In an era where business keeps moving faster, it is no small wonder that resilience has become the new must-have executive skill. Many of us now work in constantly connected, always-on, highly demanding work cultures where stress and the risk of burnout are widespread. Since the pace and intensity of contemporary work culture are not likely to change, it’s more important than ever to build resilience skills to effectively navigate your worklife.
More than five decades of research point to the fact that resilience is built by attitudes, behaviors and social supports that can be adopted and cultivated by anyone. Factors that lead to resilience include optimism; the ability to stay balanced and manage strong or difficult emotions; a sense of safety and a strong social support system. The good news is that because there is a concrete set of behaviors and skills associated with resilience, you can learn to be more resilient. Being challenged — sometimes severely — is part of what activates resilience as a skill set.
Failure is sometimes lauded as a key to successful innovation, but it takes a psychic toll on the manager. Anxiety can lead to exaggerated worry, irrational fear, and obsessive thoughts. So how do you maintain your calm when the roof is falling on you?
One way, of course, is to fake it. You act confident and put on a bold front. This may work, but putting on and maintaining a mask is strenuous. Perceptive members will discern the truth — and trust will erode. There is a better way. You can be genuinely unfazed by the reverse you experience. To pull this off, you need to practice looking at the world in a new way. It is simple, and actually quite a bit of fun.
The method is based on an old Sufi tale wherein a man and his son are alternately, and repeatedly, confronted with bad luck and good fortune. Neighbors cluster around to commiserate over the former and give congratulations on the latter. Each time, the man retains his poise and poses the same question: “Good thing, bad thing, who knows?”
Think back in your life. Has anything happened to you that, at the time, you thought was a “bad thing”? Looking back at it today, can you see clearly that it was not so bad, and perhaps was even a “good thing”?
Most of us can recall many such instances. So, is it possible that what you are about to label a bad thing today could, at some point in the future, turn out to have been a good thing? If so, why be in a hurry to label it bad? Just asking yourself the question “Is there any possible way in which this could actually turn out to be good?” presents a realm of possibility. And if you take the question one more step and ask “What can I do to make this happen?” you will find avenues opening up that you may never have conceived of before.
A couple of tweaks can help you cultivate this new mode of thinking.
- Be clear regarding what you are about to classify as a bad thing and why. For example, if you did not meet your revenue goals, what about this is troublesome? Is it that your bonus will suffer? Is it that you may have to lay off staff? Is it that you will not get additional resources you were counting on?
- Ask yourself this question: “Is there any possible scenario by which this could actually turn out to be a good thing someday?” Simply pondering this question will take you to a different emotional domain, one rich with possibility rather than foreboding.
- Ask yourself the next question: “What can I — and my team — do to make this scenario come about? How can we turn this event into a good thing that we can all celebrate someday in the future?”
It sounds simple, and it is. You will discover how powerful it is when you try it.