1 Using your strengths
As you saw in Week 4, Australian nurse and psychologist Lyn Worsley, of the Resilience Centre in New South Wales, noted the protective ‘effects of positive emotions in resisting stress’ (Worsley, 2015, p. 72) and the ‘interaction of the strongest available [external] contexts significantly contribut[ing] to personal resilience by outweighing the negative effects of […] adversity (2015, p. 73).’ She particularly stressed the importance of supporting engagement, not withdrawal, during difficult times (Worsley, 2015).
Of course this may not be possible at all times, but it is useful to have in mind as an aspiration.
To draw further on Worsley’s concepts, during a stressful time, having a good appreciation of your skills and taking enjoyment from using them is a source of pleasure, for example. Further, it can strengthen your self-esteem, your sense of who you are and what you enjoy, and remind yourself of your self-efficacy, for example, all inner characteristics which impact on resileience. Appreciating your mastery and the skill itself, coupled for example with strong community links and networks – a second external source of strength – then becomes a stronger combination. Both are environments where you feel supported, feel able to reach out, to engage and be responded to – reminding you that areas where this may be more problematic are not the whole.
These are only two of the possible combinations. Worsley emphasises the protective importance of interplay and combination. For example, drawing on your strong self-esteem and your strong friendships when things seem bleaker on the external fronts can be an effective tactic.
In our spider’s web grids, you have been assessing the areas in which you have strengths or take pleasure, to identify future possibilities and priorities.
As the international athletes stressed in Week 6, it is all to play for, nothing is fixed, and you can choose which of the elements you want to focus on. Whatever the external context, choices to choosing a positive attitude, develop your self-esteem or catch and stop negative self-talk – make a significant difference.
Activity 1 Considering your present and future
Part 1 Where are you now?
First spend some time gathering together your notes during the course, and your spider’s web grid from Weeks 4, 5, 6 and 7.
Take time to notice the progress you have already made over the last few weeks. How do you feel about any actions you have taken?
So far on the spider’s web grid you have been marking where you feel you are now on each of the elements. You will be looking back at these, but also looking forward to where you would like to be, and noting thoughts on these in an outer ring on the grid.
Look at your spider’s web grid and find your three highest rated elements.
Identify one way in which you could strengthen these areas to support your goals.
Part 2 Where would you like to be?
Now consider where you would like to be on each of the elements of the spider’s web diagram. How far ahead is it helpful for you to think – three months, or three years ahead? Either is fine but it is useful to acknowledge to yourself whether your plans are a long marathon or a short sprint.
What would a best hope in this timescale look like for each of these elements? What would you like more of in this area? And what less? You could consider what total success in this element would look like – what would you give a 10 to? And next, what would it look like to move two points closer from now towards that? You might want to note down some key words to remind yourself or note a mark. If you mark it on the grid, then these new crosses will form an outer ring, outside the inner ring marking where you currently are.
Some elements will have big gaps between where you are now and where you want to be, while others may already be close to the ideal for you. Would you like to act first on the element where only one small change will get you close to a great place, or to look more closely at those that are probably draining your energies?
Identify one element that you would like to prioritise. Make sure you note any thoughts on what success would look like for you.
As your answer to this question will be personal/only applicable to your own circumstances, there is no discussion for this activity.