Hitting the Gym to Build Strength? Don’t Forget About Resilience

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I’ve often wondered why building resilience isn’t a key life (and work) imperative. Primarily because being human is often at odds with our daily struggles. Work can routinely bring stress, negativity and outright failures — family can bring us even more challenges.

Most of us feel unprepared to combat the cumulative effects.

We often frame conversations about resilience with stories of extreme hardship or extenuating circumstances. However, built resilience could serve as an ever-present, daily mentor, helping us to rebound from the collected pressures of our lives.

Most of us forge on — taking little note of the increasing toll — and building resilience isn’t considered.

This can be a serious mistake.

Through all of the trials and tribulation, we rarely notice that our psychological resources are waning.We muddle on. We develop idiosyncratic mechanisms to bolster our mood. However, the damage accumulates. We become less able to bounce back. Months later, we may realize that we still lament the project that has been cut or the argument that may have cost us a friendship.

Our energy levels are affected. When the next event unfolds, we find ourselves bankrupt. Devoid of the necessary resources to meet the challenge.

There have been a number of discussions on this topic, including protecting ourselves from overload, banking positive currency and practicing self-compassion. However, what if we could take resilience one step further? Could we effectively build our skills (and our team’s skills) in this area — just as we challenge our muscles in the gym?

Can we learn to think and act more “resiliently”?

Well — yes. There is evidence that resilience can be learned. The work of Dr. Fred Luthans (who explores the construct of Psychological Capital) has completed research examining this area. Supporting research completed completed by Ann Masten also provides important foundational elements. This includes addressing 1) asset factors (elements that enhance our resilience, such as a stable home life or a healthy way to examine failure), 2) lowering risk factors (for example, a lack of a mentor) and 3) altering our perceptions concerning the potential to influence work life circumstances.

Here are a just few ways to apply this knowledge to our daily lives:

  • Facilitate network building. Building long-term asset factors, provides a stable foundation to help us deal with stressful work situations when they do arise. Consider losing a job for example; stronger networks can help employees move on more effectively by providing access to critical information concerning roles and growth needs.
  • Clarify strategy and goals. Reducing risk factors — elements which weaken our psychological safety net, is also vital. For example, knowing “why” we are completing a task and how our role contributes to outcomes is critical. If we fail to believe that our actions have meaning, we are less likely to forge on.
  • Utilize the “staunch reality” viewpoint. One scenario that quickly depletes psychological resources, is sticking to a game plan that is simply not working. Understanding that we have the ability to influence outcomes by embracing realistic assessments of workplace situations — can help us to prepare. This honest view is necessary to review history, properly identify setbacks, evaluate potential impact and brainstorm possible responses before they occur.
  • Aggressively focus on strengths as a “vaccine”. We can mitigate the negative after effects of stressful events, with a focus on positive elements. This includes the identification and utilization of an individual’s stronger vs. weaker skill sets. A focus on the latter, can quickly deplete our psychological reserves.
  • Explore the sources of “drain”. The elements that drain our psychological reserves can be varied (and often surprising). Consider the sources that affect you and meet with your team (or family members) to determine where the leaks are occurring. Brainstorm actions to stem the tide.

Read more:

How do you build (and protect) resilience for yourself ? (I’ll share a short diagnostic, down the road). Meanwhile, share your strategies here.

Live.Work.Think.Play shares observations concerning a wide array of topics from running a company — to the perfect fragrance. It is designed to share lessons learned from a variety of perspectives.

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