This weekend at the WGC-Mexico Golf Championship, Phil Mickelson is experiencing quite a few obstacles as he tries to win his first tournament since the 2013 Open. First, on Friday his longtime caddie got a stomach virus that's going around and Phil had to replace him (www.cbssports.com/golf/news/phil-mickelson-uses-brother-tim-as-caddie-after-bones-gets-sick-during-round/). Then, on Saturday someone picked up his ball on the 10th hole and he had to take a drop, on the very next hole his ball ended up somewhere in the brush and he had to take another drop, and then on the next hole he hit his tee shot into the bushes (http://www.golfdigest.com/story/even-phil-mickelson-cant-believe-the-situations-hes-finding-himself-in-on-saturday). Yet, after 54 holes he was sitting tied for 3rd. How through all of that adversity can someone be so resilient?
According to Richardson and colleagues' (1990) resiliency model, there are 4 outcomes that can result after experiencing adversity (a disruptive experience) or change:
1. dysfunctionally: essentially we don't come back from adversity (we give up, we don't recover, our well-being and/or performance take a hit),
2. with loss: we recover but we lose something important in the process (such as confidence or motivation),
3. return to homeostasis: we "bounce back" basically just getting through to the other side of the adversity returning back to our comfort zone (what most people think of when they think about resilience),
4. resiliently: we learn and grow as a result of the adversity (we essentially "bounce forward").
So to be resilient, we certainly don't want option #1, but options 2 and 3 aren't the best either. Being resilient doesn't mean we get back to where we were before the adversity happened or that we simply endure the challenges we experience. It means we become better for having experienced the adversity. We use the obstacles and challenges we inevitably encounter to our advantage. We don't just survive, we thrive.
In the world of sport performance, resilience has been a key focus of research in the last few years. One UK researcher, Mustafa Sarkar, has investigated what psychological factors (called protective factors) tend to lead to resilience (great podcast he did discussing resilience and his research). These include:
1. Positive and proactive personality - the ability to think positively about pressure, view it as an opportunity to grow, and perceive adversity as a challenge rather than a threat.
2. Experience and learning - valuing the adversity you experience and intentionally using it as a means of growth and development.
3. Sense of control - focusing on the things you can control rather than getting caught up on the things you can't as well as choosing to pursue challenging situations.
4. Flexibility and adaptability - welcoming and being ready for adversity and change.
5. Balance and perspective - keeping your eye on the bigger picture and purpose of what you are doing so that the current experience of adversity doesn't consume you.
6. Perceived social support - understanding the impact of your environment on you and your experiences of adversity (important here that it is not about having social support but rather your perceptions of the support you do or don't have).
How can you build your capacity to respond resiliently when you experience adversity? Here are a few simple, yet powerful strategies:
1. Develop your ability to be an opportunity rather than an obstacle thinker. Perspective is everything and will greatly impact your experience of adversity as well as the outcome of it. Focus on what you have to gain from the adversity. Find the benefits - how is this an opportunity for you to grow?
2. Focus on what you can control. There is likely a lot that you can't control in the situation including at times your own emotions. Accept that you are experiencing adversity and refocus back onto the task at hand.
3. Reconnect with internal motivation. Focus on the bigger meaning of what you are doing, your purpose.
4. Trigger real confidence. Confidence is not just a feeling, but also a belief we have in our capability. What "evidence" can you use to tell you why you should believe that you are capable of navigating the challenges you are experiencing?
5. Intentionally reflect on your experiences. What are you feeling and why? What are you learning?
6. Journal to release the negativity and emotion. Though you may not be the type to keep a journal, there is support for the power of putting our experiences into words on paper.
7. Take stock of your social support and environment. How is it helping or hindering you? Are there any changes you can make or ask others to make?
8. Be mindful of your words (what you say to yourself and others). Language is powerful and sometimes all we need to do is shift the words we are using in order to shift a change in perspective (see previous blog about the power of the messages we send to ourselves).
9. Train/prepare for pressure and adversity. It's very hard to respond resiliently if we haven't prepared ourselves to do so. Make sure when you are practicing/preparing you are sometimes turning up the pressure on yourself so that you can practice responding effectively under adversity. Also, make sure to prepare to be flexible and adaptable by doing some contingency planning (what unexpected things could occur and how might you respond to them?). Effective preparation isn't about quantity (time on task), but rather quality (intentional aims to prepare and improve).
10. Take a break. Remember that resilience is about recovery/recharging not enduring. This might be the hardest strategy for some to implement because we think we have to always persist and never give up. But there is support for making an effort to maintain balance (for example: importance of sleep, greater effectiveness of taking breaks rather than doing something all at once, benefits of exercise, power of going out in nature). It's hard to be resilient if you aren't maintaining your mental and physical health!
"I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become." - Carl Jung