Life throws the most incredible challenges at us over the course of our days. Without resilience, people are swamped, thrown off course and overcome by these challenges. As you look around the people in your team, you know their faces, and in good teams, you will know the person behind that face, with some of the challenges and difficulties that they encounter personally as well as at work. How resilient are they? How resilient are you?
Resiliency is the ability to bounce back in difficult circumstances, the flexibility to bend with constant challenge but not be broken by it. The picture comes to mind of a massive storm, with driving rain and wild winds. In the storm, the oak which has stood tall for dozens of years has many branches snapped off, whereas the tall grasses growing alongside it remain intact and unharmed in the wake of the storm. The difference? The oak could not bend its branches, whereas the grasses could flex and be laid almost flat, yet bounce back upright as soon as the wind subsided. Resilience is the ability to keep on going and to bounce back, even after the toughest storm.
Resilience is characteristic of successful people - they seem to be able to use the challenges and setbacks that beset them as stepping stones to the next thing rather than allow themselves to be crushed by them. What is it that enables them to do this, and how can we develop this characteristic in our own lives?
A basic requirement to the development of resilience is challenge - reaching beyond your comfort zone to conquer things which you’ve not yet mastered. Some of us have been thrown into challenging circumstances through no fault of our own - think of the dread challenges of cancer sufferers enduring treatment in the hope of conquering the disease; of longsuffering parents managing the pain of a critically ill child in the hope that their suffering be alleviated. Others have unwittingly created our own predicaments - taking a position in a business where we end up having to work closely with someone of opposing personality; buying a vehicle which turns out to be a lemon and have continuous mechanical problems. Still others create difficult circumstances deliberately - yes deliberately. Signing up to an exercise/health programme which will enable them to lose weight and become healthier and more able; taking a business to the next level by setting a goal for the team to increase the turnover significantly over the next five years.
One of the keys to resilience is our ability to see the problems as something to be worked through to a greater goal on the other side, as opposed to something which is happening that we have no control over and which will bring us no positive outcome. Another key is our capacity to share our responses honestly with supportive people who have our backs, and can give us courage and perspective to work through the situation we are in. A third key is found in the mindset that no matter what, you will gain from this experience. This tenacious determination to find some good out of any loss, and be focused on that good rather than be consumed by the bad, is a key factor of resilience. You’ll find a fourth key to resilience in flexibility and adaptability - the ability to shift focus, develop new skills and use the resources available to you to keep on going.
The Wright brothers in their development of flight; Helen Keller learning to communicate with the world from a blind, deaf and dumb state; Kate Sheppard’s campaign to allow voting rights to New Zealand women, the two Steves (Steve Wozniack and Steve Jobs) creating Apple from their garage-based beginnings, Oprah Winfrey born into poverty to a teenage single mother - these are famous examples of men and women who display the characteristic of resilience.
We all face challenge - how can you work with what is within you and around you to transform this challenge into the stepping stone that takes you forward to a better place? How can you shift focus to see the potential for good, and use that to armour yourself as you move through the difficulties? Are you working to develop deep relationships which respect, accept and encourage growth, so that when you - or they - are faced with the hard stuff, there are people who will stick together and support through it. Do you deliberately allow manageable challenging circumstances to develop resilience in yourself - maybe by learning a new skill, or stepping into a new area of service?
Having a mindset which welcomes challenge comes more easily to some of us than others - and yet this mindset is often deliberately developed and key in the ultimate achievement of our goals. If you are in a steady and comfortable period of your life, take what resilience you have and make it more - it will serve you in good stead. If you are in a particularly challenging period, focus more on the goals which sustain you rather than the problems which trip you up, while still seeking solutions to those problems. I don’t say this making light of the incredible difficulty that many people are enduring, but with huge respect and desire to make the path a little less steep and to give courage to continue taking the next step. If there is any way which we can support or direct you to help, please do get in touch.
Here’s to your success.