Researchers have shown that people and teams with the most resilience, or mental toughness, think and do things that we could all do. The differences are not profound, but for most of us they involve changing our habits.

The benefits are life-enhancing - more optimism, more motivation, less stress and better health. We'll probably live significantly longer too.

First, we have to make a choice. We choose to be in charge of our own lives, the captain of our ship, not the ship bobbing around in the sea. Sound obvious? The results of a Pew Attitudes survey in 45 countries suggests that two in three people in western europe thought the best answer to the question, 'Is success determined by forces outside our control?' was yes. It's ship thinking, not captain thinking.

Having made that fundamental choice, we can make others that liberate us to achieve more, even when times are tough.

We might for instance, decide that we can choose our attitude whatever the circumstances. It's what top performers in sport, business, parenting and study do. We might choose to be courageous, no matter what life throws at us. We might choose to act independently. We might choose to be happy, now, not when the recession ends. We might choose never to see ourselves as a victim - of anything.

Reslient people and teams have a particular kind of optimism that helps them deal with reality, not avoid it. Telling everyone 'Don't worry, everything will be okay' then doing nothing when you should, is simply denial. Getting up in the morning and proclaiming, 'It's going to be a wonderful day!' is commendably positive, but it's not real optimism either and your good feelings are unlikely to survive an encounter with a grumpy teenager or being late to work.

Real optimists see life as a journey with inevitable setbacks, not a series of gold medal performances. When they have a set-back, they're clear that it is a setback, not a failure. In other words it's temporary. Significantly, their setbacks are no reflection on their potential, just opportunities to learn, or caused by events that are temporary.

We can train oursleves in real optimism by forcing ourselves to take that healthy perspective on setbacks until we change our thinking habits. Business and sports teams can do the same.

Pessimists believe that bad events or setbacks are their fault, long-term and will affect everything they do. Researchers have measured the effects of that kind of thinking on human immune systems. It damages our health. Your score on the optimism-pessimism scale at age 25 would be suffient to predict your health 20 years later. In a study of 800 patients at the Mayo Clinic, the optimists reduced their chances of early death by 50 per cent.

Where others see hopeless recession, the world's resilient people know they can make the best of their situation.

They develop a plan as their first action. They have a reasonably accurate idea of how big the cause of their stress really is. They stay committed to their plan, their belief in themselves and to their relationships with their families, friends and colleagues, and know that they can call on those relationships in times of stress.

The most stressful way to handle the recession is to do nothing - and worry. Resilience is something we can develop on our own, within our business teams and in the family. It's a focus, a challenge - and liberating.

Contact us about a workshop on resilience for your team or a speaker on resilience for your conference.


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