What a Hill and the Beatles Tell You About Resiliency!

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The Beatles sang about a fool on a hill. Day after day, all alone, the fool stands. While I don’t believe the Beatles had any intention to tie this song to resiliency, it does speak to something very important. If you work in an organization or coach a team and want people to be more resilient, the fool on the hill provides insight. When we face challenges and demands, we don’t want to be alone on a hill. Here is why.

It matters if we face challenges alone or with others. Researchers decided to test this conclusion. They conducted a study in which a person stood in front of a hill alone and estimated the steepness of  the hill. Then they had the person go to the hill accompanied by a friend and something surprising happened. When the friend was present, standing three feet away, facing the other way and not talking, the person estimated the hill to be 10-20% less steep than when he or she was alone looking at the hill. In other words, just the presence of another person made the hill seem less steep. Thus,  when you face challenges and difficulty, just the presence of another person buffers your stress and builds resiliency. The presents of another person helps you see the challenges of life as less daunting.

And there is more, even when the person was asked to just think of a supportive friend during an imaginary task, the same thing occurred. They saw the hill as less steep. The take home here is that the support from a good quality relationship helps us face challenges and stay resilient. When you include others and don’t go it alone, hills and mountains look easier to climb.

Our perception of the world is altered when meaningful people accompany us on the journey. The importance of social connection cannot be overstated. So if you are alone and isolated, you need to find someone with whom to do life. Don’t be the fool on the hill, alone, seeing the sun go down (more lyrics from the Beatles). Grab a friend, go for coffee, invite someone to dinner and build meaningful friendships. But know, it is the quality of the relationship that matters. So you may have to work at developing friendships.

Next time you are tempted to retreat to your office, close the door and isolate from others, think about how this might be impacting your resiliency and stress. It might be time to venture out to the coffee pot, talk to that person in the office down the hall or talk to someone who appears friendly! If you are really stressed, imagine a true friend doing the task with you.

Finally, if you are a person of faith, think of the God’s presence. He’s not an imaginary friend, but a true friend. You don’t ever have to be the fool on the hill, alone, seeing the sun go down! His presence is powerful and a great help to facing life stress. He is a resiliency factor!

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