As our lives continue to be awash with large swathes of uncertainty, and although we begin to reconnect with some of the simple pleasures that we had previously missed, resilience remains a key strength/capability/attribute that I believe we can all benefit from developing. I know that I for one have had to work hard at building and maintaining my resilience over the last few months and feel proud of the way I have dealt with some of the setbacks and uncertainty.

I was triggered to dwell on the topic from a couple of insights – firstly I watched an absolutely brilliant and insightful TED talk on the topic, more and on. Secondly I had a wonderful text from a client over the weekend, reflecting on a particularly tricky project that they were leading and as it neared go-live, the constant barrage of problems, issues, challenges from team and stakeholders tested their resilience to the max. Their message was simple – “When confidence was rock bottom, I took it on the chin, thought about my team, realised how far we had come and that every problem has a solution, picked myself up and lead from the front to get the job done!” It was a truly inspiring message because I know how hard they have all worked and the steep uphill challenge they faced – this was resilience real time!

By its very nature resilience is a resource that is required in times of scarcity – scarcity of confidence, of clarity, of successes, of support, of progress or of positivity. It is also a resource that can be depleted and is probably finite to a greater or lesser degree, a bit like a muscle, our challenge is to strengthen and develop it so that it lasts longer and longer in tough circumstances. The TED talk by Lucy Hone is an honest and emotional account of some of her challenges and how she has gone from an academic view of resilience to building her practical capability and capacity for resilience in very tough times. She concludes with 3 strategies that are simple but powerful and effective and I think worth sharing and reflecting on. When I watched the video, I realised that the times over the last few months when I had picked myself up and was positive and optimistic was after subconsciously applying these strategies I guess. They are things I talk to other people about and have tried to practice myself – but like anything else the trick is to move them from things you work hard at to habits that come for free.

  1. Resilient people accept that bad times and bad things happen – or as Lucy puts it – “shit happens”! Part of the negative narrative that brings us down and debilitates us in tough times is the victim narrative of ‘why me?’ If we can take accountability for our actions and readily accept that it has happened, there is nothing we can do about it so we best just get on with it, we can avoid the negative narrative and the impactful frustration, anger, stress associated.
  2. Resilient people are skilled at being judicious about where they place their atttention – focussing on the positives and on the things that they can control / influence rather than the things they can’t. Again it sounds so simple and obvious – but I know that when I am having a tough time, I will often complete a ‘positive focus’ exercise – listing all the things I am proud of and grateful for. Simple but effective at changing my perspective and helping me move forward and ideally a weekly or daily habit that builds that resilience muscle.
  3. Resilient people are able to ask themselves the following question in the moment – “Is what I am doing helping or harming me?” This was new to me and I have found it a really helpful prompt – being able to see your actions and activity with a more objective perspective that enables potentially better choices about how you are spending your time. It does require a level of self-awareness and the ability to be present in order for you to catch yourself; that is a capability I have spoken about before that is well worth developing. (IMHO) 😊

The video is well worth watching as she applies science and brings it to life with her personal powerful emotional story, none of it is easy, but the rewards of being a more resilient person are immeasurable.

I would add a fourth strategy which I think underpins the 3 that Lucy brings to life – that is proactively looking after yourself in a way that helps builds deposits in the resilience bank rather than depleting it needlessly. We are all different in terms of what we need to feel positive and confident, but some of the basics shouldn’t be taken for granted. For me sleep, fresh air and exercise, meditation, friendship and a support network, asking for help early, a level of intentionality about what I want to achieve and to focus my time on as well as my positive focus and gratitude journal are all ingredients that contribute to keeping me buoyed and my resilience naturally high. When trials and tribulations hit – I would hope that I am in better shape, with more resources and flexibility to bounce back quicker using the strategies that Lucy has shared.

I hope that you are not finding yourself at the end of your tether at the moment but if you are, watch the video and see if those strategies can help you build the resilience you need to continue to flourish. We can’t solve every problem or speed up timescales that are beyond our control – but we can learn to appreciate what we do have and work with that.