There is no denying that we all live in a pretty stressful world. Without even going down the rabbit hole of the countless global events that can bring on the stress response every time we watch or listen to the news, just our day-to-day lives seem to be a never-ending experience of tension, anxiety and disorder.
What Is Resilience?
Resilience is defined as an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change. What is so interesting though, is that we all define and react differently to adversity. It can be the exact same situation, but how one person responds compared to the next, can be worlds apart.
When we teach about resilience in our workshop programs, we start by explaining it with the potato and the egg story. If you have a big pot of bubbling, boiling water on the stove and you put a potato in it, the potato goes soft and mushy. If you put an egg in that same pot of bubbling, boiling water the egg goes hard. It is the exact same stressor (pot of bubbling, boiling water), but the two items respond in completely different ways. One goes soft and one goes hard.
Resilience In The Workplace
We often see this in the workplace. For example, a small team has been working for 9months on a possible new contract that will bring millions of dollars of revenue to the company, and they have dedicated long days (and nights), sacrificed their weekends, lost sleep, and had arguments with their partners at home due to all this focus. Unfortunately, they don’t win the pitch and another company is chosen. One team member (let’s call him John) takes this very hard, seeing it as a personal rejection and feels bitter about the massive amount of time he has dedicated to it. John becomes pretty cranky at work for the next 6months, extracts himself from the usual workplace banter, and has lost all his get-up-and-go attitude. On the other hand, his colleague Suzy, sees it as an opportunity to learn from the process, research another option, and throw herself into ensuring this next contract does not slip through her fingers.
What we know is that no matter what the scale of the change or misfortune or difficulty or trauma or tragedy, there seems to be a great range on how people deal with this. Our resilience is how we adapt and respond.
The good news is, it is possible to improve our resilience to challenges – whether they be personal or professional ones. Strengthening your resilience muscle takes effort. Just like any kind of muscle strengthening it takes training for it to grow and get stronger. Building your resilience muscle is no different.
Why Do We Need To Strengthen Our Resilience Muscle?
The current expectation of being available at all hours and always connected to so many devices, has created an intense work culture. This highly demanding environment is a breeding ground for stress, which puts everyone at risk of burnout.
Currently, a quarter of all employees view their jobs as the number one stressor in their lives, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the World Health Organization describes stress as the “global health epidemic of the 21st century.” In Australia, there were $200 million worth of stress-related claims in 2016, so there is no doubt that stress is causing a great deal of physical and mental issues.
Considering this work culture is unlikely to change any time soon, it is now more important than ever that we build our resilience muscles so we can deal with this ongoing stress and intensity. Resilience is a skill that we can learn if we choose to so that we can bounce back from adversity. Click to tweet If we are good students we can actually improve this skill to a point that we thrive from negative events, when before we may have crumbled.
What Contributes to Low Resilience?
It’s worth having a quick look at what are some of the factors that contribute to our resilience being lowered.
- Health – your physical, mental and social wellbeing all impacts your ability to cope with tricky situations
- Mindset – the story you have created about your life and whether that is a positive or negative story
- Stress – being exposed to stress over long periods of time chips away at your capability to deal with challenges Click to tweet
- Empowerment – feeling you have no control over decisions in your life, wears you down
- Enjoyment – inability to be happy and/or grateful lowers our resilience
When we acknowledge that these above factors make it really hard to bounce back from challenges, we can start to understand the missing pieces that we need to work on.