the past several years have helped strengthen some of my ticker-tape beliefs, and it’s those same beliefs that unfortunately played a key role in the consequences I’ve just described.

What is critically important here is the fact that “… our emotions and behaviors are triggered not by events themselves but by how we interpret those events.”  Responding to my colleagues initial requests using an altered belief system could have resulted in a less direct conversation, leaving greater flexibility afterwards for a less charged dialogue, thus obtaining perhaps greater results in the long-run.

The next natural step for me is to take a closer look at my belief system to determine which beliefs are working and which are not.  While my job may not always be 100% in alignment with my strengths, my relationships with others should not have to suffer because of it.

Resilience I: Self-esteem vs. Self-Efficacy

I recently finished reading  Andrew Shatte’s and Karen Reivich’s book entitled The Resilience Factor – 7 Essential Skills for Overcoming Life’s Inevitable Obstacles.  I found the book incredibly useful as it provides a formulaic approach to understanding the reasons why certain events trigger certain emotions, and to develop constructive ways to work through those events / emotions.  Since adversity is a constant factor in people’s lives, improving one’s resilience is critically important for future successes – both professional and personal.

Now having closed a rather turbulent period of my life, I felt the time was right to take additional steps to improve my resilience.  While my creative abilities allowed me to manage through this period in a constructive way, I felt there were some core lessons I was still missing and needed to develop.  When I stumbled upon this book, I knew that this was the piece that was missing from that journey.

Towards the beginning of the book, the authors make several key points that really set the stage for the remainder of the text.  They talk about the need to focus less on developing self-esteem and more so on self-efficacy.  There is a difference as one is a by-product of the other:

“…self-esteem is the by-product of doing well in life – meeting challenges, solving problems, struggling and not giving up.  You will feel good about yourself when you do well in the world.  That is healthy self-esteem.  Many people and many programs, however, try to bolster self-esteem directly by encouraging us to [...] believe that we can do anything we set our mind to.  The fatal flaw with this approach is that it is simply not true.  We cannot do anything we want in life, regardless of how many time we tell ourselves how special and wonderful we are and regardless of how determined we are to make it so.”

The authors go on to discuss why self-efficacy is the first step to building self-esteem:

“We know that as people start to build a track record of small successes by solving problems, self-efficacy follows naturally.”

The skills taught in The Resilience Factor equip one with tools to solve the problems in one’s life and to meet the challenges that confront her/him.  These tools allow one to develop self-efficacy, which ultimately translates into greater feelings of self-esteem.  And it’s this unique combination that can empower people to do even more with their lives and experience greater joy from the lives they already have.

The book “works” because of the numerous anecdotal examples presented throughout the text.  In fact, the book’s lessons are best assimilated by using them when adversity strikes.  The adage “practice makes perfect” is indeed valid here.

In my next post on this subject, I’ll introduce a few key points from the text along with some personal examples to illustrate just how well these tools truly work.

Related Article: Recalibration I