Developing resilience – that sounds like the sort of thing that can be learned, right?
But why does it need developing, isn’t it something that comes naturally? And, whilst we’re on the subject, what is resilience anyway?
When you think of resilience, most people think of it as being an ability to ‘bounce back’ from difficult situations or to ‘pick yourself up’ when life knocks you down.
Is that what it means? Why do some of us seem to have more of it than others?
I’m not sure resilience would make it into the top three words to describe me (by myself or others) and I’m intrigued by the concept of developing resilience. As an HSP who can sometimes take things to heart, I think this would be a useful skill for me to develop.
It seems I’m not alone as there are a number of courses in this area but one recently caught my eye and I enrolled.
It’s by FutureLearn, a private company wholly owned by the Open University. I’ve taken a number of their courses on various subjects before and really like their format. Lots of videos, not too long, interspersed with articles and links to further information for those who want to go a bit deeper into the subject matter.
This course is ‘Professional Resilience: Building Skills to Thrive’ and it’s short, focused and free. It’s only two weeks long and seems to run every couple of months. I enrolled on the March 2018 course and have just completed it.
So, the question is, is it any good? Will it enable me to build and/or develop my levels of resilience.
Let’s find out.
What does the course set out to do?
In true academic fashion, the course has set ‘learning outcomes’ which is just a fancy way of saying what you should have by the end of it that you didn’t have at the beginning. The course sets out three things you should be able to do by the end of the course:
- Define and explain resilience
- Apply resilience frameworks to your professional career
- Create your own personal resilience plan
Note that it covers both the professional and the personal here in that order – we’ll come back to this shortly.
How is the course structured?
The course is by Deakin University and the main tutor is Associate Professor Marcus O’Donnell. He appears in the videos and if I had one criticism of the course, it’s that I’d like to have seen more of him.
The course lasts two weeks with a further two weeks’ access if you’ve signed up to the free version (which I did).
It states that 3 hours per week are required to complete the course. This is both true and not true. To go through the course, i.e. read the articles and watch the videos doesn’t take this long. But you’re missing out if you do this.
The course is full of links signposting to books, websites and research papers so you can further develop your knowledge if you want to.
There are tasks at the end of most articles and you are encouraged to actively participate by sharing experiences and observations with the other students.
If you choose to do these things (and I recommend that you do), you will easily be able to spend 3 hours a week on the course.
But, as with so much in life, you will get out what you put in so the choice is yours.
I’m not academic – will the course be too much for me?
No. This isn’t school. (can I get a ‘Phew!’?)
The course is broken down into bite-sized chunks that you work through at your own pace. You can see up-front what is coming, whether it’s a video (not more than 5 minutes) or an article.
Articles are written in plain English, are pretty short and to the point. Each video is captioned and has a transcript if you prefer to read and you can work through the whole course at your own pace.
There is no pressure to ‘keep up’ with anyone else. Oh, and don’t be put off by the ‘quizzes’ – three multiple-choice questions for each module. It doesn’t matter if you get them right or not, they aren’t a test.
There’s nothing to be scared or afraid of, there is a lot of information but you just do what you want, when you want.
Give me an idea of the content of the course – what does it actually talk about?
The course opens by immediately setting expectations which is something I appreciate.
It’s made clear from the outset that no single strategy leads to resilience. For me, this was a huge relief because it means there is no pass or fail here, just trial and error.
It also means what works for one person won’t work for another. Some people may find this annoying and vague but for me, it meant there is no right or wrong, you just have to figure out the path for you. Exactly how I like my self-help served!
The cornerstone of the course is to answer the big question, ‘How can we learn to be more resilient?’
The general pattern of the course is to introduce a concept and then get you to reflect on your experience of it.
For example, at the beginning, you are asked to think of examples where you have faced a problem or challenge and dealt with it well. Then you’re asked to think of another example where your reaction perhaps wasn’t as robust as you would have liked.
You’re then invited to share your reflections with the group (the other students on the course). It is made clear that the more you interact with the course and approach it actively, the more you will get out of it.
You don’t have to do this but you are strongly encouraged to and is a strong component of the overall course.
The course questions the conventional idea that resilience is just about ‘bouncing back’ from difficult situations.
Instead, it focuses on the twin concepts of flexibility and adaptability and invites you to think about what would happen if you were more flexible and adaptable in all areas of your life, such as relationship or career.
The course suggests that resilience isn’t just something you’re born with but is something that can be developed through connection with others.
It also introduces other concepts such as ‘self-efficacy’; learning to trust ourselves and in our ability to complete the task at hand.
