We have many Factors.
Factors that contribute to things both good and bad, mathematical factors, a Factor Market in economics and the X-factor, that “extra” in extraordinary that help make people like Simon Cowell more famous along with his panellists and participants. But now we have the R-factor. To the best of my knowledge, it was coined in the British escapade against corona. It may also be an epidemiological [another word I have learnt to spell during lockdown] term. However, it has been used to represent the rate of growth of infections. Thus, >1, we are adding infections to yesterday’s number. At 1, we are remaining equal in the number of infections. At <1, we are reducing the number of infections daily.
So, if I look at #EskomSePush at 2 June 2020, I can see at 34,357 cases, an increase of 1,674 overnight, our R-factor is >1. By the way, it was amazingly clever to me that this little voluntary App, when it knew Eskom would be able to supply electricity when no big users were requiring it, switched over to the covid statistics in graphical form, so that we would continue to use the site as a GoTo while loadshedding was postponed.
But I want to use the “R” for something else. Last time I wrote about Contentment in lockdown. This time I want to explore Resilience, and its Resilience-Factor which we’ll term, the R2-factor. My curiosity with this force is that I have observed and experienced many peoples’ ebb and flow with their own resilience in recent times. I want to encourage us as I write.
Resilience is defined as: The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. It comes from the Latin word resiliens which translates: “to rebound, recoil.”
In turn, Capacity is defined as: The ability or power to do or understand something.
In other words, Resilience could be expressed as: The ability or power to recover quickly from difficulties.
Amit Sood, MD, puts it in a way I really like: “Resilience is the core strength you use to lift the load of life.”
The initial definition seems to represent a capacity to and a speed of, recovery. My experience is that the R2-factor is a process and not a jump. It is a learned process which becomes a capacity at different levels for each of us in different situations. My sense as I watch it work out in peoples’ lives is that for some it is so mature and empowering that it has become a natural part of their character and, as a trait, becomes their ability to recover as quickly as possible from adversity of many kinds… in focus right now is Lockdown, and perhaps covid itself for some of us.
I believe it is what Nelson Mandela was talking about when he writes:
Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.
Let’s peel an onion as we explore the R2-factor. The layers are:
Physical: All those years ago, watching Bruce Fordyce in the early morning winning the Comrades Marathon many times is imprinted on my memory. I tried my own marathon, the inaugural Nashua Marathon, in 1984. Still, with an occasional ache in my right thigh, my estimation of Bruce took on tangible admiration! Over and over, the commentator spoke about Bruce’s determination, his focus, his guts and his strategic competitiveness to win. If we just stopped here, you’d get the picture of the R2-factor in physical form.
Emotional: I have recently watched a family suffer the grief of losing a son and brother to a heart attack. I have watched them descend into grief and mourning with all the emotion that goes with it occasion by occasion. The emotion is often as visible as Physical resilience as it cuts etches in the faces of the grieving. I know, I was one of them. But I have also watched the R2-factor come into play and the same people come to grips with their pain felt for a loved one. Slowly but surely, they have each “lifted the load of life” to full capacity; pained but not broken.
Mental: If you’ve ever written an exam, accepted criticism from your boss, absorbed correction gracefully when you were wrongfully accused, or borne the pain of depression and rallied only to lapse back again – some normal life occurrences for many of us – then you have experienced the R2-factor. Sometimes this is a very personal and even invisible [to others] journey and other times you “wear your heart on your sleeve” and others notice “you’re down.” Voices pulsate in your mind and we know the prefrontal cortex becomes hectic to the point of headaches as we slash away at one thought after another like Attenborough through a jungle. Then, for reasons we will consider below, the mist begins to lift, the rationalisations take root and we begin to rebound from our crazy thoughts. Resilience may be evident on our face and in our posture, but it occurred invisibly in our mind.
Spiritual: If you read about Resilience, few people enter this space. Religion is out of bounds for political correctness. However, I cannot ignore that many of us have beliefs beyond ourselves. Our R2-factor is inextricably tied to our belief in God. But let’s not fool ourselves, as we have been saturated by corona in overloaded news both true and fake and seasoned by conspiracies, we may have experienced a crisis of faith at times. Nicky Gumble of Alpha fame, has messages on YouTube entitled: Coronavirus: Where are you God?/Is there any hope?/God can you hear us?/Faith not fear. Surely, he has prepared these messages because he saw the need in the questions people asked him and he resolved to encourage Resilience.
