Resilience can be defined as “the inner strength to overcome difficulties and sustain performance through the ups and downs of life.” In the light of the challenges we encounter daily, at home and at work, resilience is critical if we are to remain well and maintain our relationships and work performance.
Many factors influence how resilient we are and it is not fixed. It varies at different times and in different situations. The good news is that we can build and nurture our resilience. The bad news is we can undermine it too.
I recently worked with a team that was in the middle of a significant organisational change in the form of a proposed merger. The team leaders were heavily involved in discussions with the other merging organisation and with a variety of other bodies involved. Team members had experienced some small involvement to that point, and were being updated regularly on progress. The concern was that the team members were feeling down, unsure about their future, and concerned about where their jobs would fit in the new world.
This is quite typical during major change. There is a lot of uncertainty and we are likely to feel afraid as we consider what we might lose as a result of the changes, even if there will be some upsides too.
I was able to guide the team to understand their own personal levels of resilience using a simple diagnostic tool. This is important, because it is only by becoming more aware of our unhelpful thinking and behavioural patterns, that we can shift them to something more helpful.
Everyone shared stories of what had “charged their batteries” and also what had “drained” them when they had needed to be resilient previously.
I then provided them with a practical toolkit about what to do, both in the high-stakes, pressurised moments, and also ongoing, to help with longer term resilience building.
There are some common thought patterns that can derail us when we are under pressure, such as over-generalising, catastrophising, ignoring the positive. You may recognise some of these in yourself.
However, there are many things we can do differently “in the moment”, when we are really feeling the pressure, such as the way that we manage our thoughts, the way we talk to ourselves, the way we breathe. These practices can have an immediate and profound impact, as the team members discovered as we learned and practiced them together in the session.
For longer term resilience building, there are also daily practices we can choose such as doing our best work at our peak energy times, exercising regularly, being a bit more careful with diet and hydration, and improving the quality of our sleep. I shared research insights and a number of techniques that the team could experiment with over time too.
In our turbulent world, we all need to be resilient. The American military coined the term VUCA, meaning Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity, which is now being used more widely in organisational life to describe our current reality.
With VUCA unlikely to go away anytime soon, if at all, building our resilience remains crucial.