Resilience: Stages of Change
Thus far in our discussion, we've described the many benefits of emotional resilience, and the attributes and characteristics that resilient people tend to have. In this section, we turn the focus from understanding the factors that make emotional resilience possible to to discussing how you can become more emotionally resilient. Our goal is to help you generate a specific action plan you can use to improve your resilience and by extension, your life.
As you have seen, a person's degree of emotional resilience is due in part to the attitudes, beliefs and characteristics they have learned and cultivated over time. Anyone who wants to can improve their resilience abilities by working on their attitudes, beliefs and characteristics.
Like any other endeavor, improving your resilience skills involves a change process. It cannot happen overnight. It requires some thought, dedication and effort to accomplish. In order to facilitate your successful change process, we’ve broken down the steps you need to take to become more resilient into stages, including challenge, awareness, preparation, action, and maintenance stages of change. You'll likely find yourself passing through each stage of change as you take action to improve your resilience.
The first step on the path towards developing emotional resilience usually begins with the awareness that stress can do damage in your life. Perhaps you have had an illness that was compounded by stress, and you want to find out how to avoid having to go through that again. Maybe you took a test and discovered you are prone to stress and you want to be able to recognize the warning signs. Perhaps you read an article about the damage stress can do to your health, and you want to find out what you can do to prevent stress-related illness. No matter how you came to realize the impact of stress on your life, you have been challenged. The resilient thing to do for yourself is to accept that challenge and learn how to change your attitudes so you can begin to better bounce back from adversity. The fact that you have read this document already suggests that you have become interested in learning how to make yourself more resilient to stress.
The awareness stage of change begins when you decide to learn more about becoming stronger and more emotionally resilient. Your action to read this document has moved you into the awareness stage, as the information in this document has helped you to become aware of what you will need to do to become more resilient. Don't stop expanding your awareness with this document. Instead, we encourage you to seek out more information on stress management, and on various aspects of emotional intelligence and emotional resilience. The more you know going into the process, the easier it will be for you to achieve lasting and positive changes.
The preparation stage begins when you decide whether you actually want to make the effort to change yourself. Assuming you do, it is also the stage in which you start making specific plans for what changes you want to make, and how you will accomplish those changes.
Becoming specific with your change goals is very important. It is not enough to say, "I want to be more resilient" because, although that is a great goal to aspire to, it is too vague to be of help in making progress towards that goal. Instead of being vague, you need to be specific. For example, you need to be able to choose whether it will be best for you to work on increasing the number and depth of your relationships, or whether it will be better to find an activity that helps you to experience 'flow'. The specific goals you set should be based on your best assessment of your particular strengths and weaknesses. They should serve to help you strengthen weaker aspects of your personality. Choosing the right specific goals to pursue will likely require some time, thought and research.
Once you identify the things about yourself that you would like to improve, use the information from this article and whatever other trustworthy information you can find to determine specific strategies for change that will best benefit you. Write your specific strategies, plans and goals down and keep them in an easy to access place so that they can motivate your progress.
The action stage starts when you start working on accomplishing your specific resilience goals. It is tempting to be casual about how you approach your change plan, but it is a better idea to be systematic about it. Keep records of your progress towards each goal, and of what strategies for approaching each goal work or don't work for you. When a strategy doesn't work for you, try a different approach instead. You may need to go back and do more research to better understand your options. Don't give up. Remember that the more progress you make toward your goals, the better your coping and resilience skills are likely to become.
Public commitments are easier to keep than private ones. As you make your commitment to improving your coping and resilience skills, share that commitment and your plan with at least one other person. Write achievable, time-limited goals down into the form of a contract. Sign that contract, and have a close friend or family member witness your commitment by signing the contract too. Then work on the goals in your contract, one at a time. Keeping someone else updated on your progress will make you more accountable, and will help assure that you are not the only one who will notice the positive changes that occur.
It is also wise to break down your goals into small, achievable steps so that you don't have to work too hard to know when you've achieved a minor victory. For example, if your overall goal is to improve the quality and quantity of your friendship relationships, don't wait until you've made five new friends before deciding to pat yourself on the back. Instead, count your action to simply attend a new club meeting as a step in the right direction. A large series of achievable small steps is always easier to achieve and stick with than one mighty singular goal that never seems to be met.
Don't try to do everything at once. Your plan might identify three areas where you need to improve your resilience skills, but that doesn't mean you should try to accomplish them all at once. Instead, select one area that is the most important to you to work on first. Plan several achievable, time-limited goals. Breaking your larger goals into small achievable bits is the best way to successfully complete the change process.