One of the keys to not only surviving, but thriving in the world, is resilience. And these days who couldn’t use a little more of that? But what constitutes resilience, and how exactly can we cultivate a bit more to help deal with all the uncertainty of 2020? I mean, come on already! Global pandemic, economic devastation, and racial tensions beyond anything we’ve seen since the 1960’s. If this isn’t a call for us to become more resilient, then I don’t know what is.
Let’s take a look at three keys to cultivating more resilience in your life and leadership.
The first key is known as reframing. We are creatures of meaning, and we assign meaning to everything that happens to us (and around us) in life. The truth is, nothing has any meaning except the meaning that you give it. And whatever meaning you give to an event becomes your experience. By reframing, you are creating a new meaning for life’s events and providing yourself with the opportunity to find a more empowering meaning for the things that occur.
“I think we build resilience to prepare for whatever adversity we'll face. And we all face some adversity - we're all living some form of Option B.” – Sheryl Sandberg
As we navigate this global pandemic so many of us have been negatively impacted on multiple levels. For example, the feeling of isolation being created by sheltering in place and social distancing is enough to make even the most introverted of us beg for some form of social interaction. But how do you interpret this situation? Take a moment to check in and get clear on how you’re framing this in your own mind.
What is the story you’re telling yourself about this? What are your thoughts? I know that for me, being a very social person, the shelter in place and social distancing created a sense of separation and isolation that I hadn’t felt in years, or maybe ever on this level. I felt lonely, sad, and I realized I was telling myself I was powerless to do anything about it.
Here is my reframe: I have the opportunity to build stronger relationships than ever with my kids, my friends, and myself. This is an opportunity to get really clear on the most important things in life. For me, relationships are the foundation of a fulfilling and meaningful life.
So I’ve spent time working on those relationships, and have benefitted from it immensely. It wouldn’t have happened in the same way had I not challenged my own assumptions about the situation. That reframe alone has helped me to feel more in control of myself, my thoughts, my actions, and ultimately my leadership and life.
“When it comes to our collective health, how we deal with the multiple crises and problems around us also depends on the power of context - in other words, our resilience.” – Arianna Huffington
One of the truths I remind my clients of all the time is, “Just because you think it, doesn’t make it true.” We become attached to our thoughts, and many times we fail to actually examine them. Is this true? Does thinking this thought help me to face the day? Does thinking this thought make me more resilient, or less so? Start looking to reframe your thoughts, and challenge the meaning you give to the things that occur throughout your day. I am certain you will discover that many times you’re simply operating on autopilot, thinking a certain way because “that’s how you’ve always done it.” Learn to ask yourself, “What else could this mean?” And seek a more empowering meaning.
The second key is compassion. This can be a tricky one. I’m noticing a very distinct lack of compassion all around me as the world continues to be impacted by the ongoing crisis. People are losing patience with each other and with all of the rules and regulations being enforced.
“Our human compassion binds us the one to the other - not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future.” – Nelson Mandela
Cultivating compassion means understanding and wishing to alleviate the suffering of others. It’s a non-judgmental approach to life’s disappointments, and provides us with the ability to move forward in a conscious and loving fashion. Being compassionate means I am not seeking only my own needs, but also considering the needs of others. And when things go poorly, as they inevitably will, it means not taking offense but rather seeking understanding and if necessary, forgiveness.
The most difficult part just might be that true compassion begins with extending it to yourself. How adept are you at doing that? What do you say to yourself when you make the inevitable mistake or misstep? If you have a difficult time extending compassion to yourself when you fall, it certainly will not be any easier when others disappoint you.
By adding compassion to your daily practices, you become more peaceful and less angry, more patient and less stressed, more forgiving and less defensive. And all of these things contribute to building more resilience.
“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” – Dalai Lama
The third key is optimism. I’ve written previously about optimism versus pessimism, and one of my core beliefs is that optimism is the engine that drives creativity, innovation, and achievement. Optimism is the ability to maintain a positive attitude in the face of adversity and to remain hopeful despite setbacks. However, it is not simply believing that everything will turn out for the best no matter what. That is magical thinking.
“Resilience isn't a single skill. It's a variety of skills and coping mechanisms. To bounce back from bumps in the road as well as failures, you should focus on emphasizing the positive.” – Jean Chatzky
The psychologist Martin Seligman, widely recognized as the father of the positive psychology movement, says there are 3 major attitudes that distinguish the optimist from the pessimist. The first is that they tend to view adversity as temporary events. The bad times certainly won’t last forever. It’s a momentary setback, a blip on the screen, and it won’t prevent them from achieving their aim. It merely will delay it.
Second, they tend to see the misfortune as pertaining to a specific situation. It’s not “more of the same” doom and gloom that pervades their life. And third, they don’t tend to shoulder all the blame for the event. They look for causes, including potential external causes and they take those into consideration.
Having a sense of optimism makes you more likely to forge ahead in the face of challenges, and provides the fuel required to keep going when things get difficult. Without it you will be at the mercy of your emotions, and that is never a good place to operate from.
So work on these three areas, and see how much more resilient you can become. The simple fact is that once this crisis is over, there will be another… and another… and you get the idea. Building the skill of resilience will not make you impervious to life’s challenges, but it will provide you with enough armor to withstand the challenges and come out the other side feeling calmer, stronger, and more confident in your ability to weather the storm.
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Kevin Ciccotti, Human Factor Formula
Helping companies create sustainable, effective teams that are committed to the success of their projects, the organization, and the individuals with whom they work