With the global implications of Covid-19 front of mind, we’ve heard a lot recently about individual, corporate and national resilience. It’s almost like it’s an elusive superpower that promises to make us invincible, natural leaders, with unwavering confidence and the ability to ride any storm. Well, don’t believe the hype, it’s not really like that.
I’ve been told I’m resilient, but it’s not a superpower. Like everything in life, it takes time, effort and courage, and is something I’m still working on. But it’s a hugely important and incredibly valuable skill I have drawn upon in both my professional and personal life.
So how can you build resilience?
First of all, you need to know that unlike great bone structure, resilience isn’t something you’re just naturally born with. It’s 100% learned.
If you did competitive sports as a kid and never won gold (or any medal for that matter), lost something precious, crashed a car or have a crazy story from that time things went wrong on your gap year. If you failed an assignment, had a run of personal ‘bad luck’, moved to a new city or had a flat share that went disastrously wrong… these have all been part of the learning process and have helped build your resilience. Because resilience is how you deal with and transform a situation. It’s how you proactively propel yourself forward, it’s how you take control and make decisions, it’s how you learn and grow. And it’s a continuous process: something Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant talk about extensively online and in the book, Option B.
The second vitally important thing to realise is that sh*t happens, and it happens to everyone. Sometimes it’s seriously big stuff like bereavement, redundancy, miscarriage, relationship break-ups, life changing accidents or health conditions, and sometimes is smaller things like missing out on a job, losing a pitch, or have your best work friend resign. But it happens, and it happens all the time. You need to be realistic that life is not a glorious feel-good Instagram feed, and that sh*t will also happen to you at some point, so get ready.
My last observation is this: being resilient takes effort and importantly, attitude. As humans we naturally focus on the negative, but that doesn’t foster resilience, it’s just self-indulgent. Yes, listen to feedback, but also be kind to yourself. In her TedTalk, Lucy Hone PhD, talks about deciding if something will ‘help or harm’ her, and it’s great advice, especially across social media: will seeing those updates help or harm, will muting that person help or harm, will having a break from social help or harm?
Finally, here’s five practical things that I have found have helped make me more resilient and I hope they might help you too:
- Focus on what matters and what you can control – one of the biggest epiphanies I had was that I can’t control everything, but I can control me. It was so obvious but so liberating! By focusing on what really matters to you and understanding what you can and can’t control, you can start to make a plan.
- Make a plan – stop fearing failure, instead proactively get out your comfort zone, take action, get creative, make connections and innovate. What’s the worst that can happen?
- Make decisions – it sounds silly, but start making decisions. It’s easy to become paralysed in a crisis or a moment of doubt. But trust your instincts and make a decision. It might not always be right, but it will allow you to at least move forward and be proactive (see point above!)
- Be confident – don’t think for one minute that resilient people don’t doubt themselves, they absolutely do! But what they then do (after the initial ‘holy sh*t’ moment) is have confidence in their ability and themselves. Part of part of being resilient is giving other people confidence in you.
- You do you – understand who you are and what you’re passionate about. If you only ever think of yourself in a work context, it’s very easy for that to become all consuming. Yes I am a ‘boss’ but I am also a daughter, sister, wife, mother, friend and neighbour. Take time to explore who you are, what matters to you and what – sport, reading, cooking, creative arts, whatever – gives you headspace and valuable ‘you time’.