“The green reed which bends in the wind is stronger than the mighty oak which breaks in a storm.” -Confucius
The last two decades have been marked by rapid and extreme swings, from bubble to recession and back again. Which makes it a great time to talk about resilience in the corporate world. As the economy went from boom to bust, shedding hundreds of thousands of jobs in the process, suddenly it wasn’t the perfect resume, glowing reference, or incredible networking skills that became the core skill of the successful employee.
Resilience was the difference between people who prospered and grew and the people who became disillusioned and dropped out of the workforce entirely. Since it doesn’t look like the corporate world is ready to settle down quite yet, now is as good a time as any to learn how to be resilient.
Resilience can be thought of as the ability to roll with the punches. To take the good and the bad in stride, and turn either into success. Not everyone is born resilient – in fact, we would go so far as to say that most people are not. Fortunately, like most skills, anyone can learn how to be resilient. Here’s how.
Build A Strong Interpersonal Safety Net: Change, especially sudden negative change, doesn’t just hurt our pocketbooks and career prospects. It hurts emotionally, and this emotional pain may be the hardest part of negative change to overcome. Building a strong network of close, positive friends and acquaintances can go a long way towards making dealing easier.
Building a social emotional safety net is absolutely critical to becoming resilient. Friends can help mend broken hearts and broken dreams alike. Work contacts can help in job searches and in identifying and developing key employment skills. Romantic partners can give a sense of normalcy, intimacy, and support when you need it most. Lacking this safety net can turn even the most stable and secure individual into a wreck when the worst happens.
Building an interpersonal safety net takes work, though. It starts with networking – as much networking as you can get in. The broader your network, the stronger and least prone to failure your safety net becomes. But it’s not about simply networking. To build the kind of bonds that help the most, you need to make an effort to genuinely care for, show interest in, and want to help the people around you. Only by doing that can you cultivate reciprocal feelings in the people that matter.
Get Healthy: Nothing makes resiliency more difficult than failing health. One of the reasons that popular culture idolizes and creates such lofty heroes out of individuals who overcome ill health to attain success is precisely because we instinctively recognize how difficult dealing with illness or injury really is.
Good health does more than just take away one more thing to worry about. Study after study shows that emotional and mental well-being is strongly tied to physical well-being. A healthy lifestyle makes coping with trauma and change much easier to accept and deal with.
Getting healthy doesn’t mean turning into a gym rat. It DOES mean eating well, getting plenty of sleep, and exercising regularly. Replace fast food lunches with fresh, home-made alternatives. Try to get 8 hours of sleep every night. Reduce alcohol and tobacco use. Find ways to work movement into your day. A healthy body will lead to a healthier mind, which in turn will lead to more resilience.
Focus On The Positive: It should be no surprise that keeping an upbeat and positive attitude is important to being resilient. However, a positive outlook isn’t something that just happens. Like any skill or ability, it needs to be cultivated and grown. While it may seem like a lot of effort, the rewards are well worth it and will make you much more resilient in the face of adversity.
Cultivating positivity is not always easy, but the steps to do so are simple. It starts with being conscious of your thoughts and spotting negativity before it starts. You have to examine situations before deciding how to react, to make sure that you aren’t missing any positives. It also helps to be able to respond with humor rather than dejection.
Diversify Your Life: When disaster strikes, being resilient is easier if it only impacts one part of your life. To that end, it’s important to develop a well-rounded set of hobbies, goals, and routines. The broader your interests, the less likely you are to lose everything in one go. A loss of a job, for example, stings a lot more and is a lot harder to bounce back from when your job was your entire life.
Keep Learning, Always: One of the most important keys to resiliency is keeping your skills and knowledge fresh. It’s important to dedicate yourself to a lifetime of learning – learning new skills, learning new techniques, learning from mistakes. Being quick to learn and having a broad knowledge base makes getting up from a fall a lot easier, and opens up opportunities in even the most adverse of conditions.