From Resilience to Antifragility – Teaching birds how to fly
This month the topic is something that is mentioned frequently enough to be in everyone’s vocabulary. Resilience is an especially apt discussion point given all the challenges and uncertainty we have faced during the course of the pandemic. Fortunately, there is a less known aspect of resilience that can prove insightful, injecting new energy into the minds of those who are ready to bounce back.
The idea of resilience as an aspect of human behaviour originates from science where it describes the property of a material to resume its original shape after distortion or stress. As humans, we rebuild and we recover, but we also want to learn, grow, aspire and become stronger as a result of uncertainty. We want to become Antifragile.
“Antifragility is beyond resilience or robustness. The resilient resists shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better” – Nassim Taleb.
How do people overcome life’s difficulties and obstacles, especially in a period of distress?
Most people experience a wave of negative emotions varying in intensity between events and individuals, however, they overcome these emotions and adapt to the situation. People have the capacity to bounce back, regain focus and to grow despite adversity. Although there is no quick fix, the truth is resilience involves behaviours, thoughts, actions, and motivation that can be learned and developed in anyone.
How – The Resilience Plan
The Four S’ of Resilience is a tool that allows individuals to draw on resilience sources they have used in the past and to create a plan for tackling adversity in the future. There are two parts to the plan.
In Part A, the individual reflects on a past difficulty they overcame and identifies the Four S’ (supports, strategies, sagacity, and solution-seeking) they drew on in that time:
- What support mechanisms did I rely on?
- What were my strategies?
- What was the wisdom that I drew from?
- How did I seek solutions?
Part B uses those responses to create a plan of resilience for any present or future difficulties.
The beauty of this tool is that the resources identified will always be relevant to the individual. For example, if an individual finds comfort in listening to the same song on repeat, they can include that in their resilience plan,
knowing it will help them. In this way, these resilience plans are highly individualised and thus personally meaningful and useful.
This plan also allows you to become antifragile in that you gain valuable insight into yourself and your strategies, every time you overcome adversity.
A resilient person is capable of standing up in the face of fear and moving forward voluntarily, convinced of their own competence and ability to prevail. The aim is to build up that confidence, by learning from past behaviours, strategies and motivations that have proved to be effective. The aim is to become antifragile.
Something to ponder about:
It is possible that past patterns and strategies ought not to be repeated. However, it is still possible to draw from those experiences and to learn from your mistakes. Flip the system, and make it so that there is more to gain that to lose.
As the story goes in “teaching birds how to fly,” the Harvard ornithological department could explain the mathematics of flight and how birds’ wings work, but the birds do not need to understand that in order to fly. In other words, knowing from experience what is effective or simply identifying what has worked in the past may be the first step to integrating adversity, building momentum and eventually becoming antifragile.
Remember: Having a why is paramount to starting I will. As the philosopher Nietzsche said: “He who has a why can bear any how”. Building your why may be the key to identifying your own resilience plan.
Live it! Love it! Do it!