As I wrote a while ago, here and here, resilience is the capacity to recover quickly and well from difficulties and demanding experiences. Resilience is an important and powerful capability because it leads you to come back quickly to full strength after the inevitable setbacks and problems we all experience, from time to time.
In addition, the more resilience you acquire and maintain, the stronger and better equipped you are to overcome your next challenges, including the ones you willingly seek out in various parts of your work and your life.
I receive a steady stream of requests for more information about developing more resilience, and now that I have some, I’m happy to share it:
Reframe the Situation
From a certain point of view, the hardest thing to overcome about a difficulty or a demanding situation is not the situation itself, but your experience of it. And that experience is largely dependent on how you frame it.
For example, if you’re struck with a sudden illness – particularly at an important time in your life – it’s normal to ask “Why me?”, or “Why does this happen now?”, or even “What did I do to deserve this?”
Such questions rarely have meaningful answers, and offer little in the way of guidance or assistance in dealing effectively with the situation.
But when you reframe the illness as a random, (hopefully) short-term setback, you can begin to recognize the best way forward, which is nearly always to direct your energies toward whatever’s necessary to promote a rapid recovery.
Similarly, setbacks and opportunities will be less discouraging when you find an appropriate frame for them that defuses any negativity and positions you for meaningful action. It’s nearly always a good idea to ground yourself in your intrinsic belief in your strengths and capabilities, and then cast aside any fears or residual feelings so you can assess the true picture of the setback or opportunity and how to respond to it.
Go With It
One of the most important steps in cultivating and exhibiting resilience is a steadfast acceptance of whatever’s going on. Situations change, often quite rapidly, and the longer you take to recognize any change and start dealing with it, the slower you be able to turn the situation toward the direction you prefer. In dynamic situations, denial is not your friend.
It’s helpful to routinely think of backup plans and various corrective actions before you need them, so when problems or difficulties crop up you can shift into remedial mode without delay. It’s equally useful to cultivate “situational awareness,” which brings you the data to quickly identify any changes and opportunities as soon as possible after they occur.
Select One Action
Even in the most complicated situation, there’s usually one first step that makes the most sense. Often, this first step is to “analyze what’s really going on.” But even after completing that step, and after formulating a response plan, you’ll often find that you can make the most progress toward a full bounce-back by taking one particular action.
So do it.
As I’ve written elsewhere, the simple act of doing something useful is a big help toward restoring normalcy. It not only begins a remedial process, or a positive action plan, it just plain feels good to do something useful.
In complicated situations, this first step might immediately lead-in to multiple other actions. No matter. Identifying and taking one definitive step helps you get things going the way you want more rapidly than almost anything else.
Look for Leadership
One of the best ways to rebound from a setback or institute a positive change is to follow a leader who has done it well before.
You can, for example, turn to a suitable mentor. The right person will have the experience and knowledge to help you formulate a good, resilient response to whatever troubles – or potential – you’re facing, and will also know how to give you proper guidance so you can take all the appropriate actions.
You can also turn to third party knowledge: stories of great leaders from the past (could be ancient history, could be recent) who understood their own difficult situations or great opportunities, and who acted decisively to create the results they wanted.
In some cases, you may already have a mentor or a personal hero who can offer you the right resiliency lessons when you most need them. But if not, it often happens that just when trouble – or opportunity – strikes, you encounter the exact resources you need to respond with surprising resilience.
As I’ve previously written, everyone encounters headwinds and tailwinds – sometimes of hurricane force. Resilience is worth developing because it will help you bend more gracefully under great external pressures, and in short order respond most effectively.
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