What is resilience?
Here’s the textbook answer:
1. The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.
2. The ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity.
When you hit an obstacle or challenge in your life how well do you spring back?
Resilience is the ability to recover and bounce back from adversity and hardships, feeling stronger and more capable to cope than ever before. In today’s volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world being resilient is a key to your success.
Here are my top 6 tips that are a great starting point for building long-term resilience:
1. Know who you are
Knowing who you are and having a level of self-confidence play a key role in helping you to cope with stress. Understanding yourself is one of the first things that we teach leaders. This means reminding yourself of your strengths and the things that you have achieved (not just concentrating on the things you haven’t). Think about a time when you have handled a difficult situation or crisis – what things do you think you did well? The more confident you are about your own ability to deal with challenges means that you will tackle issues head on and continue to build more resilience in the future. Challenges can be seen as learning or losing – It's just a matter of how you choose to see them and how much confidence you have to overcome them. The key with knowing who you are is complete honesty with yourself. There is no point in fooling yourself and trying to be someone you really aren’t.
A snippet of the poem ‘Man in the glass’ by Dale Wimbrow sums this up rather nicely.
“You can fool the whole world down the pathway of years, and get pats on the back as you pass, but your only reward will be heartache and tears if you‘ve cheated the man in the glass”
2. Smash the glass of negativity
Is your glass half full or half empty? Staying positive during challenging situations can be difficult but it is important to maintain helpful thinking. Being an optimist does not mean being naive and ignoring stuff. It means understanding that challenges/bad times don’t last for ever – they are transient and you have the skills and abilities to tackle them (sometimes with a little help from others – see point 6). There is a risk during challenging periods that you fall into a pessimistic loop. You start to believe that everything is bad and fail to see the good. This is about choosing how to react. For more on this see my previous article on changing thinking. Much is debated within the topic of resilience but it is widely agreed that how you choose to react to situations and having a helpful or optimistic perspective will most certainly lead you in a more helpful or positive direction.
3. Choose emotional control
Having a good level of emotional intelligence (being emotionally aware, recognising how you react in certain situations and considering how your reaction can affect other people) will help you to take more self-control of your emotions. Here are a few helpful tips:
Observe how you react to different people. Do you rush to judgment before you know all of the facts? Do you stereotype? What are your biases? Look honestly at how you think and interact with other people. Try to put yourself in their place, and be more open and accepting of their perspectives and needs.
Look at your work/life/social environment. Do you seek attention for your accomplishments? Humility can be a wonderful quality, and it doesn't mean that you're shy or lack self-confidence. When you practice humility, you say that you know what you did, and you can be quietly confident about it. Give others a chance to shine – put the focus on them, and don't worry too much about getting praise for yourself. This is a definite trait of true leadership.
Self-evaluate (and do it honestly). What are your weaknesses? Are you willing to accept that you're not perfect and that you could work on some areas to make yourself a better? Or, you could choose to not waste energy trying to change to something that you are not (see point 1). Have the courage to look at yourself honestly – it can change your life. Remember that sometimes ‘good enough is just that’.
Analyse how you react to stressful situations. Do you become angry or frustrated every time there's a hiccup or something doesn't go quite how you planned it? Do you blame others, the cat, and the weather? Do you become angry, even when it's nobody else’s fault? The ability to stay calm and in control in challenging scenarios is a highly valued trait – both in the business world and outside it (sport for example). Don’t forget that one of the body’s internal chemical systems actually shuts the logical part of the brain down during fight or flight mode – learn to recognise when this happens.
Take responsibility for your actions. If you hurt someone's feelings, apologise directly – don't ignore your actions or avoid them. People are usually more willing to forgive and move on if you make a genuine attempt to make it right. Before you take any action – THINK – how will it affect others.
4. All Change, all change
We operate in Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous times. The world of work (and many aspects of our personal lives) is full of change as organisations constantly reorganise, restructure, venture into new markets, create new products and services, and remove others in an effort to retain a competitive advantage. The pace and frequency of this change can sometimes leave people bewildered, insecure, uncertain and resentful.
“I like change!” “I loathe change!” Sound familiar? It’s not the case that we are born this way. Instead, individually we respond to change based on the degree to which we invited it to happen and the benefit vs. loss we associate with the change. Being positive about change is a really good way to help develop resilience. You cannot control or change every circumstance; however, you can absolutely change your attitude. You can find more on this here changing thinking.
Being rigid doesn’t work too well in today’s world. Flexibility is the key and will enable you to manage change more effectively. By learning how to be more adaptable in different situations you are taking the pressure off yourself (and your team) because you are not relying solely on plan A. Don’t forget that if plan A doesn’t work there are 25 other letters in the English alphabet. Taking an agile approach (particularly to things like project management) makes you much better equipped to respond to challenges you experience. While some people may crumble when hit by abrupt changes, highly resilient people and teams are able to adapt and push forward.
5. Have courageous conversations
The ability to tackle difficult conversations is a key skill for developing resiliency. When having difficult conversations it is important to maintain a level of empathy and to be very clear on what the conversation is about – i.e. what is the real issue. Ensure that you back up your stance with evidence and facts and present your points in a clear, calm way and always ensure that you are looking for solutions to issues and not just moaning or criticising.
For more information on this topic here is a great article How to have courageous conversations
6. Love yourself and make real social connections
Learn to treat your body and mind well. If you had a beautiful Aston Martin car you probably wouldn’t choose to top it up with vegetable oil so why not make the same choice for your own engine? After all, your body and mind is an amazing machine.
To stay in tip top condition ensure that you get enough exercise, natural light, good food and are well hydrated. In addition, the importance of social interaction should not be forgotten. By this I mean real social interaction and not just via a screen on social media. Sometimes we find strength in numbers. Building your network of key relationships is a very useful support/safety net in tough times (both physically and mentally).
Resilient people with high vitality demonstrate great flexibility, high energy, and mental agility and consistently perform at their highest level. They have strong relationships and support networks that help them to amplify their productivity and results.
Remember to keep going!
If you would like more information or help with building resilience then click here I want to build resilience