This morning my two oldest sons finally returned to school starting at just two days a week. Its surreal actually. Where there were constant reminders to get on the next ZOOM call, there is now the silence. Where there was seemingly constant arguing about not watching YouTube during school, there is now the sound of my 4-year-old laughing. Where there was frustration steaming from my son because his parents could not figure out long division, there is now the sound of Christmas music playing in the other room.
As we were dropping the boys off this morning, I looked back at my second-to-oldest. He had a nervous look on his face, and I could tell that he was anxious about how the day would go. As I watched him leave the car, get his temperature checked, and then slowly make his way inside the school, my heart broke and I honestly could not blame him for his reservations. He, along with his 3 brothers, have been constantly bombarded with unexpected change and setbacks for a solid 9 months now and he was about to jump headfirst into another one.
This had me thinking about my own reactions to change and setbacks and how my attitude during those difficult times is being watched not only by my boys, but by my wife, clients, and employees. As I looked back on the past 9 months, I realized that I could use a lot of work in that arena.
All of these thoughts lead me back to one word: resilience. What it is, and how it can be made apparent in our lives? Resilience to me is staying confident under pressure, handling and managing crises effectively, maintaining a positive attitude despite adversity, bouncing back from setbacks, and becoming fortified through negative experiences.
A few months ago, I bought what I thought was a punching bag. It actually turned out to be more of an adult version of those bounce-back balloon toys we played with as kids. Despite it being an adult bounce-back toy, the spring was sturdy and strong. There have been many nights in which I have beat that punching back senseless and every time it just bounces right back. That sturdy spring is like resilience. No matter the amount of pummeling, it comes right back. The science behind that spring is interesting. Did you know that springs are able to store energy for later use? With that in mind, did you know our resilience can also store energy for later use and pummeling. The concept is the same.
When is resilience needed?
A large part of understanding resilience is understanding when to use it.
1. Ambiguity and Uncertainty: In most cases at work or in life, the way is not always clear. When you feel that sense of ambiguity, its time to dive into that resilience reserve.
2. Barriers to Progress: Despite willingness to progress, we find ourselves up against a series of external obstacles that seem insurmountable. This often leads us to wondering why they are there. Time to tap into the resilience reserve.
3. Limited Challenges: I don’t know about you, but when I don’t feel challenged at home, work, or life, I need to tap into that resilience reserve. I need to realize that I don’t always need to be busy. I can take time to relax and sometimes that takes a different kind of resilience, but resilience nonetheless.
4. Encountering Risk: Anytime (which is a lot) we encounter risk, we need to tap into the energy of resilience.
5. Encountering Fear: I think of a roller coaster or bungee jumping when I think of fear. We are nervous about speaking in front of groups or fulfilling our potential because of the perceived outcomes such as the cart falling of the tracks but get a sense of exhilaration and achievement afterward.
What skills can be developed to enhance resilience?
1. Endurance: At times in our life it feels like we take 3 steps forward, only to take 2 steps back. Endurance is moving forward, jumping over any obstacle despite those 2 steps back.
2. Self-management: In this skill, we have a tenacity and persistence to focus despite the many distractions of life. The long-term outcome is more important than the short-term gratification.
3. Determination: Each time I think of determination, I think of ambition. I believe they are interconnected. Determination is not letting the setback get in the way of your ambition.
4. Drive and Motivation: Motivation is a drive that leads us to achieving our goals. Its truly remarkable to think about how animals have this internal drive to make long journeys in uncommon terrain for food or to live in more conducive environments. One interesting thing to note here is they often migrate in teams. The more involved you are in a team, the more motivated you will become in a general sense of the word.
What can you do to build your resilience?
1. Take on a task that you dislike doing. Manage your way through it.
2. Prepare and present, with confidence, a proposal to your management team. Anticipate the resistance you may encounter.
3. Solicit constructive criticism from your spouse, boss, or co-worker. Look for what you can learn from the information. Resist the impulse to get on the defense.
4. Answer the question of what truly motivates you and what is the internal drive that will help you employ resilience when needed.
Can one employ too much resilience?
Absolutely! In his book entitled The Emotional Life of the Brain, Richard Davidson suggests that rebounding too quickly, especially in relation to the emotions of others, people with too much resilience can lack empathy by not fully comprehending the emotions of others. Therefore, allow me to say that true resilience is a balance between rapid response and in-depth processing of the events. Leaders, parents, family members, and co-workers who use their resilience well tend to have the ability to analyze problems, discover root causes, make changes, and manage the consequences of choice with mindfulness. That will take time.
So, are we horrible people if we don’t use our resilience energy reserve? No way! We are human! I am always telling my clients that it’s not about being perfect. It’s about progress and effort. If you bring that effort every single day, that’s where transformation takes place. With that being said, be on the lookout for those opportunities to flex and bend that resilience, apply some of these techniques, and watch the slow and steady transformation take place.
Lastly, let me just say how proud I am of my son for tapping into his resilience energy reserve this morning. He was scared, anxious, and nervous yet he took those slow and steady steps into the school not knowing what his day would bring. If my son’s resilience were personified, it would look like Arnold Schwarzenegger!
Take some time to reflect on the extraordinary amounts of resilience reserve your children, spouses, co-workers, and employees have built up over the past year and applaud them for their efforts to push forward and bounce back.
Rock that Resilience!