Today I have a discussion with Costin, one of my partners in my current consulting project. Knowing that I have to write an article about resilience, I am interrupting the scenarios definition we are working on and I am asking what the “resilience concept” means to him. The first thing he tells me is that resilience is a word he has heard many times in the last 10 months since the pandemic started (along with “mindfulness”!). Costin continues with a series of synonyms and mini definitions: resistance, adaptation to change, positive spirit. I say a dry “hmmm” inside my mind, while processing at the cortex level the fact that I still cannot find a different perspective on resilience, than what we find in a simple internet search. Proving that empathy can also be manifested online, Costin feels my resignation and need for inspiration while telling: “You know what, I have heard this “resilience” word so many times lately that I feel sick; I find more inspiring the metaphor “a kick in the pants is a step forward!” (Costin’ metaphor was slightly different). I feel my neurons revive and a unique angle about what I want to write in the article begins to take shape. We both laugh and go back to detailing the business scenarios we were working on before the resilience intermezzo.
I have this curiosity of understanding the origin of the words. Still in discussion with Costin, I do a quick check on my smart phone, which shows me that “resilience” is the Latin for “jumping/bouncing back”, defining the ability of the (human) beings to recover from a shock/crisis (be it emotional, physical, mental, social, economic, etc.). As such, I invite you (and Costin) to move to the next level and look how to bounce back from a shock/crisis in a practical perspective.
Costin noticed very well that resilience means first and foremost resistance. Resistance, seen rather as our ability not to break (not to be knocked down/defeated) by a shock/a crisis (in this context Covid19 might tell you a lot!) And, on top, at least to return to our initial form before the shock (physically, emotionally, economically, socially, etc.) Costin also offers us some of the most important ingredients of the resilience recipe: adaptation to change and a positive spirit. Fully spiced with sense of humour (“a kick in the ass is a step forward”) and with some remedies against persistent nausea (sickness). Feelings of nausea caused both by conceptual abstraction (obsessive repetition of a concept without acting with tangible results, just dull chit-chat), and also by the prolonged duration of the shock/crisis (the current pandemic context is perfectly illustrative). Let us take a look at these resilience’s ingredients, spices and essential remedies and see what you can do with them:
Adapting to change is a key ingredient within any ability. I dare say that each of us has significant experience in this regard. An experience with two facets: one that helps us cope reasonably with the continuous changes in our lives and one that makes us conservative and defensive and thus failing to make the necessary changes.
What choices do you usually make when shocks/crises occur (generally) in your life or (particularly) in your social relationships, in your occupation, in the relation to yourself, in your family? Do you show acceptance and adaptation? Do you find alternative solution, and do you grow and develop yourself in a difficult context? Or do you manifest yourself through frustration, anger, fear and even prolonged lack of energy, at best resignation?
I encourage you to answer to the above questions with an emphasis on observing and describing your present actions and less on the fictional image you have of yourself in your thoughts and desires. You will discover practical concepts for developing this particular skill from the Kubler-Ross curve change model or from the fundamental human principles in John Kotter’s 8-step process of leading change.
Positive spirit, a super ingredient! And yet I allow myself to use another name for this ingredient in our resilience recipe: Mindfulness (I feel that Costin either throws his eyes up or he smiles with understanding and curiosity). It is easy to have a positive spirit as long as you are employed and have a decent salary, or you have a business with a decent and even sustainable profit. It is easy to have a positive spirit when you have a relationship in which you feel accepted, fulfilled, loved. It is simple when you are surrounded by friends. It is simple when you feel like you are growing, and you have development opportunities waiting for you to explore.
But how easy is it for you to have a positive spirit just when you do not have all of the above (not enough money for food and shelter, a family generating stress and negative emotions, no friends at all, zero opportunities for development)? In what part of the spirit spectrum are you right now? The positive or the negative? And although you want to be in the positive spectrum as much as possible, you do not always succeed.
And here is the mindfulness which, once understood and practiced, tells you that both the positive and the negative are only in your perception and not in your reality. And the mindfulness also tells you that in order to get something perceived positively, you need to go through aspects perceived as negative.
What does this perception mean? It means that for achieving an objective (salary rise, bonuses, extra profits, better relationships, better performances, better KPIs, more vacations, etc. -usually perceived as positives) you might need to go through many efforts (extra working hours, working weekends and evenings, online meetings after meetings, lost lunches, less time for spouse and family, etc.) and not so likeable emotions and state of mind (frustration, anger, anxiety, sadness, negative thinking, etc. -usually perceived as negatives). Mindfulness means accepting that life is not a series of pluses and minuses, but rather an experience in which we have the power to enjoy the pluses and turn the minuses if not into pluses, at least into acceptable (neutral).
While work and social demands are exceeding our capacity, the ethics of “more, bigger, faster” exacts a series of silent but pernicious costs at work, undermining our energy, focus, creativity, and passion. One of mindfulness models I am currently working in our training programs and in business coaching is Tony Schwartz’ quadrant mindfulness model that develops our abilities and power to profoundly transform the way we work and live, taking care of our physical, emotional, mental and life-as-a-whole aspects.
Short term vs. long term thinking. Mindfulness is actually a mix of ingredients, and from this mix I extract one that is particularly beneficial for the development and manifestation of resilience: the ability to think in the short term (aka infantile orientation) vs. the ability to think in the long term (aka mature orientation). Costin did not explicitly specify this ingredient. Or maybe I did not notice it. As such, I add it from my own experience as a life chef.
How do you think and act in this particular context of our times? What are your short-term goals and what are your long-term goals? To what extent has the context of 2020 changed your goals? In what sense and how much have these objectives been changed? What short-term risks and threats have arisen? But in the long run? What opportunities have emerged and what qualities (powers) have you developed in the short term? And what impact will they have in the long run? These questions might be a good starting point in exploring your orientation in terms of short-term vs. the long-term thinking.
As far as the spices (sense of humour) and remedies (against the nausea of excessive use of this word during a pandemic) concerns, I am asking you one more question: Do you currently think that the concept of resilience is overused or overestimated?
Personally, I want you and all the people to be proud of yourselves for being resilient. And if you do not yet see this ability in you, I want you to have the courage to ask for support in discovering this essential ability for life. It is an act of triumph through which we overcome difficulties, challenges and traumas of life. What I do not want is for resilience to be the only style of life. And I want everyone to succeed. In my pandemic diary I make another list: that of skills for the moment. Even if I am not resilient, I am able to perform some basic tasks: can walk, can talk, can make payments. Can wash my hands. Wearing a mask. Registering for the vaccine. Can publish the article even if I have missed the deadline. I will worry about the end of the world when it gets here.
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