Human beings are incredibly resilient. The survival of the species is hardwired into our DNA. So, how can you become more resilient at work to achieve career success?
Look around at some of the horrendous conditions in the world that humans endure, and yet they prevail as the highest form of life on this planet.
The dictionary definition of resilience is:
'The power or ability to return to your original form or position after being compressed, stretched or stressed.'
It can also refer to the ability to recover readily from illness, depression or adversity.
In this article, we examine resilience in a professional setting, in other words, what you can do when things go wrong in the workplace.
What is resilience?
A football manager coined the term ‘bouncebackability’ when he referred to the high levels of resilience in one of his players. Although the term was meant as a joke,, it has become common parlance today.
So, when we talk about resilience, we’re referring to the strength of character that individuals have that allow them to bounce back. Although that may make resilience sound like an innate quality, that’s not the case.
Resilience, as a quality may be naturally higher in some people, than in others. But resilience can be learned and fostered through personal development. It can also be learned by living through adversity.
Some people, when faced with personal tragedies, are able to draw on their reserves of resilience to achieve successful outcomes. This involves focusing on solutions for the future, not dwelling on the problems experienced in the past.
Past problems should only be remembered as learning experiences. Unfortunately, those who cannot focus in this way, and become mired in their negative experiences, can often experience further personal difficulties and tragedies. So, how can you become resilient?
How can you become more resilient?
One of the building blocks of resilience is having the confidence to undertake the actions necessary to move in a positive direction.
Of course, some of us are more naturally confident than others, but confidence can be learned through time. There are some straightforward techniques that you can employ for improving your self-confidence and therefore resilience.
1) Believe in your abilities
First of all, you must believe in your own abilities. It's easy to feel that you don't belong in a situation because you are not good enough and that everyone else is, but that is simply not true in most professional situations in which we find ourselves.
Resilience is not all about doing everything yourself and being some kind of superhero. In fact, it's a useful resilience skill to know your strengths and limitations and when to get help.
2) Avoid perfectionism
Another useful technique to build confidence is to avoid trying to be a perfectionist. It’s often been said that perfection is the enemy of productivity, and there’s some truth in that.
Of course, some tasks demand perfection, but in day to day business, good, not perfect, as a benchmark, is usually enough.
When looking at urgent, adverse, even disastrous situations, it's important to be able to move on quickly to the next task in order to stabilise and restore the position.
If necessary, build your confidence and that of others by delegating those last few detailed tasks, where precision is required.
3) Reflect on past success
Another technique for building confidence, is to reflect on your past successes.
Looking back on what you have done well is a powerful confidence-building tool, especially where others have endorsed your achievements.
This approach is incredibly empowering and leads to increased confidence and resilience.
4) Try to avoid feeling overwhelmed
You won't feel either confident enough or have the right tools to deal with a situation that starts to feel overwhelming.
However, that feeling is generated internally, not as a result of the situation you are in and may be yours alone.
To get around this, start by trying to get a real feeling of perspective. Stand outside the scenario that you face, and put it into context.
One technique to use is to think of the worst situation you’ve experienced and compare it to the adversity which you might be facing. Reflecting on something such as the loss of a family member may instantly inform you that what is happening now is not as disastrous as you first thought.
Once empowered by that, any feelings of despair should quickly evaporate and you can move on from dwelling on the problem, to entering solution mode.
5) Reach out to people
When adversity happens, ask yourself, are you the right person to lead the solution? If you are, and you're successful, this can give you improved self-confidence.
But if you feel you're not the correct person, then use your network and identify who is and enlist their help.
Observe them and learn from their actions and the techniques that they used in the situation. Then gain a measure of self-confidence by believing that you can do what they have done, now that you have experienced the journey to resolution under the guidance of another.
Use the experience to include the required skills into your own toolkit.
How to recover from mistakes
The first thing you can do in terms of building resilience is to learn from past mistakes. By looking at what have you done unsuccessfully, you can identify and try to eradicate any sources of stress and anxiety in the workplace.
Recovering from mistakes is about being open to change. So whatever management and professional techniques you have previously used, that have brought you to where you are today, these may not be the techniques needed to carry you successfully into the future.
This may be because either the world has changed over that period, e.g. you know that the increased use of technology has marginalised some people, but at the same time, has opened doors for others. Or it may be that you have changed.
Maybe your outlook on life has changed or your personal circumstances have changed, which means that you also need to be open to change. So, see change as an opportunity rather than a threat, as a means of correcting behaviours.
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