Resiliency and leadership coach Wendy Ward is one of the many diverse speakers who has been selected to present at the fourth Psychology Festival of Festival of Learning, which takes place in less than a week at both SACAP’s Cape Town and Johannesburg campuses.
Inspired by a vision to build the capacity in others to see, perceive, act, be, create and lead in the world in a new and more resilient way, Ward refers to herself alternately as a ‘natural success strategist’, an ‘initiator’ and an ‘alchemist’. We spoke to her about what to expect from her forthcoming workshop…
Q: What is resilience? What are some of the key characteristics of resilient people?
A: Resilience is often referred to as the ability to bounce back from adversity; as a kind of steeliness or lack of vulnerability. But the new wave of thinking on resilience infers the ability to ‘bounce beyond’ – to not just survive adversity but to be transformed positively by it. It suggests that resiliency contains an element of regeneration. Resilient people are able to adapt to challenges without compromising their sense of purpose. They know when to reach out and also when to reach in – in other words, they know how to seek support as well as how to manage their own resources, time and energy. They seek to enhance their skills rather than fix their weaknesses, to embrace change rather than to resist it.
Q: Why is resilience so vital in today’s world?
A: Socially, politically and economically, the world we live in is one of perpetual change, challenge and adversity – and all of it taking place at break-neck speed. A pervasive sense of uncertainty – even fear – is the result. A lot of people think that resilience is simply about coping, but resilience is really about managing one’s energy in a new way for new times. When we lack resilience we are effectively living in survival mode – relentlessly pushing on yet unable to see a wider perspective; existing, in other words, in a state of reactivity as opposed to one of creativity.
Q: Is resilience an inherent trait? Or can it be learned?
A: Research is increasingly showing that the idea that one is born a leader is outdated. Resiliency can indeed be learned. Furthermore, studies show that resilience is in fact a natural part of our ecology – in other words, that we have a natural propensity to be resilient.
Q: What are some of the practical ways in which we can we can increase our resiliency?
A: I developed the Presilience Framework (resilience + brilliance + presence) as a means of mapping one’s resiliency in 10 key fields: physical, organisational, social, emotional, mental, the self and the shadow, creative, financial, spiritual and evolutionary. In my work with clients, we look at harnessing awareness in these ten resiliency fields. So, for instance, if resiliency was mapped on a pyramid, the somatic realm – things like nutrition, exercise and sleep – would occupy the base layer, with the importance here falling on the ability to be mindful of how one’s body communicates. By contrast, organisational resilience is more strategic in application – we look at creating a vision, planning and prioritising, for instance. Spiritual resiliency is an interesting one – we know that resilient people very often have a strong sense of meaning and purpose. Here we look at establishing ‘who you are’ – after all, how can we talk about coming back to yourself when you don’t have a sense of self? And evolutionary resiliency is another fascinating field. This is where we examine ways of completely letting go of the ego – removing the constructs or lenses through which we see the world – in order to tap into a greater collective intelligence where we no longer use rational means to make decisions but, instead, learn to trust our intuition.
Q: So, essentially, the move to become more resilient is a move to identity with a more creative orientation?
A: Yes, or, to use alchemical terminology, it’s about making volatile what’s fixed in our thinking, attitudes and very being so that we can establish a new level of creativity, and then to fix that new awareness through our own choosing. It takes as its premise the understanding that we are 100 percent responsible for our own lives and it is focused on vision and end results with the elimination of all those things on the peripheries of our lives – all those distractions – that remove attention from our conscious choices. And resilience really is the basic ingredient to happiness and success.
Hosted by the South African College of Applied Psychology, the Psychology Festival of Learning takes place from 8 to 12 September and seeks to bring together professionals, students and the broader community in an environment that facilitates the exploration of the many facets of psychology, counselling and coaching. Anyone is free to attend. Find out more about the programme of events and book your place.