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This article continues our series on resilience and looks at the skill of reasoning. As a recap, the six skills areas that help build and maintain resilience are:

Vision – Like a compass, providing purpose and direction Composure – Managing emotions related to stress Reasoning – Problem-solving Tenacity – Persevering, learning from successes and setbacks Collaboration – Reaching out for support Health – Maintaining healthy habits

Reasoning involves making sense of problem situations and thinking through what needs to be done to find a solution. By maintaining composure the thinking part of our brain, (the smart brain) can do what it is designed for – thinking clearly, assessing the level of risk or challenge, being resourceful, considering options and working out what needs to be done. By slowing down and taking time to reflect on these steps, the smart brain is able to take a helicopter view of the situation, rather than jump to conclusions.

Making sense of situations Our lives are like a story that is being written, with a plot and characters; it also has themes that involve important questions, such as: who am I? what is my place in the world? and what does this mean for my future? These questions and the answers that we come up with form our own narrative. While growing up, it’s likely that we formed conclusions about these questions. The early conclusions that we formed become part of our own view of the world. These conclusions are called core assumptions and beliefs.

Thinking flexibly The author, Carol Dweck, wrote about two types of mindsets - fixed mindset and growth mindset. People with a fixed mindset generally like things to stay the same. They operate more according to a “things should be a certain way” type of thinking. People with a growth mindset tend to follow more of a “how could things be” approach.

The fixed mindset is good at maintaining order and stability, and certainly, there are many areas of life where this is not only beneficial but needed (e.g. obeying road rules, respecting social customs, being organised to get things done, taking care in risky situations). The growth mindset sees opportunity in change. The reality of the world that we live in is one of constant change, whether we like it or not. The key is to recognise whether change or stability is needed, based on the context of the situation.

Being able to challenge our own assumptions can help identify whether we are looking at the situation through the lens of the past or from the present. This is the key to being able to think flexibly through problem situations and, if needed, change how we respond.

Anticipate and prevent In considering solutions, reasoning can also involve visualising alternative scenarios. This also helps to test our expectations about what is possible and reasonable - a reality check. It also helps to plan for obstacles and how to get around them.

By combining reasoning with composure, we use both our cognitive intelligence and our emotional intelligence. This will maximise the likelihood of making the types of decisions and choices that lay down a positive track record for dealing with life situations. This, in turn, builds up good habits associated with thinking and working through the inevitable challenges of life.

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