It also goes on to make clear that isolated, individual activities aren’t what build resilience and goes on to discuss an ‘ecological approach to resilience’.
This post isn’t about recreating the course on a blog so if you’re wondering what on earth this is, then check out the Resilience Research Centre. No, really, do.
The second week starts by introducing the concept of ‘design thinking’ and the idea that we learn by trying out multiple possible solutions before choosing the one we’re going to go with.
This is further explored by the idea a problem can be ‘reframed’ so that it can form part of the solution.
It focuses on the idea that very often the problem we’re trying to fix isn’t necessarily the problem that needs to be solved. ‘Reframing’ is one of a number of tools available to us that we can use to build our resilience toolkit.
It goes on to suggest different mechanisms for achieving this, known as ‘protoyping’, which really just means give something a go and see what works for you.
As in, you build a ‘prototype’ to test with no expectation of it being the finished article. Examples offered include checking out YouTube videos, finding role models and mind-mapping.
Most of the ideas introduced are not necessarily new but are given with new language and context which allows you to approach a familiar idea with fresh motivation.
Huge focus is given to the twin competencies of problem solving and communication, with emphasis on listening in particular.
This segways into discussing mindfulness, sleep and self-care practices with lots of ideas around how to incorporate them into your daily life in a way that works for you.
The course ends with an opportunity to create your own bespoke resilience development plan.
What were the best bits?
- Accessible – no need to be academic and very user-friendly format in bite-sized chunks of learning
- Interactive – lots of people commenting and sharing their experience
- Lots of tasks so that it’s an active learning experience with tangible outcomes
- Large number of links to research, websites and resources to explore subject matter more thoroughly
And the worst?
There really aren’t any ‘bad’ bits. However, if you do decide to get involved with the comments and active conversations, this could take a lot of time and energy.
For anyone who is easily overwhelmed, I’d suggest limiting the frequency and/or duration of how much time you spend on this.
One option may be to find a handful of people who resonate with you and ‘follow’ them so you can filter out large parts of the conversation if it isn’t working for you.
The other thing is I’m really not sure why this course is named ‘Professional’ Resilience.
Although there are odd mentions of how resilience is helpful in the workplace, I didn’t feel that the content particularly reflected any form of ‘professional’ life. Just… life in general, really.
It may be my bias but I actually think the title undermines the content of the course. It’s about developing resilience in all areas of life and I think it would be more helpful and more accurate if the course title reflected that.
What was the biggest takeaway?
Hmm, am I allowed more than one? Good, because I have three.
1. A better understanding of resilience and a recognition that it is a process. It is both a social process that involves connecting with others and a holistic process that affects all areas of our lives.
2. Although viewed different in academia, in a practical ‘living-your-life’ sense, ‘resilience’, ‘flourishing’ and ‘wellbeing’ are pretty interchangeable. I like that. Not least because I’d never really thought of wellbeing as flourishing before. I’d never have connected this to resilience without the course.
3. That you double, perhaps triple, your learning if you read the comments from other students. I don’t want to just copy and paste what others have written without their knowledge but there were two comments that really stood out for me.
The first was around the idea that resilience is something that kicks in when stress and/or trauma affects you temporarily and ‘although becomes a part of your story, it doesn’t become your permanent identity.’
I love this!
The trick will be to remember it when that stress/trauma kicks in and reason goes out the window. But that leads on to the idea captured in the second comment.
That resilience requires life-long learning and work to both build as well as maintain. This person noted that they’d never really thought of resilience as an ongoing effort until now..
There are lots of practical ideas, suggestions and tasks throughout the course. I suspect these would be the big takeaways for many people but these are the three that stood out for me.
Should I enrol?
Yes. If you’re interested in building your resilience then definitely, go for it!
The course is free, offers lots of practical ideas, allows you to connect with like-minded people and only lasts a couple of weeks.
There’s absolutely nothing to lose and a whole lot of knowledge and life-benefit to gain. One thing I would advise is to go through it twice. Trust me, you’ll pick up on things you missed the first time and it will make more sense second time around.
Anything else I need to know?
Almost certainly but I can’t think of anything right now. If I’ve missed something, or you have a burning question, then just ask in the comments below and I’ll answer it there 😊
Overall Course Rating
I think the course title needs to change and a few more videos added in. A couple of the trickier concepts could be broken down further.
But I’m nit-picking.
If developing resilience is a subject you’d like to know more about, this course is a great place to start.
Do you consider yourself a resilient person? What does resilience mean to you? Do you have any questions about it that I didn’t cover above? Let me know in the comments below.