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Building Resilience in the Time of Pandemic

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2020 is only half over, but so far it has been a year of many unexpected hardships, changes, and adjustments to our normal way of life. Resilience is the capacity to overcome difficulties, and in a timely webinar on June 24, Dr. Madelyn Blair shared insights with about 30 participants on how to achieve personal resilience.

A sociologist who specializes as an advisor in resilience leadership, Dr. Blair’s observes there are certain people who are extraordinarily positioned to beat the odds. These individuals all share three key traits:

· They had a strong self-identity and purpose in life.

· They possess in-depth knowledge about some topic, whether it is career oriented or a personal interest.

· Most importantly, they are insatiably curious about many things, pushing the edges of knowledge and stepping outside of their areas of expertise.

Dr. Blair believes it is possible for anyone to develop these three qualities, and she offers five practices to help people learn about themselves and determine their next steps toward seeking resilience.

The first practice is that of Silence, and she recommends taking five minutes a day without distractions to reflect and help quiet the brain. The purpose is not to dwell on problems but to clear your mind, letting your thoughts form into creative ideas. You can simply sit and reflect, or perhaps take a short walk and observe the nature around you. If you feel refreshed or have let your thoughts morph into a new idea by the end of the five minutes, your Silence practice is successful.

The second practice is Story, a way to discover yourself and bring your life experiences into greater focus so you can see what formed the person you are. Think about the story of you, and write something every day. Ask others to tell you stories about things they remember about you. Be sure to record your stories in a way you can easily review them, and as you review them over time, you will see them not so much as a journal but as a mirror of your life.

To practice your story writing, think first of the context of the story: Where was it, who was there, why were you there? Then determine the purpose of the event: Was it a problem needing solving, a lifetime event, or something that caused anxiety? Finally, what was the resolution: How did things turn out?

The third practice, Social, involves creating a network of people to support you in your life and work. Reach our everyday to build these relationships, which can be real or virtual. This includes family, friends, work colleagues, or virtual contacts like Facebook group friends you may have never met. Be thoughtful about group interactions; if the group meets your needs and you contribute to meeting the needs of others, stick with it, but if you determine it no longer meets your needs, be thoughtful about disconnecting.

The practice of Seeking is about the creativity that arises from the unexpected. By asking questions, you awaken and nurture your curiosity, thus deepening your knowledge. Dr. Blair recommends getting a small notebook and writing down at least one question daily. You may not come to a definitive answer to your questions, but think about the questions and why they pique your curiosity. After a month, read through your questions to see if you identify any trends, or if you’ve been able to answer any of them.

Some ideas for finding and building questions include:

· Read the morning newspaper or watch the news. Think about the information provided – was anything left out? What more would you like to know about the topic?

· Take a child on an outing, and listen to their questions. Repeat each question before answering. Ask the child if your response prompt additional questions.

· In meetings, let your mind consider what would make the meeting more interesting. Think of a question that might help others see the same point. Turn each agenda item into a question.

· Visit a place you’ve never been and see what piques your curiosity. Turn those thoughts into questions.

· Seek out and read good quality fiction, striving for at least half a dozen books a year. Consider how the author keeps you curious to the end. You might consider creating or joining a book club for further discussion.

Selection, the fifth practice, involves regularly doing challenging tasks to learn to feel more at ease, even when stress is involved. By choosing and doing the most important task on your list each day, you can achieve satisfaction, revenue or income, achievement, and problem solving, plus you learn to alleviate the discomfort the task may cause. The tasks can be big, like finishing a report at work, or small, like washing the dinner dishes.

Dr. Blair suggests we start building our personal resilience by focusing on one of the five practices, utilizing it to learn about the self-identity, in-depth knowledge, and insatiable curiosity traits that define resilient people. This will help you learn to appraise power this knowledge can build, helping you move on to work on the next most important task in your life.

When asked how one knows if they are becoming resilient, Dr. Blair said that you should feel a strong curiosity and feel more comfortable about where you are.

To learn more about Dr. Madelyn Blair and her work on resilience, visit You can sign up for her weekly publication, Resilience Brilliance, and learn about her new book, Unlocked: Discover How to Embrace the Unexpected.

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