Resilience is shown in the most unusual of circumstances
When I was small, my parents had a part of our garden tarmacked over. I can still remember my mother’s delight when the spring crocuses pushed through the tarmac to flower year after year. Whenever I think of our own resilience and ability to shine through adversity, I think of the hardiness of those delicate little flowers.
Like me, you know that in order to be successful in life and business you have to develop resilience. You are probably quite adept at being resilient in most parts of your life. A friend of mine has this saying whenever things get tough. “It’s character building.” A bit of a clique, but unless you give up, that’s precisely what challenges do; build character. I used to think she was being harsh until I grew up enough to realise that it’s more loving and kind not to reinforce a victim mentality. The problem with believing you are a victim is that it strips you of all power, and any hope of reclaiming yourself.
In his book the “The Happiness Advantage” Shawn Achor describes a number of principles of positive psychology. One of which is about “Falling up”. Wherein he describes the psychological process of “Posttraumatic Growth” defined as “positive psychological change experienced as a result of the struggle with highly challenging life circumstances”[i]
Achor describes three paths we can take following crisis or adversity. The first is to end where you start; no change results. The second path leads to further negative consequences; you end up worse off. The third path is the one that we should focus on, and that is using the crisis or negative event to grow and emerge “stronger, and more capable than before the fall”[ii]. I don’t know about you, but I know which path I prefer.
If you are faced with a challenging situation at work or even at home, there are a number of ways of refocusing your attention and efforts to help you and your team (or family) get through.
- No matter how bad things are; always try to identify a positive outcome or a way to find an opportunity, even if it’s just to acknowledge that the challenge can be seen as an opportunity to grow.
- Find ways to keep motivated, even if it means getting motivation from different parts of your life. For example, if you are facing adversity at work; renew your determination to make your family life better.
- Deal with the “What if’s” – Don’t discount fears; deal with them head on. Set up an environment for you and your team which allows you to do this. Develop options in case the worst happens. Then keep focused on the positive possibilities rather than the worst case scenarios.
- Deal with the uncertainty by imagining a future where you are in the right place, where you would feel as if you gained something positive from the experience.
- Focus on what is in your control. You might not be in a position to decide what the outcome will be, or have any control over the situation. At the very least you can choose your reaction. If any of you doubt the power of choice here, you must read “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl, a holocaust survivor whose message of hope and resilience in horrifying adversity is truly amazing.
- Recapture positives from the past. (This is not a time to count how many times you or others have been in similarly bad situations). Write down your successes and what you are proud of. Think, talk and write about things which make you (and your team) feel good about what they had achieved.
- Turn round the negative chatter in your head. Simply refuse to listen to it. This is the time to be your own best friend. If you are facing problems at work, turn the rumour mill around and make sure speculation is not reported as fact. Make sure you and your team are only dealing with the facts and not the stories made up about the facts.
- Don’t draw conclusions about yourself from the situation. Just because you’ve hit a bad situation doesn’t mean you are a bad person. This is life and many people hit bad times. Things happen which we have no control over and even if you’ve made a mistake, then forgive yourself. If you begin to think like this, then, hook up with your real best friend and get reassurance from them.
A few years ago I read that one of the reasons life is so painful is because we have forgotten to live and learn in love and trust rather than how the majority of us learn in fear and pain. Now whenever a situation comes over the horizon which has the potential for pain, I simply ask to learn in love and trust. And you know I think it works, and certainly that is what I wish for everyone.[i] Tedeshi, R.G., & Calhoun, L.G. (2004). Post-traumatic Growth: Conceptual Foundation and Empirical Evidence. Philadelphia, PA: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates [ii] Achor S (2011) The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles that fuel Success and Performance at Work. New York: Random House Inc.