Resilience: The ability to bounce back from setbacks and to keep going in the face of tough demands and difficult circumstances, including the enduring strength that builds from coping well with challenging or stressful events
As no one can avoid the adversities and challenges that they are inevitable to come across at some point of their life and career, the real skill is the resilience to bounce back. Applying to both individuals as well as organisations, resilience is not about learning to fail, but learning to bounce back and the process and outcome of it. The key word however is learning; the outcome of resilience can have substantial effect on an individual, whether it’s in terms of a progression in their career, beginning of a new career path, or generally improving one’s life satisfaction.
Crucially, personal resilience is not to be considered as a trait that people either do or do not have. After all, we are born with utter helplessness as new-borns, eventually gaining personal control. Thus, personal resilience is not an unchanged trait, but something of a more complex nature that can be further developed. Even in evolutionary terms, life itself is the most resilient thing that exists and biological diversity ensures human adaptability to the new circumstances and challenges. Adaptability and resilience also manifests in individual differences when facing everyday challenges in terms of individual thinking styles and behavioural coping mechanisms.
Therefore, as evolution may suggest, variety in humans is a crucial factor for resilience to manifest itself and this is where resilience’s complexity comes into show. Personal resilience involves behaviours, thoughts, and actions that can be learned by and developed in anyone – essentially resilience is about increasing one’s awareness and self-control. Once one reaches this awareness, they can consciously take action to regain their position, allowing them to channel energy more adaptively and constructively in the face of changing circumstances and pressures. Personal resilience consists of individual characteristics and situational factors that define the process and outcome of a situation. The main areas that shape personal resilience through the interaction between individual characteristics and situational factors can be narrowed down to:
- Confidence – Positive attitude, self-belief and optimism
Start focusing on what has gone well and stretch yourself further
- Purposefulness – Self-control and meaningfulness
Create meaningful goals for yourself
- Adaptability – Intelligence , mastering of new skills and ability to improvise
Engage in changing yourself in order to deal effectively with change
- Self-regulation – Mindfulness and self-awareness
You are not your thinking. You are the person observing your thinking. When you feel anger, you’re in control of what you do next. When you are angry, you’ve lost control
- Social Support – Empathy and awareness of self and others
Develop your Emotional Intelligence by connecting with others
- Bigger Picture – Perspective
Write a brief personal vision statement with your most important values and the key parts of your life. Even if you’re facing a career crisis you will feel better if you can keep your perspective.
Resilience is thus built through the process of coping with challenges and results in endurance of strength, it involves self-control and willingness to acknowledge one’s own role in success as well as in defeat. And what matters is how one deals with it. Acknowledging possible biases in one’s thinking style, such as how they would reason or attribute their success or failure, is an important part of the process. Success can feel good and is in most cases a motivational boost, but one is not to define themselves by it, as one wouldn’t define themselves by their mistakes.
Steven Snyder, the author of Leadership and the Art of Struggle, notes that after suffering a setback, it is natural even for leaders to feel the burden of embarrassment and retreat into isolation. However, the leaders Steven interviewed for his research had strong social support systems, and they tapped into them during difficult times. Not only did they get the support and encouragement they needed to keep going, but also their social support system was an important source of new ideas and inspiration.
In conclusion, personal resilience isn’t all about setbacks or successes, it is also about learning the behaviours, attitudes and work patterns that allow one to keep going and growing, even in difficult or uncertain times. Resilience can also bring power, direction and energy to one’s career and life and for them to become more comfortable in an environment where nothing stays the same and the old ways may no longer work. Once they gain resilience, one can create a more successful career path, and at the same time find greater enjoyment with whatever their path may be.
Just because someone is afraid to push themselves towards something challenging and unfamiliar, it doesn’t mean that their strengths cannot in fact be hidden outside of their comfort zone, just waiting to be recognised. Thus, the outcomes from the process of resilience can further strengthen one’s resources and attitudes – ‘positive stress’, challenging goals and having the confidence to step outside of one’s comfort zone area all vital steps in order to experience greater satisfaction of one’s accomplishments.
Jill Flint-Taylor and Alex Davda – Understanding and Developing Personal Resilience (2015)
Steven Snyder – Leadership and the Art of Struggle (2013)