Resilience is a skill and, like all skills, can be learned and improved, explains Julia Schmidt

We live in a world of overwhelming disruption and constant change. This has become the new norm! With all these new challenges, we know we will have to “bounce back” many times in the future because of disappointments, defeats, and failures. However, what brings positivity to all this is something called “resilience.”

So, What Is Resilience? 

Typically, resilience is defined as the capacity to recover quickly from difficult situations.

Being resilient is a sign that you adapt well in times of adversity, stress, or trauma. This doesn’t mean that you won’t experience difficult emotions; instead, it means you can manage those difficult emotions with compassion and self-care.

Emotional Wellbeing = Resilience

Emotional wellbeing is less about what happens to us in life and more about how we respond to what comes our way. Being resilient will allow us to exercise infinite power in how we react to the different personal circumstances we may face in life.

For me, being resilient is a work in progress rooted in practice.

As Diane Coutu brilliantly explains in her Harvard Business Review article “How Resilience Works,” resilient people possess three abilities:

  • a staunch acceptance of reality
  • strongly held values, leading to a deep belief that life is meaningful
  • an uncanny ability to improvise 

She also says that we can bounce back from hardship with just one or two of these qualities, but we will only be truly resilient if we possess all three.

Resilience is a skill and, like all skills, can be learned and improved. If you feel you were not born resilient, why not try to become a resilient person? Or if you are not as resilient as you could be, why not look for ways to increase your level of resilience? 

1. Accepting reality

To keep on desiring only positive experiences in life is unrealistic. What we need to do is understand that the acceptance of a negative experience is in itself a positive experience. We need these “difficult moments” to grow, learn, and progress in life. 

For example, let’s imagine I have lost my job. It’s sad, complicated, frustrating, etc. But now there is a chance for me to choose something else and leave behind this negative thing in my life. Yes! And I accept this reality. If I waste my energy now by complaining and allowing myself to become a victim of a normal and common life situation, I will fail.

Accepting the negative situation and acknowledging its impact is healthy. What is bad is bad. I can’t do anything about it, but I can use the negative situation to build something positive beyond it. 

Accepting reality is also linked to managing expectations, as Jason W. Birkevold Liem explains in his article “The Fundamentals of Building Resilience.” We should ask ourselves if we are being realistic in our expectations about ourselves and others. Are these expectations aligned with our skills and abilities? No one expects you to be Wonder Woman or a perfect professional. 

2. Life is meaningful

Purpose, significance, fulfilment, and satisfaction are the key elements of a meaningful life. Purpose connects us with what is important for us and for others. It relates to wise actions and the right directions to follow. It is all about our values, which provide a compass for our lives. What also makes life meaningful is our relationship with other people. People are our best resource in building a resilient future for ourselves. People give us feedback, support, and a safe place to go when needed. They help us see our strengths and enable us to stay committed to our purpose. 

3. Ability to improvise

Are you good at bricolage? “Bricolage” in the modern sense can be defined as a kind of inventiveness, an ability to improvise a solution to a problem without the proper or obvious tools or materials.

The ability to improvise also comes from our capacity to be creative, act outside our comfort zone, dare to do new things, and test new ways of solving problems. Being part of a safe environment that supports and encourages creativity is crucial. Like any skill, the ability to improvise develops with practice; it is the art of creating solutions with available tools and resources. So, why not aim to be as good at improvisation as the great jazz musicians?

The Characteristics of Resilience

Our resilience needs to be developed before we meet disruption and crisis. We often flock to books about resilience only after we have faced a traumatic event and are looking for something to help us through our emotions. In my journey toward becoming more resilient, I have learned that the true breadth of resilience skills, and their many benefits, is linked to anticipating, designing, and implementing change. I want to add something else that we need in order to be resilient people: a strong ability to anticipate, design, and implement change in life and at work.

Anticipating Change

In building our resilience muscles, we need to invest time in anticipating change as much as possible. Waiting too long or being too reactive can prevent us from being prepared for times of turbulence. 

We can anticipate change by:

Assessing relevant information from different sources

For example, consult professionals from other industries, different kinds of magazines and books, and disciplines that are different from your area of business.

Being part of diverse networks of professionals and friends

Choose networks that share insights and reflections on threats, disruptions, or new business opportunities. When we embrace diversity, we increase our ability to be creative and consequently improve problem-solving and proactivity skills. 

Taking time for reflection, strategic and creative thinking

Recognize that this time is essential to your success as a professional. What about blocking out an hour or so in your calendar and making a regular and consistent appointment for quality reflection time? Build in reflection time, little by little, as a new habit. Aim for five “thinking hours” per week. Do it by yourself and with other people – it can be your team, board of advisors, or members of your professional network.

Reflection requires several things we typically don’t like to do: slowing down, adopting a mindset of not knowing, and enhancing our curiosity.

Designing Change

Improving resilience is all about change! In building our resilience muscles, we must be prepared to do things differently. Resilience is here to help us build a robust ability to survive and thrive in times of adversity. It is a call to action, responsibility, and freedom. 

We can design change by:

Avoiding becoming a victim of our setbacks

Avoid getting frustrated at the need to do something differently, even if it is for the better, or wasting your energy blaming others. 

Understanding that the need for change gives us the opportunity for self-development

We can create new things, and build a sustainable career. Resilience is here to help us build a better future for ourselves.

Believing in our abilities and strengths

Our abilities and strengths catalyze positive energy towards building resilience.

Implementing Change

Implementation is the execution of the plan we have designed to help us become more resilient and make the necessary changes to achieve our goal.

We can implement change by:

Allocating and assessing the appropriate resources at our disposal

These includes people, tools, and training, to name some. The more we read and learn about resilience, the better we will understand the mechanisms needed to ensure long-term resilience. 

Taking risks, experimenting (improvising), and embracing the agile mindset

Resilience, agility, and flexibility are good friends. 

Celebrating our victories, new learnings, and long- or short-term wins

Resilience happens when we learn from our mistakes, transform our disappointments into survival, and thrive. 

In Conclusion

When facing a crisis or an opportunity, we often fall back on the solutions that have worked for us in the past. But to succeed in a changing world, we need to rise above our default reactions and generate new ones to enable us to respond to constant disruptions in real time. It means that we must build our resilience skills ahead of the emergent need for change.

Let’s embrace disruption, accept our setbacks, and learn from them. Let’s build long-term resilience and eliminate everything that no longer serves us. Resilience is a journey of continuous learning, practice, and change processes. It is a path to ultimate freedom. 

Julia Schmidt is an award-winning Executive Assistant with over 20 years of experience working in different industries. She is known for being a passionate advocate for people development and in helping others succeed and embrace their leadership skills. ... (Read More)

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