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Can we learn resilience?

Read why research suggests resilience is partly a learned set of skills, not just something you're born with.
Man looking into the distance
© Deakin University
Popular culture tells us heroes are special, but resilience research tells us there are plenty of everyday heroes.
Luke Skywalker, the original hero of the Star Wars films, exemplifies what’s known as the hero’s journey. His family and village are destroyed, and he sets off to face unknown tests to restore balance to his life and his community.
He certainly has to be resilient to overcome all the challenges thrown at him.
Film heroes who go on these kinds of adventures often simply crash through with one ingenious stunt after another. Star Wars has plenty of stunts, but it also presents Luke’s adventure as a process of coming to trust his inner voice.
Luke not only learns from the wise master Obi-Wan Kenobi and the earthy Han Solo, but also learns to draw on his own inner strength and resources. He learns to trust ‘the Force’.
This is what psychologists would call developing a sense of ‘self-efficacy’: a confidence in your ability to complete the task at hand. This is a complex skill to learn, but it can be learnt and it’s crucial to developing resilience.
Developing self-efficacy involves learning to focus our attention. It involves learning to set aside those nagging internal voices of self-doubt. It involves learning to reflect on our past successes and failures as guides for future success.

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There’s no proven set of steps or guidebook for learning resilience. However, research is beginning to uncover a linked set of skills and capacities – like self-efficacy – that can open up more resilient responses.
Each of these skills and capacities can be developed and improved. When taken together they enable you to learn important ways to increase resilience in your life.

Your task

‘Use the force, Luke’ – the voice of his mentor that Luke Skywalker hears at crucial moments in his journey – has become a poster, a cliche and a joke. Yet it expresses something important about our ability to overcome the odds when we find our inner resolve.
  • Have there been times in your life where you’ve made decisions based on trusting your inner instinct?
  • What gets in the way of this?
  • What types of skills do we need to develop to help us differentiate between a helpful inner voice and a reckless impulse?
Share your thoughts and stories in the comments and reply to at least one other learner to extend the discussion.
© Deakin University
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