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Facing a new normal? Boost your resilience

Written by Sarah Lewis on Monday, 01 June 2020. Posted in Leadership, People

Whatever else happens, the new normal looks set to be different to the old normal. As we edge out of lockdown we will need to call on our resilience and our adaptability to cope with the everchanging business landscape.

Facing a new normal? Boost your resilience

Whatever else happens, the new normal looks set to be different to the old normal. As we edge out of lockdown we will need to call on our resilience and our adaptability to cope with the everchanging business landscape. There are things we can do to increase our resourcefulness and resilience as we work not to just survive but to thrive in the coming months.

Calling on our strengths

We need to make the most of our personal resources. This can be difficult if we don’t know what they are. One of our biggest sources of resilience is our personal strengths. Strengths are the best of our attributes or abilities. They are the things we can do easily, maybe effortlessly.  Think of a friend of yours who seems to find talking to strangers a doodle, not an exhausting trial, or maybe you love giving presentations and don’t understand people who have sleepless nights at the very idea. When we’re using our strengths, whether it be an eye for detail, great social skills, or forensic analytic ability, we tend to feel at our best, engaged, confident and full of purpose. When we feel like this we are more resilient.

When we face a new challenge, being able to call on our strengths to help us find a way through tends to increase our resilience. Which means that what works brilliantly for someone else as a solution or way forward may not work so well for us, we need to find our own solution, that we can follow with confidence and enthusiasm.

Learning from the past

We can also learn about, and remind ourselves of, our resourcefulness by looking to the past. Facing new challenges can be overwhelming, can make us feel we don’t have the answers. Reminding ourselves of other occasions when we felt overwhelmed, exhausted, or completely stuck but found a way forward can help us remember what helped. And what helped then might help now. So we might realise we rang someone for advice, or that we did something completely different and came back to the challenge refreshed. So take yourself back to a time when you overcame a challenge or adapted to an unexpected change in circumstances and remind yourself what you did. In this way we can find resources from the past to help us be resilient and adaptable in the present.

Be your own HERO

Recent psychology research has identified four psychological states that, collectively, boost our abilities to cope and adapt. They are hopefulness, self-efficacy (this refers to our belief in our abilities in a particular context), resilience, and optimism. All of these are psychological states of being that vary from day to day or week to week. For instance, you may notice your sense of hopefulness plummeting or rising every time you hear the news. However, you don’t have to leave it to chance, you can boost your own state of each of these HERO qualities.

Hope is a mixture of knowing what you want and having a range of different ways of getting there, so that if one path is blocked you can take another. So to stay hopeful we need to keep planning for the future, setting targets and objectives, to draw us forward, while recognising that the path there may not be straightforward and that we may need to change our plans. Optimism is the belief in a better future. Lots of research has shown that optimistic people are happier and more motivated than ‘realists’. Strange as it may seem, it’s good for you to look to the future through slightly rose-tinted glasses. So by all means imagine the worst-case scenario,  it’s important to do this to identify threats, but also take time to imagine the best-possible dream you have of how things could be in three months, six months, three years. These dreams will help pull you forward when the going gets tough. 

Resilience is sometimes known as the ‘bounce-back’ factor, the quality that allows us to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves down and get back on the horse. Good counsel, laughing, sympathy, and sometimes allowing ourselves a little HERO cape off time so we can lick our wounds, can all help us get ready to fight another day. Finally, self-efficacy is boosted by succeeding. So set yourself small goals that you can achieve before moving on the bigger goals, especially when you are doing something new.

Friends, family, colleagues

A huge part of our resilience is provided by our social network. They have ideas we haven’t thought of and knowledge and expertise we don’t have. They can pick us up when we’re down and rein us in when we’re about to do something really dumb. They can make us laugh; they can help us pass the time. They give us something to look forward to and moments to remember. We may be having to contact with our social network rather differently right now, but they are key to our wellbeing and our resilience.

So, work out what your strengths are and apply them to life’s challenges; learn from the best of your own past; make sure you keep hopeful, optimistic, confident, and resilient; and keep in touch with people. All of this should help you boost your resilience and adaptability in the face of the challenges ahead, whatever they may be

About the Author

Sarah Lewis

Sarah Lewis

Sarah Lewis C.Psychol., is the principal psychologist at Appreciating Change, a strengths-based psychological consultancy that is committed to applying well-researched positive psychology ideas and interventions to workplace challenges and opportunities at an individual, team or whole organization level.

Sarah is an associated fellow of the British Psychological Society, a principal member of the Association of Business Psychologists, and a member of the International Positive Psychology Association.

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