You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.
Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
Resilience, the ability to bounce back from change and challenge, is hard-wired into the human experience. We weather storms both personal and professional, and as Neitzche said, what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. The more we cultivate our resilience, the more power we have in our ability to adapt and flex during uncertain times.
Resilience can improve our performance, our wellbeing and our capacity to bounce back, but it requires us to become more self-aware of our inner landscape versus our outer circumstances. This means focusing more on our reaction to events than to the events themselves. What are your trigger points that cause undue stress? What relaxes you? How can you structure your life and work in a way that encourages more of the events that calm you or create positive emotions?
Resilience re-patterns our neurons toward healthier, more adaptive responses. What does that really mean? We all have default responses to what happens around or to us, and our brain fires in patterns that stimulate neurochemical responses. Are your default responses to look at what’s wrong, what’s risky or how to avoid danger? Those fight or flight responses are adaptive and protective, but when they become a default pattern they can stimulate ongoing stress hormones that can sabotage our health and wellbeing. “Years of research has told us that people do become sensitized to stress and that this sensitization actually alters physical patterns in the brain,” says Seymour Levine, Ph.D., of the University of Delaware. “That means that once sensitized, the body just does not respond to stress the same way in the future. We may produce too many excitatory chemicals or too few calming ones; either way we are responding inappropriately.
Resilience means recognizing how important our relationships to others really are. A core element of resilience is building relationships that are supportive and reciprocal. Resilient people appreciate those around them -from the closest family and friends to those who provide us support in other ways, from our administrators to our cleaning staff to our line workers. Resilient leaders are more adaptive to new cultures and to people who think and respond differently to us. It makes us more inclusive and more excited to expand the pool of people we want to hear from.
Resilience demands discipline, both physical and mental. Physical and mental resilience requires us to keep good habits, which include daily practices like reading, exercise, planning, and eating well. When we cultivate those positive daily practices we optimize our performance by reducing the number of decisions we make and sticking to a program.
Resilience shifts our ability to think strategically as we develop a more flexible and adaptive mindset. The more we build our capacity to expand beyond working within immediate constraints we can start to explore out of the box ideas. These may be about new markets, new opportunities, or new ways of working. What we focus on broadens and builds…what if we focused on what’s working well, or what opportunities are inherent in these changing times?
Resilience shifts our focus to purpose and meaning. It calls us to our highest selves and our best behaviours. Who do you want to be? What impact are you having, and is it the impact you want to have? Now is your time to shift to what’s most important, to look at the big societal picture and strive for that impact to be positive and exponential.