The simplest definition of resilience is the ability to bounce back from adversity.
Resilience at work is the ability to manage both the everyday stresses and pressures but in addition, the extra, unexpected 'stuff' that can ambush the best of us.
Resilience is about recognising that you can't control everything, that things change. The more inflexible you are the less resilience you have.
I've decided to look at Resilience as a bit of a moveable feast; some times I can feel incredibly resilient and can take whatever life throws at me and other times I want to curl up into a little ball, hide and give up.
For ease of explanation I'm going to call it having a Resilience Factor and that Resilience Factor goes from 1 (no sense of resilience whatsoever; no ability to cope with stress, challenges, worries) all the way to 10 (an ability to easily bounce back from adversity, very high survival mechanism, excellent capacity to cope with life's vagaries).
I may be wrong, but I don't think anyone operates as a 10 all the time. I, who consider myself very resilient, still have times when I can't muster the emotional strength to go back into the fray to fight another day. I need recovery time to build myself back up again.
A lot of people have a resilience comfort level where they know just how much stress they can take and how much fuel they have in the tank. Others seem to get buffeted anew each time something difficult comes along.
The way I see it as that we often can't do much about the first reaction we have when something goes wrong (well maybe the Buddha could, but not this mere mortal). For instance, my first reaction is often an expletive that I either say in my head, mutter under my breath or let out in an impassioned exclamation. My heart sinks and sometimes my brain freezes for a short while.
Can you identify what happens to you; what your first reaction tends to be when faced with an unexpected challenge or some obstacle that appears out of nowhere? Like me, do you have a default reaction?
That default reaction I think of as reinforcing the 'narrative' we have about ourselves. Here's my example: I love solving problems which is why in most cases I have a high Resilience Factor; I don't see challenges as a way to defeat me, but as something to unpick and resolve. Therefore, my 'narrative' is that I have the resources to cope and I'll find a way through.
On the other hand, I have a good friend who tends to operate with a very low Resilience Factor and gives up a lot of the time, telling herself she can't do it, she doesn't have the skills, other people do it better. Many times she reacts like a child and blames whatever happens on other people, what she's actually working with ("I hate this printer"), her poor education and so on. Her 'narrative' is filled with negatives and reinforces her lack of self-belief.
Narratives, the stories we tell ourselves and others, is a good indicator of our Resilience Factor.
If I tell myself that I'm OK, that I have the capability (most of the time) to deal with the range of difficulties and stresses that may come my way, then I support my narrative which in turn feeds my core beliefs and so on. My resilience is also being supported and developed because I am more free to be creative and find different ways of problem solving.
If I tell myself that I can't cope, that I'm incompetent, useless, rubbish at handling a crisis, then my core beliefs are fed big time and my resilience is undermined and my creativity shut down.
I know that it's possible to learn how to become more resilient and in my next blogs that's what I'll be featuring: ways to change the narrative to be more supportive to yourself and to others with a low Resilience Factor.; ways to choose a different second reaction when the unexpected or pressure-filled scenario happens.
Jo Ellen Grzyb, Founding Partner of Impact Factory
Check out our Building Resilience Course.