The onion peeled, I come back to the pervading thought in my Contentment blog: Resilience, like character, is often refined in a crucible. Adversity, like we’re experiencing in this unprecedented way, can be the yeast of our R2-factor. In an excellent article by Faisal Hoque, a contributor to HuffPost, he says, “Resilient people develop a mental capacity that allows them to adapt with ease during adversity, bending like bamboo instead of breaking.” He continues, “I had to learn the art of resiliency to survive and then thrive.” Resilience is not like skipping – you’re up and down but always trying to avoid the sting of the rope. Rather, it’s like climbing a mountain one step at a time and at the top, enjoying the view.
I have often posed the question, Are you thriving or surviving? Or, it’s the latest version, Are you isolating or hibernating?
So, how do we develop the R2-factor?
Pages of theory abound but thank goodness, most of us have some resilience embedded in us to cope with what life throws our way. Shania Twain says, “Life unravels the way it does, and it has an effect on you, but you have to take responsibility for dealing with it.” Frankly, if you’ve coped with Subprime and got this far with covid, you’re already strong!
But here are some thoughts to increase our R2-factor:
This always sounds so trite, so cliched. Our first response to adversity, which normally has an element of surprise anyway, is shock and horror. This can’t be happening…to me…this way…OhhMG! If I therefore have a point, and I’m implying that by making this the Number One builder of Resilience muscles, then you have to deal with the adversity with speed or, at least acknowledge it, as “here to stay”. I’d put to you that the speed with which you embrace adversity is a key indicator of your R2-factor. In fact, most of what I relate below is actually premised on the assumption that first and foremost, we have to embrace sudden change.
Control Everything and Nothing
To be more resilient:
Stop. Doing what you’re doing. Is this matter in or out of your control? Control is that little matter that we all have that makes us feel proudly powerful. Let’s say the Oil price went up from $30 to $80, could you control that? At the moment it is creeping back up, probably a function of reduced supplies and the sense that the pandemic is moving off the list of global threats; did I control that? Of course not!
Think. Get over your shock and patiently think. Face the disruption head-on.
Act. Take one step in the direction of your uncertainty. Let me put this one incredibly simply. Last week I heard the fuel price was going to rise. Before I knew how much and when, I took my car out to fill up; R270 for a ¼ tank but at the cheapest price at which I’ll see Diesel for years. One step… you don’t need to know the future to enter it with circumspection.
Allied to this matter is Julian Rotter’s concept of Locus of Control. Some people, he says, view themselves as essentially in control of the good and bad things they experience — i.e., they have an internal locus of control. This internal locus allows us to create options and scenarios based on experience, the situation, and foresight. It allows us to create alternative plans in anticipation of, or amid adversity. An external Locus of Control simply means we bend with the storm. Circumstances hold our fate and we are incapable of influencing the opposition or its consequences. We sadly may become victims of our fate.
Mary O’Neill reminds us, “Who has not first tried to get out of a tough situation before truly dealing with it?”
Remember Past Successes
Little beats good experience. Did you survive subprime? Then I have confidence in you to survive covid. Success in dealing life builds flexibility and confidence. “If I could do it then, I can do it now”, I hear you say quietly but with a sense of the competence and skills it will take. In you lies GOLD – the resourcefulness, perseverance and willpower that it takes to grit your teeth and be resilient. You lean into the wind spurred by the knowledge that you may not have all the information, but you do have the scars. Success has been defined as: The ability to endure pain. If you’ve watched the recent RMB-sponsored SA Olympic Rowing team, you will understand this is not an exaggeration. A story of courage…on YouTube.
Sensitize Your Expectations
“Perfect” is great. “Enough” often suffices. I think that one of the secrets of thriving is not striving. Per Ardua Ad Astra, my school motto, has a ring to it. After all, By hard work, to the stars is a wonderful expectation. But hard work and obsession with perfection, are two different things. I’m sure in the recent SpaceEx launch, Elon Musk must have had a sense of such achievement as the two astronauts took off, flew for 19 hours and then safely docked with the ISS.
