Navigating changing times: what I’ve learned about developing resilience

Resilience is a word which crops up a lot in changing times like the ones we’re in. I don’t recall people talking about it much at all in the early stages of my career, but we are in extraordinarily unique circumstances and our world of work has undergone more change than many of us will ever have experienced in our working lives so far. 

Although many of us may not have consciously worked towards developing our resilience, it’s a crucial skill and one which we may just have developed through our work and personal experiences. Speaking from my own personal experience as someone who has developed into a leadership role over time during my career, here is what I have learned about developing resilience and facing change head on. 

Your relationships are vital

Strong relationships with your family, friends and colleagues are vital. I am sure we have all leant on different people during the last few months, despite not having been able to enjoy the physical face-to-face contact most of us are used to. Giving and appreciating small acts of kindness from those around us is so important for pushing through tough times and fostering a sense of individual and collective resilience. Being active in your wider network or community can also help – I find that offering your support to someone else in need also makes you more resilient, as you must be strong for them but then they are there for you when you may need them too. 

Challenges are opportunities in disguise

To overcome an unusual or difficult situation, we need to learn new things and upskill, which more often than not can lead to achieving things we didn’t think ourselves capable of. Getting into the habit of seeing challenges as opportunities will enable you to grow and develop, which boosts your resilience like nothing else. 

Considering that so many organisations need to reshape and rebuild as a result of the pandemic, I recommend seeking new challenges with an energised frame of mind. Take some time to reflect on your achievements and newfound resilience when you overcome the challenge and make sure that you document the experience of this on your CV.   

Stress is a natural part of change

This might sound unusual, but stress is a natural part of change and indeed general life and in some situations, will be unavoidable. My advice is to accept and even embrace this, as how you choose to respond has the power to bolster your resilience. 

If we don’t resist stress, and instead respond to change quickly and with a positive attitude, without doubt we minimise this stress and come out stronger on the other side. Whether it’s a situation in your personal life or at work, each time you successfully do this you learn to do it better and faster. Then, the next time you find yourself in a similar situation, you’ll already have some resilience already built.

A daily pat on the back goes a long way

Life goals are a useful tool. However, I find it more helpful to focus on something small each day. I recommend taking the time at the end of each day to review what went well and congratulate yourself. This trains your mind to look for success rather than dwelling on negativity, giving you a sense of achievement each day, which I believe helps build resilience.

I recently came across a very powerful online keynote speech by a leader who had come through the navy SEAL training and selection programme, who started his speech by advocating making your bed every morning. Although it seemed like a strange way to start a motivational talk, his point was incredibly powerful: start your day with a simple task, a job well done, so that if things go wrong in your day, you have still accomplished something (and worst case you come home to a bed already made). I think we can take this ethos into our working lives by acknowledging our small achievements each day.

Don’t be afraid to act quickly 

Sitting on things and avoiding decision-making doesn’t build resilience in ourselves nor does it in our teams and organisations. I think in the times we are now all working in, it is more important than ever to evaluate situations and make good, fast decisions – not rashly, but promptly. It is inevitable that something around that decision is going to change in our current climate, so if you delay too long then things could evolve and you will find yourself in a completely different situation, needing to re-start the decision-making process. 

Flexible or remote working is a great example to illustrate this. It has been on conference agendas and business discussions for several years now, being argued for and against, with steady yet slow uptake. When lockdown commenced, actions were taken by organisations all over the world to rapidly mobilise much of the workforce to work remotely in a matter of days. Economies and organisations have worked hard to survive through the impacts of the pandemic and our world of work has undergone some positive, long-lasting change. 

Having confidence in a practiced response

This last one is so important. Developing confidence in your ability to solve problems and trusting your instincts goes a long way to building resiliency. While being proactive about making decisions is crucial, equally learned behaviours help us to take positive action when a different scenario is thrown upon us. 

Having a planned response based on practiced outcomes is, for me, what really helps build resilience in any situation. Just think about what we have learned in recent months, things which we didn’t know before but that would help us if thrown into a similar situation again. Further to a planned and practised response, knowing what part you play and being confident in your contribution to add value helps you to build resilience, every day. 

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