01 Jan Reflections on Solitary Resilience and A New Year

I certainly wanted to stay in the warm bed today, but I knew there is no better morning to enjoy a truly solitary run than New Year’s Day.  It was ten degrees, but I was treated to a golden sunrise – the perfect perspective to be alone with my reflections on the past year, and anticipation for an exciting new year.

It’s easy to think about personal and professional adversity we faced as we reflect on a year’s passing.  We can dwell on the negative, or we can be resilient.  Resilience is the ability to readily return to original form after adversity.  Tapping into our own self-reliance means we use the inevitable adversity of our lives to improve upon the original form.

There is a great deal of scholarship on how we respond to adversity from Paul Stolz, PhD.  He outlined four core dimensions of one’s adversity quotient:

  1. Control:  The extent to which someone perceives they can influence whatever happens next
  2. Ownership:  The likelihood that someone will actually do anything to improve the situation, regardless of their formal responsibilities  
  3. Reach:  The extent to which someone perceives an adversity will ‘reach into’ and affect other aspects of the situation or beyond 
  4. Endurance:  The length of time the individual perceives the situation/adversity will last, or endure.”

Dr. Stolz’ research indicates that pessimists respond to adversity as permanent, pervasive and personal.  Optimists see adversity as temporary, limited, and external.  Given that the one thing we have absolute control over is how we respond to our environment, it makes sense that optimists tap into their own self-reliance whereas pessimists flounder in learned helplessness.

Stolz’s research has much in common with what is know as the Locus of Control.  The concept was developed by J.B. Rotter in the 1950’s (13 item questionnaire), and divides us into having one of two perspectives.  An External Locus of Control holds that behavior is guided by fate, luck, or other external circumstances.  An Internal Locus of Control holds that behavior is guided by personal decisions and efforts.

We all start the year with big plans, but we need periodic solitude to reflect on our progress, and how we’re responding to challenges.  Is our Locus of Control internal or external?  Are we approaching those we wish to influence as realistic optimists, or helpless pessimists?  Are we simply being resilient, or are we using the inevitable adversity to make us better, stronger, and ultimately happier?

Remember, you can’t test your resilience if you don’t leave your comfort zone.


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