Building Your Resilience Muscle

Sprout of a tree

The kind of resilience that we need now and in the future isn’t a simple skill. Rather it is an inherent quality or capacity that each of us has inside, waiting to be nurtured and built like a muscle, with practice and attention to form.

In the context of leadership and organization, resilience is the ability to not just survive but to thrive. And an organization can only thrive if its leaders and members are resilient.

Much research has been done on individual resilience over the past 15 years, and it has been described in many ways. My favorite definition is from Jane McGonigal: “When I say resilience, I mean being stronger in the face of adversity, being more determined, courageous, creative, optimistic.”

She describes four types of resilience.

Mental resilience: The ability to pay attention and motivate yourself to do something that is difficult.

Emotional resilience: The ability to invoke positive emotions such as optimism, curiosity, or joy when you need to.

Social resilience: The ability to reach out to others for help when you need it. This also means learning to be the kind of person that others are likely to want to support and encourage.

Physical resilience: The ability to face physical challenges.

Jane McGonigal is a psychologist, author and TED speaker who has studied gaming and games that improve psychological function.

The current pandemic is understandably focusing everyone on short-term actions to get through the crisis. However, it is also a good time to think about thriving. Resilient people will also be challenging their assumptions about not only what business they are in, but also their assumptions of goals and dreams, anticipating opportunities and thinking about creative long-term solutions. Heaven knows this crisis has disrupted or affected every part of our personal, family, business and community life, structures and beliefs.

How will we reimagine our lives and businesses to be less crisis-prone, less disrupted by change, and even more full of what makes us happy and fulfilled? How can we strengthen the core and explore the creative edge of our businesses and even ourselves?

Here are a few ideas to build resilience. First, challenge your mindset. Do you have a growth mindset like Microsoft uses in reimaging and redesigning its company? Are you open to opportunities to change for the better? I encourage you to check out my simple personal mindset assessment on the coaching page of my website.

Jane McGonigal would say to play games, because they are designed to make it more difficult to achieve a goal and easier to accept failure. And you won’t get fired over it!

Your body is the repository of resilience. Being self-aware and especially aware of your physical senses allows the choice to have flexibility and movement. It is obviously not helpful to be frozen in fear or stuck in overwhelm.  Martial arts such as Aikido teach students to hold their center or return rapidly to center regardless of what life sends their way.

David Rubenstein, CEO of Carlyle Group and Bloomberg TV interviewer of leaders, has interviewed over 30 top leaders. He says failure and the ability to learn from it is one builder of resilience.

Lastly, remember Jane’s definition of social resilience – and ask for help!

This post is part of our Beyond Reskilling series. If you missed any of these posts you can click HERE to read them all!

Be sure to check out my new white paper: Leadership at the Edge of Business.

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