The (Updated) Resilient Mindset Model
The unpredictable nature of today’s world demands resiliency. To be successful, we have to be able to respond to challenge quickly and decisively. The big issues of today– poverty, war, climate change– and the small, everyday issues—overextended schedules, illnesses– require a new way of thinking, one that needs to be learned. In order to address these challenges, we need to intentionally build resilient mindsets.
The Resilient Mindset Model serves as a framework for understanding the brain in order to help people make mindfully resilient choices. Mindfulness is the focusing of attention and awareness. The idea behind the model is that by becoming consciously aware of what is happening in the brain, we are empowered to make more mindful, intentional choices. As you read through this, refer back to the visual of the model, found on our home page (www.centerforresilientleadership.com).
The Resilient Mindset model has three main parts.
The Four Ss of Resilience:
Resilience is our response to any challenge.
Our response to any challenge (resilience) is based on the way that we think about four Ss, which are found on the dragonfly’s wings:
Self: Who we are and what we stand for, (victim or survivor?)
Situation: Our understanding of the challenge itself, (challenge or tragedy?)
Supports: Who we can go to for help, and
Strategies: The action(s) we take.
The reality of those Four Ss is irrelevant. Our resilience is based on the way that we think about them.
We can use those Four Ss as a framework to prepare for, handle, and reflect on any challenge. This use of that framework offers our brain a consistent map support the formation of more resilient brain pathways.
The Four Characters of the Brain & REACTS
We think of decisions as good or bad. Our brain thinks of them as long term vs. short term.
In their book, Out of Character, David DeSteno and Piercarlo Valdesolo, two psychologists from Boston, conclude that when we are deciding how to respond to challenges, we rely on two competing factions within our brain, one that is focused on short-term survival and one that is focused on future success. They refer to these factions as the ant (long-term thinking) and the grasshopper (short-term thinking).
Why the ant and the grasshopper? In Aesop’s fable, The Ant & The Grasshopper, the ant spends all of his time preparing for the coming winter, storing food, preparing shelter, etc, while the grasshopper spends his summer singing, playing and generally goofing off.
The ant lives in the cortex/ frontal lobe and is in charge of our long term decisions: going to the doctor, studying for the text, waking up to exercise. He carries the tools for optimum brain performance: social interaction (walkie-talkie), rest (sleeping bag), nutrition (banana), exercise (hiking boots), learning frameworks (map), focus (binoculars), compassion, pride, & gratitude (merit badge). When those are in place, we are better able to make decisions that benefit us in the long term. The ant can only work for short periods of time (half-hour) without a break.
The grasshopper lives in the limbic system and is in charge of our short-term decisions/ short-term survival. He doesn’t care what happens in the future; he is only concerned about what is happening right now. The grasshopper is fast and strong.
The glowworm lives in the amygdala, a special part of the limbic system that is in charge of looking out for threats. When she sees an immediate threat, her job is to automatically switch control of the brain from the ant to the grasshopper, who can get us out of the way of danger.
The brain interprets physical threat and social threat in the same way, so REACTS is an acronym that outlines the social threats and rewards to the brain. When any one of those threats is present (respect, equity, alliances, control, territory, or similarity), the glowworm responds in the same way- switching control of the brain from the ant to the grasshopper for fight/flight mode.
The dragonfly lives in the prefrontal cortex, which house our executive functions. She serves as the “CEO” of the brain and is in charge of mindfulness, self-awareness and situational awareness. She is also in charge of understanding when to feed the grasshopper and when to feed the ant and when to override the glowworm. She has the Four Ss on her wings because she uses them to guide her choices in response to challenge.