Building Resilience for 2021 and Beyond

By Deirdre Murray, Executive Coach, Trainer and Facilitator with PEOPLE RESOURCES

Deirdre Murray identifies 5 top tips to help you build resilience for the year ahead.

1 Concept, 3 Levels, 5 Tips

Plato is once attributed to saying, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is facing a hard battle.” And it’s true. Every day we are faced with difficulties and setbacks – it could be something as simple as your favourite coffee not being in stock; it may be that another driver hit your car or perhaps you might have suffered severe loss, having recently lost a loved one through COVID 19 or accident. Whatever the toils and tribulations of modern life, some people seem to be able to deal resolutely with the everyday stresses and strains, while others find it very difficult to cope.

In this article, I explore what being resilient really means and give you 5 practical tips on how you can build your own personal resilience for the year ahead.

1. Concept: What is resilience?

Resilience has been defined as a “set of flexible cognitive, behavioural and emotional responses to acute or chronic adversities.” (Neenan & Dryden 2002) The event has happened. Resilience is about our emotional capacity to bounce back and learn from the experience that makes the difference.

2. Resilience can be explored therefore on 3 levels:

1. Our ability to bounce back or having a sense of “bouncebackability” as verbalized by the Football Manager, Iain Dowie when things didn’t go as planned in a recent match. If you’ve ever been a fan of Mr Men, you’ll fondly remember Mr Bounce, who always took things in his stride and bounced back from every bad situation with a smile!

2. However, resilience is not just about bouncing back – it’s about learning and reflecting on that difficult situation on identifying how we have grown from it. We don’t learn from easy – we learn far more from our catastrophic failures and mishaps than from our successes. Edison was challenged one day by a student whom he said he pitied him as he had had 999 failures in his attempts to discover the light bulb. Edison replied,

I have not failed; I’ve just found 1000 ways that won’t work!” He would never have invented the light bulb if he hadn’t persisted.

If you’ve had a recent setback, ask yourself:

• What were the circumstances?
• How were you thinking, feeling and reacting?
• What strengths did you discover in yourself?
• How did you manage your usual vulnerabilities or weaknesses?
• What did you learn about yourself?
• What did you learn about other people?
• What did you learn about life?

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” Martin Luther King Jr.

3. The third level of resilience comes with developing true grit, as Professor Angela Duckworth highlights in her recent bestseller, “Grit.” She advocates that true grit comes from passion and perseverance. It’s about sticking with your vision for the future, not just for the month. She argues that is about treating life as a marathon not just a sprint. This comes with a doggedness and persistence to keep going in the face of difficulty or rejection. It is like finding the pearl in the oyster, which starts from a tiny grain of sand and is built up layer upon layer over time.

As Churchill once said, “If it feels like hell, keep going!”

This concept of grit has been further developed by Professor Carol Dweck, whose research demonstrates the brain’s ability to learn and change with effort. Failure is not a permanent condition. The brain changes and responds to challenge resulting in the neurons in the brain developing new, stronger connections over time.

Success is never final, failure is never fatal, it is the courage to continue that counts.” Sir William Churchill

Peter Clough and Doug Strycharczyk have researched and developed a psychometric assessment MTQ48 which measures the concept of mental toughness and the personality trait which determines how people deal effectively with challenges, stressors and pressure. It has four key aspects to it:

1. Control the Controllables

Many people worry about things that are totally outside their control – it may be corporate decisions, or broader world issues over which you have no influence. Focus only on what you can control. It’s amazing how far you can travel when you push out from the riverbank.

The key is to concentrate on building your own circle of influence which you can control and grow. It’s like many new entrepreneurs – they focus on marketing to colleagues, friends and family and people whom they know and who will support their business before extending their offering to the wider public.

As Maya Angelou once said, “If you don’t like something change it and if you can’t change it, change your attitude.”

2. Confidence

You may not feel confident all the time – but you can be brave! How will you become confident if you don’t tackle what you fear! Have courage and confidence will follow. Our intrepid explorer, Indiana Jones was once faced with a deep ravine which seemed impossible to cross. However, once he scatters some gold dust out over the ravine and puts his foot forward, a path appears. As social psychologist Amy Cuddy tells us, “don’t fake it till you make it, fake it till you become it!” Positive, strong body language pays a huge part in developing our confidence.