Awesome! But so often unless we set those kind of expectations and then pull them off, we become despondent and incapacitated. Elon Musk has been trying for decades to do what he has just done and wants to inhabit Mars in his lifetime. He may still. But he has tried and failed and disappointed more shareholders repeatedly than many other global CEO’s.
I’m not suggesting you give up or lower your standards. But I am saying that you need to be sensitive to the unrealistic. Instead of motivating, un-realism can cripple the enterprise that lies within you. Just be sensitive and be kind – to others and to yourself. Remember the saying, Laugh at yourself? Just have one on you; it’s okay.
Look True North
There is a space and a direction to which each of us aspire. Be Yourself and live your dreams is really cute, but it implies that in your journey to the place you decide, with the values you espouse, with the mistakes and successes you manage, you keep looking forward and up. True North is scientific, but it was used by Stephen Covey in his books to be the niche of time, direction and integrity you decide for yourself. It is not self-centred; it is self-generated. It incorporates others from the closest to the furthest of the reach and range of your life. But when you find your True North, no other direction makes long-term sense for you. For some, like Elon, it is space exploration and Tesla to boot. For others it is being a good mother to your children and husband to your wife.
Live with Destiny
What is it that pulses in your veins? What gets you up and going in the morning? What points you at and through a problem? What causes you to celebrate with humility on the other side? What has driven you to put in a hard day’s work this lockdown even though your boss cannot watch you? What makes you better today, even though you may feel you failed dismally yesterday? Then, what makes you confident that SA will survive this pandemic? What makes you be part of that solution? What news do you listen to that encourages you to believe and go on intentionally?
Destiny and it’s bedfellows, Meaning and Purpose, is what does that for you and I. They make the difference between “have to” and “want to”. They lift your eyes, your innate sense of wholeness, wellness, and hope to press on. You see, Resilience comes from within. Whether it is physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual resilience, the R2-factor always has its genesis within you. Others may support but ultimately the power of how you react, what language you use, what you choose to do and for what reason, lies within you. Nothing like a sense of Destiny, creating monuments you may never see, drives you to look at and look through adversity. My level of R2-factor will always and only be in proportion to my sense of meaning in and to the world.
No man is an island, the saying goes. You don’t need lots of friends and family to feel supported. You may know many people, but you only need a few to really know you so that you have support. After the inner spirit of the Destiny above, why this need for others’ support? Because, if we have lived, we know there are times we need a friend. I’m not going to say more than this…to my dear Family and Friends, how grateful I am that you are there and that in the busyness of your life you make the time to know me. Patiently you listen, kindly you often speak, and always you encourage and motivate me. You are a huge part of my R2-factor.
The R2-factor – in Conclusion
There is so much more to say about our new-found factor, the R2-factor of Resilience. Perhaps Arthur Lynch captures its simplicity in these words:
The future seems a little gloomy! Go to bed early, sleep well, eat moderately at breakfast; the future looks brighter. The world’s outlook may not have changed, but our capacity for dealing with it has. Happiness, or unhappiness, depends to some extent on external conditions, but also, and in most cases chiefly, on our own physical and mental powers. Some people would be discontented in Paradise, others… are cheerful in a graveyard.
In my research for this blog, I came across a questionnaire about Resilience. You may find it interesting to complete for yourself…
A survey conducted by Everyday Health, in partnership with The Ohio State University, found that 83 percent of Americans believe they have high levels of emotional and mental resilience. In reality, only 57 percent scored as resilient. – https://www.everydayhealth.com/wellness/resilience/get-your-resilience-score
It feels to me like lockdown is making way for normality. There is a huge amount of opening up and then hard work to recover completely. Many pundits put “years” to that timeline. Subprime did take 2 years [2008-2009] to reach the bottom, then 2 years [2010-2011] to recover but, from 2012 to Q12020, the developed world enjoyed significant prosperity across many countries even though the scars of some were still apparent going into covid.
We must believe that we will find our R2-factor as a nation. We will recover.
I finish with two quotes:
And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.
I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat.