How do people deal with difficult events that change their lives? The loss of a job, an interview that did not yield results, the death of a loved one, serious illness and other traumatic events: these are all examples of very challenging life experiences. Many people react to such circumstances with a flood of strong emotions and a sense of uncertainty.
Yet people generally adapt well over time to life-changing situations and stressful conditions. What enables them to do so? It involves resilience.
According to the American Psychological Association, Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress — such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems or workplace and financial stressors. It means “bouncing back” from difficult experiences.
Being resilient does not mean that a person doesn’t experience difficulty or distress. Emotional pain and sadness are common in people who have suffered major adversity or trauma in their lives. In fact, the road to resilience is likely to involve considerable emotional distress. While it’s a fact that some of us are naturally more resilient than others, the good news is that those of us who find it difficult to bounce back from difficulties, can learn how to be better at it. Resilience can help us as much in our personal lives as it can in our professional lives; if we can learn to be resilient in our careers, we will find it easier to progress and to move on after a setback rather than let it overwhelm us.
I’d like you to think back to the last time something bad happened in your career: how did you handle the situation? Depending on your attitude and your resilience, either you chalked it down as a mistake, took lessons from it and moved forward to bigger and better things, or you saw it as a hindrance that made you dejected and made you think that things would never be the same again and that you were doomed to forever repeat your failure.
Good news! History doesn’t always have to repeat itself, and with some simple changes to your viewpoint you can make sure it doesn’t. Here are some things for you to try:
Failing does not make you a failure
Thomas Edison, also known as the inventor of the light bulb said: “I haven’t failed; I’ve just found 10,000 ways that don’t work.” You reckon he sat head in hand after every setback or is threw his hands up in the air, declared himself a failure, and gave up? No! He believed in himself and his skills, figured out why it went wrong and didn’t make that same mistake again next time. He knew that a failure is not the end of the world, it’s a small blip on the way to success – and the more resilient you are, the more you’ll be able to see that too.
I am not promising that you’ll become a household name some day, but it is up to you whether you fail once or ten times. When you get unfavorable feedback on a project, it does not mean that you are useless or a total failure; it means that that particular project went wrong. Your primary focus now should be to finding out exactly what went wrong, understanding why it was wrong, and make sure you never make those mistakes again.
Failure should be seen as a way to learn, and not something to avoid: you will only move forward if you get out of your comfort zone, try new things, fail, and learn how to do them right.
People who are not resilient tend to be opposed to change. Change happens; change is constant, change is life, and sadly some people to respond negatively to it, and the result of that is that they fall into a spiral of falling further and further behind as they suffer more setbacks due to their pessimistic outlook. When you learn to embrace change, setbacks won’t seem so major; you’ll learn, you’ll help your self-esteem and be prepared for the next big thing that’s going to help propel you to the next level in your career progression.
It isn’t just about change, either. The truth is that unfortunate things are going to happen to you; they happen to everyone. Now how you react to circumstances is what really matters. Resilience is about accepting that fact and knowing how to handle it as the temporary setback it is. Compare it to bracing yourself for a trip to the hospital for a procedure: it’s going to be unpleasant, but it’s up to you how you approach it and how much worse you make it by letting yourself start thinking about the “what if”s.
Say no to blame games
Consider these responses, which person do you think is the most (healthily) resilient?
- Person A: “Yes, it did go wrong, but it was all X’s fault and I’m perfect.”
- Person B: “Things went wrong, it’s all my fault and I’m useless.”
- Person C: “Things went wrong and I’m partly to blame… how can I fix it?”
I am sure person C is your best bet. People who fall into that category have accepted that they are far from perfect and that they should hold themselves at least partly accountable, but they aren’t letting it hold them back and they’re focusing on improving themselves rather than blaming anyone. Putting all the blame on yourself will ruin your confidence, and blaming someone else will only cause that person to hate you. Person A could also be considered resilient, but thinking like that isn’t going to do them much good in the long run.
I always like to think of a resilient person as a bouncy ball. The ball will always bounce back, even if you’ve bounced it against something that’s caused it some damage. Most people lack the strength to handle a setback without some dent to their pride or their feelings, but the more resilient someone is, the easier they find it to move on.
The solution is to worry less about it being someone else’s fault and out of your control, or about it being totally your fault and feeling useless, and concentrate more on the future where it will never happen again.
Develop the mindset of an entrepreneur
Simply because you are not an entrepreneur, or have no interest in being one, doesn’t mean you can’t learn a thing or two from them. Take a moment to ponder about how resilient entrepreneurs are, from selling their ideas to getting people to buy into it to putting in all the effort to make it a success, now that is resilience at work.
Businesses don’t always go well straight from the beginning, but the entrepreneur has to pick themselves up and move on if they want to succeed. So whenever you want to sit down and wallow about a negative line in your performance report, imagine how much worse it could be: you could be looking at a lack of revenue for your business that means you can’t pay all the employees who have put their trust in you. It’s called perspective, and it plays a big part on how resilient you are.
The same way that entrepreneur has to pick himself up and do better – and he probably have to do it pretty quickly, too – that’s exactly what you have to do. Your business is you, and you’re the brand that you’re trying to sell to the world and convince your boss that they were wise to invest in.
Manage Your Stress
This is a tad difficult but to be resilient, we must master this art too. No matter how badly the day is turning out, you should be in control of your stress, and not let it control you. No matter the issue, it is up to you to make sure you keep it in check and that you don’t end up wearing yourself out and ending up in a nice white jacket, in a nice white room (Yaba left) Better stress management means better health, which means more resilience and a happier life.
Don’t get me wrong, resilience is not the absence of stress (everyone gets stressed, honestly), but it is the ability to overcome it and not let it destroy you. Like the saying goes ‘different strokes for different folks’ stress is handled in different ways by different people, you need to work out the way that works best for you, or else you’ll start a vicious cycle where stress will affect the quality of your work, the negative feedback on your work will make you stressed, and so on.
Just like some people are “natural” leaders, speakers or entrepreneurs, some people are naturally resilient. It is also possible that anyone can learn to be anything if they just put their mind to it; therefore, you can turn yourself into a more resilient person. By changing these few things about the way you approach things, not only will you boost your self-esteem, but your resilience will grow and you’ll find that future are not so unsettling.
Are you resilient? Do you know of some other ways to improve resilience? Let us know in the comments section below.Resilience; a Must Have in Today’s Career by Stellamaris Obomanu