Resilience, Perseverance, and Plasticity – These terms all share a common thread they are fluid, flexible, or supple, much like a river moving around an obstacle. Each competitor must find a way to encapsulate this state of being when adversity strikes and each competitor MUST find a way to build and add resilience to their mental tool bag if they are to have longevity and success in their sport.
Some people are under the notion that either you have resilience or you do not. There is no research to specifically tell us that resilience is a genetic trait. Therefore, it is of my professional opinion, that resilience can be built. Just like the work and training you put into your body, your resiliency muscle can be built.
First: Define your foundation.
What I mean by this is you must identify your core belief or foundation that you stand on or behind in life. Then apply this to your sport. They should cross over. This can take the form of many different things for each person, religion for some or family for others, or it may be an ideology such as “the universe provides”. If you do not have a core belief in life or a solid foundational rock of faith that you can always stand on or go back to then it will be important to spend time cultivating one or two core beliefs in your life.
Second: Leverage your experience.
Each one of us has faced significant challenges in our sport and in life that are unique. It does not matter how significant that challenge is in comparison to your peers, all that matters is the relevance to you and your experience of that event. Your ability to work through and overcome this challenge allows you reassurance that you can conquer new and future challenges as you compete. These experiences feed belief in your ability to overcome new obstacles. Draw upon your past victories no matter how small to build belief in your ability to overcome new challenges. This becomes a snowball effect as we get older and we can keep moving forward and going over or through life’s hurdles. Through this process, we can become more and more resilient. You might ask what if I haven’t overcome a challenge yet or am still in a really difficult time? This is where we look to someone in our environment close to us who has overcome adversity, which leads us to our last principle in building resiliency.
Third: Learn Vicariously.
This draws upon the principle that you may not have acquired the skill, but someone before you has acquired this skill. This is the beauty of history. We learn and grow from what we see, hear, read, or experience. This is a basic human tenant (nature/nurture). Athletes before us have all overcome. We just need to look to their personal stories and listen. From here you can gain insight into how someone else has overcome and you can begin to model and apply those same principles to your situation. Research tells us that vicarious learning helps us to establish belief once we know or see that someone else has been in a similar situation and they reached success.
Three examples come to mind:
1. Michael Phelps: Grew up as a kid with ADHD. School was a huge challenge and his impulsivity created behavior problems, but through channeling his deficits into swimming he went on to become the greatest swimmer in history.
2. Shaquem Griffin: Shaquem Griffin was born with amniotic band syndrome affecting his left hand, which ultimately was amputated at the age of 4 years old. He pursued his dream and went on to be drafted into the NFL, where he currently plays for the Seattle Seahawks.
3. Toni Harris: Toni Harris became one of the first female athletes to earn a collegiate scholarship to play football. She dreams of going to the NFL.
These examples are just a fraction of the athletes that have paved the belief path for others behind them. Examine the 3 guiding principles in this article to show yourself how to build a resiliency practice today.