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Comprehensive Airman Fitness: Resiliency

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Erika Kelley
  • 92nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron Commander
Resiliency is a term we have heard a lot lately and also a quality that people need as they meet the challenges of constant deployments and difficult life situations. Being resilient is having the ability to successfully manage challenges and to learn and grow from the process of overcoming them. The better our resiliency skills are, the more we will be able to tackle life's difficulties.

There are many different ways to overcome problems, and depending on individual preferences, each person may take a different path to find the most positive outcome for them. Resiliency is not something that everyone is perfect at. It is a learned behavior that develops with use and practice. 

In the Air Force, we focus on being balanced in the four pillars of fitness that help everyone become more resilient. Physical fitness helps manage stress levels and keeps our bodies functioning in top shape. Mental fitness helps us remain positive and strong even in the face of difficult situations. Social fitness ensures we have a helping network around to support us so we are not alone during those difficult times. Finally, spiritual fitness ensures that we maintain a sense of purpose in our lives. These four broad categories are areas that should be worked on each day to become more well-rounded and able to adapt to difficulty. When a specific problem arises, how does one tackle it? What steps do we take to deal with the situation in a resilient way?

 In the book, "Managing at the Speed of Change," Darryl Conner discusses different types of people and the most resilient are called opportunity-oriented people. These people have the strongest build in resilience and are able to cope with distress and change with the most favorable outcome. He describes five characteristics of resiliency which these opportunity-oriented people have that can help us all become more resilient. By focusing on these five characteristics while we face difficulty, they can help us respond successfully to the situation. 

Be positive: Having a sense of security and self assurance can help view life as complex but filled with opportunity. When dealing with something negative or difficult, look to the future and find solutions that are opportunities rather than hopeless situations. 

Be focused: Have a clear vision of what you want to achieve and set your sights on it. Don't let barriers or distractions get in your way. When you remain focused, you can evaluate the circumstances and choose the best direction to go with in an adverse situation.

Be flexible: There may be more than one way to tackle the problem at hand, and looking at different possibilities may help determine the best solution or way ahead. Believing that change is manageable and finding empowerment during change is key. Reaching out for help when the situation seems overwhelming is part of being flexible.

Be organized: Having a structured approach to dealing with adversity can help analyze the process and find all required steps. Organization can also help when managing several difficult tasks at once and improves our ability to change priorities when necessary. Being organized can also help with seeing all parts of a situation and recognizing when to ask for help if there is too much to deal with alone.

Be proactive: Be part of the change rather than fighting against it. Sometimes change happens when we aren't looking for it but being proactive and using resources to find new approaches and reframe the situation may help with creating a positive response. By investing energy into solving the problem and using teamwork, some positive change may come out of a negative situation.

No one is perfectly opportunity-oriented and most of us require some help to move toward this mindset. Fortunately, being in the Air Force, there are many agencies and organizations available to us and our families that will help us develop these skills. Family, friends, and Wingmen are often the first ones we turn to when facing a difficult situation. Working together often offers a better resolution to making the difficult times easier to overcome.

When there are more complex or targeted issues to overcome, many base agencies have specific roles in which they can help. The Airman and Family Readiness Center, the Chapel, Mental Health and Family Advocacy are great places to start if you feel you need some guidance or have questions. Any of these agencies can help you determine the best direction for the needs you have. Let these agencies help you on your road to resiliency. No one can do it alone and the more we work together as Wingmen, the stronger we will all become.