I see the word resilience showing up when the topic is the economy, companies, and people. Being resilient is like having a “get out of jail free” card in Monopoly. When we feel trapped or without options, resilience brings out creativity and positivity, and before we know it, we have found options and possibilities for success.
According to Daryl Conner, an organization development consultant and author of Managing at the Speed of Change, some people have more resilience “points” than others. They may have gained their points by experiencing a lot of change as a child, both positive and negative. Perhaps their family moved several times or a parent was frequently out of the picture. Regardless of how many points we have, Conner contends we can increase our resilience by fully processing negative experiences. When we go back and review them through the lens of learning rather than defeat, we see that the experiences gave us new skills, confidence, and success in ways we may not appreciate if we don’t revisit the incidents.
When I think about the elements of resilience the first thing I think of is creativity, the ability to think outside the box. When an entrepreneur noticed his soccer-playing daughter and her friends didn’t have mouth guards, he created a company to make them quickly and economically. He expanded his business by marketing mouth guards to dentists whose patients grind their teeth in their sleep. When the coronavirus pandemic caused mouth guard sales to plummet, he retooled his factory to make personal protective gear for hospital workers. When one door closed, he created a new one.
Another element of resilience is flexibility. Flexibility makes us open to alternative approaches to achieving our goals. When gyms and health clubs closed, many trainers developed online training. I started taking online yoga classes, and now I love the ability to work out on my schedule, not the health club’s. A coaching conference I had signed up for was canceled due to the virus, but the organizers figured out how to offer it virtually. The presentations were great, and using Zoom during breakout groups, I felt more intimacy and connection than I did attending previous conferences in person.
Positivity is another powerful component of resilience. With a negative attitude, we focus on what we can’t do rather than what we can do. Admittedly, having an optimistic outlook comes naturally for some while others have to work at it. If you are in the latter category, each time you have a negative thought, acknowledge it and counter it with a positive one. For example, if you are thinking about how much you miss going to the office, remember that you are saving commute time and the cost of gas. Doing something for others also improves our positivity, so look for opportunities to support others and notice how much better you feel.
Purpose can be a persuasive motivator. In his book Man’s Search for Meaning, author Viktor Frankl found that the people who survived the Nazi death camps did so because they had a purpose that compelled them to envision a future outside of the camps. It is purpose that keeps us from giving up during challenging times. When we can see an affirming future it gives us hope and keeps us working toward that goal.
Self-confidence—believing in yourself—is both the result of and impetus behind resilience. Even if we excel in the other aspects of resilience, if we’re not confident that we will be successful we may not achieve our goals. Confidence withers when we are self-critical and belittle our accomplishments. When you do something well, allow yourself to savor it: accept positive feedback from friends and coworkers with grace, and be sure to jot down your successes so you can recall them later. What we pay attention to becomes our reality, even more so when we commit our thoughts to writing. Make sure you focus on the positive.
Resilience allows us to spring back from adversity with energy to move forward and try again. Especially during these unusual times, it’s important to identify which components of resilience are strongest for you and lean into them to help you find new possibilities for success.