Part II: Becoming More Resilient

The measure of one’s strength isn’t only about achievement, it’s equally, if not more so, about one’s ability to cope with adversity. We don’t really know how far we can go, how fast, how high, or how long until we are tested. Our simultaneous misfortune and blessing is that we are tested all the time.

To be resilient on a personal or organizational level means to adapt to misfortune and hardship, and to find ways to endure, and to even thrive in it. Personal resilience means our ability to cope with life’s disappointments and losses without allowing them to impact our mental and physical health for an extended period of time. 

Business resiliency refers to an organization’s ability to rebound from a loss, and get back in the game with new strategies, projects and services. According to a study conducted by Booz Allen Hamilton, only 17% of organizations are resilient, meaning that they are “highly adaptable to external market shifts yet focused on and aligned behind a coherent business strategy.”

What makes resiliency difficult is that we start to believe in the chaos and anxiety we see every day from colleagues, family, friends, and other businesses, and we get sucked into it. Rising above it requires several key concerted and consistent efforts.

  • Use the past to guide you. Anyone who was in the workforce or had money in the stock market in the early 90’s remembers the recession. Most of us have worked for a business that was sold, merged with another company or liquidated. We have all been through a painful loss of some kind in our lives. No matter what the problem, we have endured it, and more than likely become stronger for it.

The best way to quell anxiety is to latch on in your mind to a specific event in which you were able to be resilient and cope effectively. The more you understand how you got through it in detail, the easier it will be to apply these tools, skills and cognitive processes to your current situation. Identify four or five principles you used. It is useful to write them down, and look at them daily, or to talk to other people about them. Visualizing and hearing them often will help you maintain them.

  • Choose a “Champion.” A common theme in childhood abuse survivors is the relationship they had with one or two key people (their champions) who believed in them and truly supported them when they needed it most. Support from friends, loved ones, business partners, mentors, books and CDs are essential in dealing effectively with adversity. We must find people who are positive and can empathize with us. Don’t go to people who will simply reinforce how bad things are. Find one champion who can really listen and provide you with support and guidance.
  • Stand on Your Head. Not literally, (though this can be extremely useful). If you are already pushed outside of your comfort zone, why not take it up a notch? Try something new – volunteer somewhere, take a class on a subject that excites you, go skydiving. Try anything that opens up channels of new thought and creativity. The aim is to go with it instead of fighting it. You will find that this is when you are most likely to have an inspiring thought, a new opportunity, or at least a good laugh.

The actions of a changing world are not often in our power, but our reactions are. Resilience, like any other ability or skill, begins with a choice – one that is made consistently and with a delicate balance of confidence and humility. Things are hard, and may get harder, but no matter how far we fall we must remember that our tenacity always outweighs our fragility.