Asking the right questions about resilience can help steer you towards more helpful answers.
Resilience at work
Resilience is the ability to adapt and function well in the face of adversity. The more resilient you are, the better you are able to withstand and bounce back from life’s unavoidable challenges. In the workplace, this normally means stress – a broad category in itself.
It also includes personal events like trauma, loss, and tragedy, such as relationship breakdown, family problems, serious health problems, or money worries. These so-called ‘personal’ events from private life still impact on your overall performance, of course, but more resilient people are likely to compartmentalise, to contain the negative effects so they don’t spill over into unrelated areas of your life.
How to build resilience
If you want to build resilience it helps to understand that you almost certainly already have everything you need. We are all resilient to some degree, but this very often goes unnoticed, overshadowed by pressures and difficulties as they arise. But if you can stand back and look at the areas in your life where you function best, and at other challenges you’ve faced and successfully survived, there is a wealth of information you’ve probably missed.
I was asked recently, “How can I get to a point where I’m more resilient?”. The person who asked me was a highly committed professional in a demanding role. She also has a spouse, two young children, and family responsibilities beyond that; her mother had died a few years ago and her father was steadily becoming more dependent on her.
This is a common question but a perplexing one. Maybe it is indicative of today’s quick-fix mentality where we expect ‘solutions’ and ‘cures’ for things which simply don’t have one, any more than the question has a single ‘answer’.
The wrong question
Also, perhaps, part of the problem is that we often ask the wrong questions about resilience. Personal resilience is linked to how you think and behave as you go about your daily business. It’s a matter of lifestyle. Becoming resilient is not about some destination like say, losing 20 pounds or passing a test. It is more about the way we think and act; a way of handling ourselves. So we need to ask ourselves about the strengths we already have and develop those, rather than allowing our perceived ‘failures’ to dominate our thinking.
We are all resilient to some degree, and it fluctuates; we are more or less resilient depending on circumstance, state of health, demand and a range of other variables. You can learn the skills of resilience are learnable, but it’s not like learning to swim or to ride a bike (once learned never forgotten); it’s more like learning to keep yourself on an even keel (with constant turns at the helm and trimming of sails).
To continue the metaphor, if you have to cross a stretch of treacherous water, and you had a sailing boat but only limited experience on water, which would be the more useful question: “How do I get to the other side?” or, “How do I sail this boat?”
Coming back to the topic, you might ask yourself, for example, “What am I good at?”, “What similar events have I dealt with and survived?”, and, “What do I need to do (or change), to become more resilient in this situation?”. It’s a subtle shift but an important one. The answer doesn’t rely on external factors or circumstances, it comes from within, which puts you in control.
Personal resilience survey
So, when asking questions about resilience, rather than “How can I get to a point where I’m more resilient?”, a better one would be “What steps should I take to build and maintain my resilience?”.
I have prepared an online survey to help steer your thinking towards key questions about resilience, Your answers will enable me to design products to help you develop your personal resilience, and completing the survey will help you start to narrow down your needs more exactly.