Sunday, February 21, 2010

Resilience and Resolve

One site that I visit often is like a deep artesian spring, always producing ideas that refresh the thirst for knowledge and thought, even if those ideas are as old as the water in the metaphoric well. The blog Art of Manliness is such a source. The blog is designed to remind men of their natural place in the order of things, as well as offer a bit of backbone to those who might have spent too much time gazing at the lint in their navel as they contemplated why everything can't be handed to them on a silver platter.

One of the themes that have been a guidepost for me has been resilience and the role it plays in helping one bounce back from adversity and challenges. Humankind has shown this trait to be the key to picking up and going on after a setback.

In a series on resilience that began with this post, Building Your Resiliency the authors define resliency this way.
What is Resiliency?
Studies have shown that boosting your resilience increases your resistance to stress and can greatly lower your chances of becoming depressed. It can even reduce the chances of getting PTSD. You may not be living in a war zone, but the trials of life, even the weight of many little setbacks, can leave a man feeling shell-shocked.
We all have times when life makes us want to crawl into a hole; resiliency is what helps us dust ourselves off and climb back into the saddle instead. But just what is resiliency, anyway?
Resiliency is a quality that helps us both act and react in appropriate and productive ways. Let’s take a look at both of these areas.
The series continues on in part II, by offering tips on Avoiding Learned Helplessness and Changing Your Explanatory Style.

 Part III, as the author notes, is a bit long but contains the meat of the topic and is well worth pondering and reflection.

“We lost 13 pilots in six months. And in nearly every case, the worst pilots died by their own stupidity.”-Chuck Yeager
Among test pilots, Chuck Yeager’s attitude towards pilots who “augered in” was universal. In The Right Stuff, Tom Wolfe relates how test pilots loved to talk about flying at every chance, and how the discussion would inevitably turn to why the latest pilot to have perished in an accident had done himself in. It was always the pilot’s fault. Even if a piece of equipment had malfunctioned, the consensus was that the pilot should have double-checked it before taking off. Nearly every death was caused by pilot error, plain and simple.
To the average joe, this might seem like a callous attitude, but when you’re going to a funeral every other week, burying a guy who’s doing the same job as you, you have to believe that you’re in control of your life, 100%. Otherwise, you’re never going to get into that cockpit again.
These men had the “right stuff.” Their unshakable belief in their ability to control their destiny set them apart from other men. You may not be flying planes, but you too can stop being a victim, strap into the cockpit, and take control of your life.
Psychologist Julian Rotter compiled this list comparing the traits of those who have either an internal or external locus of control or its influence on behavior. The list is worth printing out in full to see if one might recognize themselves within the bullet points.

Those with an internal locus of control:
■Are confident that they can be successful.
■Tend to be leaders (leading those with an external locus of control).
■Exhibit greater control over their behavior.
■Seek to learn as much as they can.
■Take personal responsibility for their actions.
■Deal with challenge and stress better.
■Use challenges to come out stronger than before.
■Thrive in the midst of change.
■Are less likely to submit to authority.

Those with an external locus of control:

■Feel like they’re a victim.
■Are quick to blame everyone but themselves.
■Want to be led by others.
■Avoid responsibility.
■Are more prone to stress, anxiety, and depression
Those with an internal locus of control are achievement-oriented and more likely to find academic and professional success. Because they believe they’re in control of their destiny, they’re eager to tackle challenges, while those with an external locus of control are apt to say “Why bother? It doesn’t matter what I do anyway.”
Additionally, Dr. Siebert, author of the Resiliency Advantage, argues that “both sets of beliefs are self-validating and self-fulfilling. People who believe that their fate is under the control of outside forces act in ways that confirm their beliefs. People who know they can do things to make their life better act in ways to confirm their beliefs.”
Any takers for which traits have hold on your psych. Read the whole series for enlightenment or if needed, a little backbone inplant surgery.

Read more:
Resilency Part III: Taking Control of Your Life

Staying with this theme, in an ironic sense of timing, comes this post from Steve DeAngelis, the pen and mind behind Enterprise Resilience Blog who writes about the importance of education in preparing today's youth for the future. He begins:
Antoine de Saint-Exupery (1900-1944), whose most famous work was The Little Prince, once wrote: "As for the future, your task is not to foresee it, but to enable it." Enable it for whom? The answer, of course, is for the next generation and those that follow. The next 40 years, however, are especially critical because the global population is expected to increase by nearly 50 percent before it peaks. The Financial Times recently ran a series of articles about today's young people and what we need to do to enable a better future for them. One of the articles notes that "young people in the developing world are coming of age in greater numbers than ever before" ["Seizing opportunity now will make the world fairer and safer," by Justin Yifu Lin and Wendy Cunningham, 29 January 2010]. Lin, who is chief economist and senior vice-president, development economics at the World Bank, and Cunningham, who is coordinator of the World Bank’s Children and Youth Program, assert that a window of opportunity exists that will make or break the future depending on what the world does
Read more:
The Future Belongs to the Young

As many things that surface in this medium, the thread of resilience weaves a pattern that reminded me of a quote from former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, "We don't accomplish anything in this world alone... and whatever happens is the result of the whole tapestry of one's life and all the weavings of individual threads from one to another that creates something." In that spirit, I call attention to this  post from a few years back by Mark the master of  zenpundit, where he refers to civilizational resilience. Note where that link leads, as you ponder the beauty of this tapestry. Interwoven amid Mark's thoughts are links to other's whose wisdom has graced this blog, John Robb and Thomas PM Barnett. Another name caught my eye when I revisited this post. It was Jacques Barzun who in his 84th year undertook to write From Dawn to Decadence a tome on the past 500 years of Western Civilization's cultural life. It took Barzun nine years to complete this 800+ page survey of history and culture. Today, Dr. Barzun at 102, resides in San Antonio, Texas still resilient, as he noted in an interview for New Yorker Magazine on the eve of his 100th birthday, "Old age is like learning a new profession. And not one of your own choosing." The gist of Dr. Barzun's book is that Western Civilization has taken on traits that seem mirror the description of those with an external locus of control and has reached a point of decadence that no seer can foresee what the future will bring.

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