We are living in turbulent times, characterised by uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity, paradox and unpredictability. These are the norms. We all need a way to move with it and through it. That way is called “Resilience”.
I wrote a few days ago here my reflections on Peter Greste who emerged from an Egyptian prison physically, mentally and spiritually fit. He is a real life example of what resilience is.
It is not, however, a quality needed only by those who put themselves into life/death risky situations. It is needed by all of us who live and work in this world where disruption is a frequent interloper. But, how do we become the resilient professional able to develop that inner psychological strength that will see us able to ride any wave and bounce back from any adversity.
Highly motivated professionals know they need to keep themselves physically fit if they are to stay on top of their game and work at the cutting edge. Many go to the gym to do this. Developing resilience is mind or brain gym, keeping ourselves mentally fit by exercising, strengthening and stretching it until it can withstand almost anything.
Resilience does not begin with Strategies. It begins with YOU. To be resilient you need to make changes in yourself.
1. Develop self-awareness- so you know what’s stopping you from being resilient.
The more you know and understand yourself, the more empowered you will feel. When you become aware of what challenges and threatens you or heightens your anxiety, what creates overwhelm and stress, what keeps you awake at night, you can then take charge of it, rather than it taking charge of you. You don’t get stuck. You fight your inner demons. You break through your stuff and move forward quickly. You become resilient.
Key question: What situations or experiences that you face threaten, challenge or overwhelm you in a way that makes you want to just give up or recoil instead of being resilient and facing them?
2. Develop a positive explanatory style.
You have an explanatory style – a way you explain to yourself why things happen. You can have a negative style where you see life as a conspiracy, out to get you, that dis-empowers you and makes you feel helpless and a victim. You can have a positive style that always sees a way forward, that is empowering and encourages pro-activity. Only people with a positive explanatory style will be resilient.
Key question: How do you explain to yourself and those close to you why setbacks happen in your life?
3. Become proactive.
Being resilient involves a response from your whole self – body, heart, mind and spirit. If you stay in difficult and challenging situations, resigning yourself to them and managing by disengaging and switching off because you feel powerless and helpless to do anything about it, you are not being resilient. To be resilient you need to make a proactive response.
Key question: How long does it take you, when something goes wrong in your life or work, to assume a proactive position that will turn it around – an hour, day, week, more than a week?
4. Be a problem solver.
To become resilient people you need to focus on solutions, not problems. You need to be reflective enough to ask new questions that might generate new answers, not time-honoured solutions. You need to be constructive, strategic, analytical, goal focused.
Key question: What problem-solving qualities do you bring to the difficult and challenging situations you face?
5. Develop emotional maturity and intelligence.
You need to be aware of your emotional state when facing challenging situations and experiences – is it fear, guilt, anxiety, depression, anger or frustration you are feeling? When you bring both your head and heart to those emotions your responses are informed by good, balanced judgment. You can learn to exist creatively in tension and grow through psychological pain. Resilient people do not suppress emotion. They take hold of it and creatively use it to drive them to solutions.
Key question: What are the emotions that obstruct you from taking action and moving forward after adversity?
6. Look after yourself.
Alcohol, drugs, junk food, sugar fixes, cigarettes, sleeping tablets and caffeine are not the way to becoming resilient. Healthy, natural, unprocessed food, exercise, water, time to smell the roses, sleep, meditation, contemplation and reflection give you the energy, clear-headedness and focus you need to become resilient.
Key question: What do you need to change so you look after yourself and prime your body, heart and mind to proactively respond to whatever challenges present themselves to you?
7. Embrace change.
Change is one of the only certainties in life. It brings with it unpredictability, confusion, uncertainty, paradox and ambiguity. It can shake your foundations and challenge your value systems, leaving you feeling insecure and vulnerable. Avoiding it or resisting it will heighten its negative impact on you. Resilient people will always embrace change and work with what threatens them until they overcome it.
Key question: What is it about change that threatens and challenges you?
If you are already on the way to being resilient, these 7 developmental actions will act as a check list for what you need to keep doing to develop and enhance this very important soft skill that all highly motivated professionals need today.
If, however, this is all new to you, if you don’t understand what I am talking about and it makes no sense to you, I strongly encourage you to get a coach who can work this through with you. If you want to advance your career, if you aspire to leadership, you need to be a resilient professional.