When upsets happen, whether personal or professional, it can be hard to find your way forward. Uncertainty, self-doubt, and fear can cloud your perception and cause you to second guess your decisions, making things unnecessarily difficult and complicated. Fortunately, you have an ally on your side: resilience.
By the time any of us has reached adulthood, we have no doubt faced and conquered a number of challenges such as career disappointments, upheaval in relationships, a serious health issue for ourselves or a loved one, or the death of someone close to us. Getting through and beyond these difficult episodes creates resilience, a kind of emotional muscle that, once we develop, we never really lose. Remembering what got you through the trials of the past will help you be resilient now and in the future.
Here are some tried-and-true tips to help you become more resilient:
Identify what is similar in your current challenge to what you’ve faced in the past. The connections may be obvious: losing your job today and a layoff five years ago. Because you’ve been through this before you know the pitfalls you’ll face, especially the uncertainty of when and where you’ll find your next opportunity. Take heart in the fact that you were able to find a job five years ago, and you’ll find one again. How much have you learned and grown since then, and what accomplishments have you mastered? Remember, what has made you successful thus far will make you successful again.
Look for emotional similarities as you face certain difficulties for the first time. Some challenges in life feel like uncharted territory. For example, maybe you’ve never had to deal with a business failure before. However, you may have experienced the loss of a relationship or dealt with a serious medical diagnosis. Remembering what enabled you to stay positive and hopeful about the future, instead of feeling victimized, will help you become more resilient now. What are the lessons learned from your past that can be applied to the situation you are in currently?
Remember your allies who have championed you. As the saying goes, no man is an island. We are all part of networks—familial, social, and professional—which keep us “plugged in” to a source of information and inspiration. These are the allies on whom you rely. Consider the example of former Hewlett-Packard Chair Patricia Dunn, who in the midst of a corporate espionage scandal while fighting stage-four ovarian cancer, drew strength from her allies. She defined these supporters as the people who really knew her and who bolstered her resilience by their unwavering support. Keep in mind, too, that your allies are the ones who will help you find new opportunities for the future, including by connecting you to people whom they know. Who in your network champions you?
Identify your resilience role models. The inspiring example of people who overcame significant challenge can teach you about becoming more resilient in your own life. Consider Christopher Galvin, the third generation CEO of Motorola, who was stunned when he was asked to step down from the company’s leadership, just as the turnaround he had orchestrated was coming to fruition. Remembering the experiences of his grandfather, whose first two businesses went bankrupt before he became successful, Galvin claimed resilience as his personal and family legacy. Whom do you admire as resilient individuals, and what can their experiences teach you about finding the way forward?
Focus on other areas of your life that give you joy. Even when a challenge consumes your time, energy, and attention, it is not the only thing in your life. You may have lost your job, but you still have friends and family who surround you, and pastimes and other interests that add meaning. After being asked to step down as chairman and CEO of Baxter International, Harry Kraemer was able to transition to a new life because he had never defined himself by his job. Other interests, including his family and faith, had always been a major part of his life. What in your life provides balance and brings you joy?
Know that this, too, shall pass. Even the darkest days do not last forever. Eventually there is resolution. Life goes on. The knowledge that the challenge you face now will not continue forever can help you set your sights on the proverbial “light at the end of the tunnel,” rather than seeing the difficulties as interminable. When have you gone through a particularly difficult challenge that, in the end, had a satisfactory or positive conclusion?
Resilience is an in-born quality that we all possess to some degree. By being more conscious of this quality in yourself, you can build your emotional stamina to go through the inevitable challenges in life with clarity, confidence, and grace. Keeping your perspective will allow you to discern the path ahead to move yourself forward into the future. As today’s difficulty is resolved, be grateful for the experience. Know that you are better for having gone through it. You will emerge even more resilient, which will serve you well in the future.
About the Authors:
Andrea Redmond and Patricia Crisafulli are the authors of Comebacks: Powerful Lessons from Leaders who Suffered Setbacks and Recaptured Success on Their Terms (Jossey-Bass, 2010). Read more about them at www.AndreaRedmond.com and www.PatriciaCrisafulli.com.