Resilience . . . The Growth and Endurance Muscle
“In the current environment of continuous change, it is no wonder that resilience is emerging as one of the most important workplace abilities for both leaders and staff.”
Life is a continuous process of disruption to status quo and reintegration to a new state of equilibrium. This is how growth occurs. Resilience is what enables you to recover, reintegrate and return to a place of healthy stability when life falls apart.
Resilience has two components—what you express outwardly and your internal capacity. How you manage and move through stressful situations is what you express outwardly, which includes the actions you take and the perspective you embrace. Your physical, mental and spiritual stamina defines your internal capacity, which determines your tolerance for stress and your resourcefulness in responding to it.
Resilience builds through progressive practice. The more experience you have working through adversity and difficult challenges, the better equipped you will be to bounce back after experiencing highly stressful events, such as a career set back. Likewise, if you learned to adapt to prior major changes, then you will be prepared to make future transitions. In contrast, if you fail to cope or resist change, your ability to move through future transitions will be diminished. In the current environment of continuous change, it is no wonder that resilience is emerging as one of the most important workplace abilities for both leaders and staff.
A measure of your resilience muscle is how long it takes to shift from a negative to a positive state of mind after a disruption to your status quo.
There are several approaches you can take to facilitate this shift:
1. Look at your immediate situation in the context of a broader frame of reference. This will help to make periods of uncertainty and discomfort more tolerable. You have probably heard the expression, “this too will pass.” What you are going through is a moment in time and need not last forever. Focus on positive possibilities that are beyond this moment. Pushing for certainty and stability prematurely can lead to wrong choices that keep you stuck, worsen your situation, or deepen your painful emotions.
2. Verbally express what you are feeling, and if you need it, ask for support. Acknowledging the situation, as well as the emotions and vulnerability you feel, without a sense of hopelessness, blame, or self-judgment is a very important aspect of resilience. You can’t resolve what you don’t acknowledge; you can’t let go of what you can’t forgive. For most business circumstances, withholding blame and judgment means there is nothing to forgive—the situation is what it is—and that makes letting go much easier.
3. Focus and take action on what you can control, rather than stressing over what you can’t control. For example, sometimes demonstrating more positive behaviors toward your manager, co-worker, or staff member can significantly improve how they behave toward you.
4. Be intentional about what you look for because that is what you will see and experience. The more open and objective you are, the easier it will be to see the opportunities in whatever you experience.
You don’t have to wait until you encounter a stressful event to develop your resilience muscle. There are many things that you can do on a daily basis to strengthen your stamina. I recently attended a resilience seminar for leaders at the Resilience Institute in Commeire, Switzerland, and here are a few tips that I learned:
> When it comes to your health, consistency is paramount. Eating healthy foods, exercising, and getting enough sleep came as no surprise. However, it was surprising to learn that inconsistent sleep patterns keep you in a constant state of jet lag. For example, when you go to bed later and allow yourself to sleep in on the weekends, you will experience jet lag symptoms the following week when you have to return to an earlier wake up time. It is much better to get up at the same time everyday and take naps if needed to catch up on sleep.
> Create daily routines that you can stick to for at least 30 days so they become habits. For example, even ten minutes of simple morning balance, flexibility and stretch exercises will go a long way in waking up your body and nurturing your physical vitality. Moderate what you eat by using smaller plates, eat slower, or stop eating when you are 80 percent full.
> Focus your attention on your breathing for at least a minute every hour. If you need an invigorating lift, inhale and exhale quickly through your nose one or two times per second for a few seconds. If you need to relax, inhale through your nose slowly as you feel your abdomen rise, hold for a few seconds and then exhale slowly through your mouth. If you need to increase your concentration, don’t try to influence your breathing, just be conscious of how your breath flows with each inhale and exhale. Count your breaths on the exhale up to 15, 30, 60, or even 100.
Taking any of the above approaches to an extreme, such as expressing your feelings in the form of endless complaining, can actually block your resilience. Remember, resistance is the antithesis of resilience. If you feel stuck or are struggling with a transition, you may be resisting your current situation too much or still be suffering from a prior one. To move forward, either confront and resolve, or let go…then take a deep breath and exhale slowly.
Cindy Petitt is an executive coach and management consultant. She has conducted studies on factors that help and hinder the advancement of women to executive levels in male dominant corporate environments. She also conducts workshops for women on topics such as personal presence, communicating with influence, and leadership; and workshops for men and women on gender differences.