Resilience seems to be another buzz word these days. Everybody is talking about the need of building resilience to be able to navigate through these challenging times and ongoing uncertainty. I explored resilience and resilient leadership early on in the crisis as it impacted me personally and every leader I was working with. For me it was vital to understand what resilience is, how to build it with practical steps and role model it for others.
I have always called myself a resilient person. For me resilience is having the strength to bounce back from challenging situations and hardship quickly. I had put it down to my childhood, losing my father at 8 years old and having been brought up to be independent and solve problems on my own. I was under the impression that either you have resilience or you don’t and that resilience is the same kind of resilience and comes from the same human resource. I was surprised when COVID hit Australia in March 2020, my emotions and mental health was up and down more than ever before which affected all parts of my life. ‘What is wrong with me? I am a resilient person, why can’t I control it?’
What helped me immensely is new insight at how we look at resilience now. Resilience originally comes from an engineering source. Also the view that I had of resilience being universal and either you have it or not is different. Resilience is systemic and can come from all sorts of different human and outside sources. I learned that there is a different kind of resilience for different challenges and ‘downs’. For example, when I feel exhausted and my is energy depleted, a day on the couch and a long sleep in helps me to build resilience. When in doubt and having self-limiting beliefs, a chat with my coach and best friend helps to verbalise my worries and build resilience in that way. When stressed about having to learn new things or tough conversations, a long run gets me into the right mindset. And there is meditation, breathing exercises, a good laugh, personal and professional development, growth mindset and so much more!
I know these exercises, steps and tools are not new to us but I never connected them to ‘building resilience’. I had this feeling that when I was not in good headspace that I needed to get out of it first to do any kind of action. Adam Fraser calls it the Happiness Movement. In his work he says that we hold the view that negative emotions are bad and positive emotions are good. That view has perverted our relationship with struggle. We tend to have the desire to have to feel good or be happy first before we can take action. Building resilience means ‘sitting in discomfort’ and action anyway. People who deal with struggle well, manage to sit with discomfort and action without waiting for it to change.
That doesn’t mean we don’t have the right to have a bad day and a day on the couch and be ok with that, but sitting in discomfort and taking charge without delay builds resilience. It has certainly helped me through the last few weeks. Here is a process Adam Fraser recommends:
1. name/validate emotion
2. focus on development that comes from struggle
3. what is the most constructive behaviour right now?
With the ongoing crisis, it feels like we are going through a cycle of constant resilience building. That’s how it definitely feels for me. Mark Manson gave some great insights and tips in a recent webinar:
He said, when feeling struggle, create self-awareness of what we are actually thinking, like peeling an onion, and validate which stories are true and what stories we are making up. He has the following tips for leaders:
-Assume the worst and plan for that (e.g. crisis will last 12 months, lockdown restrictions will last 6 months)
-Create new routines and set boundaries, esp. when working from home
-Give a shit about 5 things (and only 5 things)
-Realize how little you need (interesting how we connect to our values right away)
-Do things you enjoy and find lightness; focus on positive conversations
-Don’t be too hard on yourself. When you’re low be ok with it. Work or relax, be aware that you feel bad anyway
-If you want to bounce back you have to build strength and look after your mental and physical health: sleep, meditate, be ok with how you feel (and action anyway), lightness, joy, celebrate progress and give back.
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