3. Challenge

Resilient people see difficulties as a challenge, not as an obstacle. They develop ways and means to get around obstacles and push through. Failures are part of the learning process. As many a successful entrepreneur will tell you, it is the failures and what they learned from these failures that led to their ultimate success.
As Michael Jordan once said,
I’ve missed over 9000 shots in my career, I’ve lost almost 300 games, 26 times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over again in my life, that is why I succeed.” Michael Jordan

4. Commitment

Resilient people do not give up, they stay committed and dedicated to their purpose, no matter what obstacle lies ahead. They set themselves clear goals and remain resolute in achieving them. Recent studies show that for a new positive habit to develop in the brain, we need to commit to 66 days practice!
Martin Seligman, the founder of Positive Psychology, conducted numerous studies in the American army and found that soldiers who were not resilient did not last the pace. He found that people who are optimally fit are more likely to pursue high levels of responsibility and to perform well under pressure. They also were found to have the decision-making skills and communication skills to be successful in life. He argues that the way we explain setbacks to ourselves is extremely important and is made up of three main aspects:

1: Pessimists regard setbacks as permanent while Optimists see setbacks as temporary:
O: “I was unlucky this time”
P: “I’ll never get a job!”

2: Pessimists view setbacks as pervasive (i.e. will dominate their entire lives) while Optimists view setbacks as specific to that one event:
O: “I didn’t get the job on this occasion because I didn’t prepare well enough.”
P: “I didn’t get the job. It will be the same old story if I go for another interview!”

3: Pessimists take setbacks personally, while Optimists don’t.
O: “Maybe this job is not for me. Better luck next time.”
P: “They thought I wasn’t good enough for the job”, “I’ll never get the job I want!”

The only difference between the optimist and the pessimist is HOW they interpret the circumstances around them.

5 Practical Tips to Help You Develop Resilience in 2021 and Beyond

1. Focus on what you can control, not what you can’t. Write down what’s worrying you and decide to do one thing that will allow you to take back control, no matter how small that step may be. It will build your confidence and momentum in tackling the next step!

2. Reframe your thoughts. Replace Automatic Negative Thoughts with Confidence Affirming Thoughts! All too often, we are the world’s best critics, particularly when dealing with ourselves. When you next make a mess of something, instead of beating yourself up about it, ask yourself, “What have I learned from this setback? What opportunity did this setback bring me? What would I do differently next time?

3. Do something enjoyable! Be grateful for what you have right now and decide to do something that gives you pleasure – a brisk walk with the dog, a visit to the seaside, watch a funny movie with the kids! Whatever it is, it will help you change your perspective.

4. Set positive future goals. Resilient people have a positive outlook, and write down achievable yet challenging goals for the future. As the old saying goes, “don’t just think them, ink them!” Put it in writing and keep them under review. It’s amazing what you can achieve when you write out clear, tangible goals and articulate them to a colleague to hold you accountable for achieving them.

5. Build your self-confidence! Get active! Develop your self-confidence from the inside out!
High performance starts with minding our physiology. Therefore, it is so important that we maintain positivity in our thoughts, feelings and emotions. Do something you enjoy, whether is hiking, running, walking or swimming. A seasoned entertainer, Robbie Williams once said that even though at times he gets huge stage fright, a very common phenomenon among entertainers despite their fame and success, he says he always remembered someone saying to him, “I might not feel confident but I can be brave!” Have courage today and take that next step forward.

Failure is part of life’s learning, embrace it and develop a new resilience in your life!
Source: Stephen R. Covey

Here’s to an excellent 2021 and I wish you every success!

About the author
Deirdre Murray, Founder and Director of PEOPLE RESOURCES, partners as an Executive Coach, Trainer and Facilitator with leading multinationals and public sector bodies across all sectors. She works with leaders and teams to maximise their potential through focused and timely coaching and leadership development.”

Deirdre is co-author of “Emotional Intelligence (EQ) – A Leadership Imperative!” Her second book “Communicate with Impact – Communicate and Influence Successfully,” is out now. She is a regular motivational speaker at conferences, seminars and on radio broadcasts and provides journal entries for leading business magazines.