Who Needs Resilience?

In short, everyone. But, what exactly is it and how can we get more of it?

Karen Reivich, co-Director of the Penn Resiliency Project and co-author of The Resilience Factor, defines resilience as “The ability to bounce back from setbacks, learn from failure, be motivated by challenges and believe in your own abilities to deal with the stress and difficulties in life.”

There are a number of reasons why I like this definition. First, at its core, resilience is about “bouncing back.” Every day, we deal with situations that run counter to our expectations – a meeting runs over, our boss is in a bad mood, the project we’re leading loses funding, etc. In some cases, these situations are full-blown adversities – layoffs, illness, missing major deadlines, etc. Resilience allows us to work through these issues, keep our composure, and move on.

Second, resilient people learn from and embrace failure. They don’t allow it to get too personal. When a project fails, they look at the situation objectively, recognize their need to improve, and how others contributed, as well.

Resilient people see obstacles as challenges. They look for ways to use their strengths to be successful. Instead of thinking of all the ways a new project or problem can go wrong, resilient people are actually motivated to get started and do their best.

Finally, resilient people have real self-confidence. They pull from past experiences where they worked through adversities. They know that they are not perfect but that by giving their best effort, using their strengths effectively, and believing in themselves, they can accomplish great things – even when the deck is stacked against them.

While this definition is helpful, just reading it will not make you more resilient. And, if you are not naturally resilient (like me!), you need to work on this, regularly. Here are some quick tips to get your started on the road to resilience:

  • Listen to yourself: Many times, stress, anxiety, anger, and other negative emotions creep up on us without our really recognizing the causes. Take a moment to listen to what you say to yourself as these emotions arise. At first, you will probably need to write them down. With practice, however, you will be able to hear your beliefs about a situation before it’s too late…
  • Challenge yourself: When someone offers a negative critique of my work, I give facts and examples that contradict what I am hearing. When I discover an error in my own work, however, my first reaction is to blame myself. After learning how to listen to my beliefs, I then learned how to argue with myself to avoid the downward spiral and to create a more realistic view of the situation.
  • Connect to others: One major myth in our culture about resilience is that resilient people tend to go it alone. Quite the opposite is true – resilient people know when to reach out to others for help. They build positive relationships with those around them and are not afraid to seek assistance.

Being more resilient takes work. But, I consider it to be a foundational quality that allows us to excel in just about any area of our lives. Resilience helps clear away the underbrush in our lives and focus on living within our values and pursuing our goals. Please let us know when you or a colleague were resilient at work and how that helped your organization.

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