Sometime you just have one of those days.
“It’s raining and I forgot my raincoat, so I’m soaking wet and I’ll probably get a cold now, I’m late for my meeting as well and I ate so much at lunch time I feel like a beached whale and I have to do the shopping before I get home and what was my partner so cheerful about this morning, if he says ‘count your blessings’ one more time I’ll scream!”
Things seem to conspire against you and you lose the plot; stress hormones get released, your heart starts pounding and your sense of humour makes a swift exit ‘stage left’.
Feeling pressurised and flustered, you find yourself making poor decisions, ones you’ll regret later. Why did you respond so quickly to that email – the pithily worded response felt so right at the time but now you have a fence to mend. Why did you snap at your partner? Why did you say yes to that assignment when you know you already have too much on your plate? And on and on, sometimes into the night, affecting your sleep.
Sound at all familiar? How much better would it be if we were able to remain resilient in the face of all the challenges we face every day that can take so much out of us?
When the going gets tough
What does it mean to be resilient? Staying the course, bouncing back from set-backs, being ‘tough’ so that difficulties bounce off you without leaving a mark, rising, phoenix like, from the ashes of disaster and living to fight another day? Or is it being flexible, bending in the wind without breaking, like a strong stemmed plant? Whatever it means for you, there is no doubt that in this world of rapid change and difficulties we all need to be resilient.
As a coach I’ve noticed that resilience is currently high on business agendas. Employees who are resilient have a definite edge; they perform better and are able to sustain that performance when the going gets tough. They have more energy, are more resourceful, creative and connected and embrace change, successfully leading their teams who in turn achieve more. They have their own strategies to remain resilient which buffers them from stress, helping them remain motivated, energized and effective. They stand a better chance of being healthy and happy and so take less time off sick. These are powerful reasons for any organisation to be interested in investing in improving the resilience of all employees and particularly leaders of people.
Resilience really matters. The good news is we can do something about it. Research (by The Resilience Engine) into the resilience of people in leadership positions has identified that those who are more resilient have some specific qualities and skills. Most crucial are three fundamental capabilities that can be developed and strengthened; self care, pacing and being able to gain perspective on whatever you are dealing with.
The first involves looking after yourself; your physical, emotional and mental health and wellbeing. This is everything from good nutrition, regular exercise and sufficient sleep to good social and support structures and positive relationships. Hobbies and interests that you enjoy and which bring you into community and collaboration with others are part of this. And don’t forget that part of looking after yourself is having some fun! Having a conscious focus on enjoying ourselves and laughing on a regular basis may not seem very ‘business-like’ but it has proven health benefits.
The second fundamental capability is pacing yourself so you have time to accomplish your tasks and space to think, and this means saying no when you need to and prioritising well. Along with self care, good pacing supports your ability to avoid being overwhelmed, a key source of stress for most of us. When we are looking after ourselves and have time to think, plan and deliver effectively, we have more energy so that when a sudden surge is required to tackle an urgent challenge or emergency, we can release the energy we need and bounce back much more quickly.
The third fundamental capability is being able to get perspective on situations. This means being able to stand back and see the big picture, to view things from the perspective of others and to realise just what is important to us in any given situation. Is it really vital I respond to that email immediately or could it wait? Will my boss actually rather I did a job really well than took on too much and failed to deliver? Is the real reason I keep saying yes actually that I just want to please? Isn’t my relationship with my partner more important to me long term than whether the rubbish was taken out this morning? Isn’t he/she having just as tough a time as me, and wouldn’t we both really benefit from a big hug right now instead of a row? This is perspective!
For me resilience is fundamentally about our ability to learn from our experiences. When we become aware that we are not looking after ourselves, saying yes when we need to say no or responding without a sense of perspective, then we can do something about it. Those who learn from their experiences and take action, however difficult, can improve their resilience and protect themselves from stress.
So what have I learned about my own resilience and how to maintain it? That spending time with people doing something I enjoy is important. That even when I’m tired and it seems like a big effort to go out and do this, it will energize me. That getting to bed early and sleeping well makes a huge difference. That knowing what is important to me and what my values are helps me stand firm and say ‘no’ when I need to. That ‘this too shall pass’ and the world won’t come to an end if I go down the gym right now instead of trying to complete the report. And so much more!
One of my hobbies is public speaking through Toastmasters International, which for some might seems like a somewhat stressful thing to do to relax! For me though it means community, fun and learning, all important values of mine, and boosts my confidence and energy. What works for you in increasing or maintaining your energy is entirely personal and that is what is exciting about working in the area of resilience. Everyone can make a change that works for them and every business can benefit from the higher performance that results.
About the author
Charlotte Hitchings is from Toastmasters International, a non-profit educational organisation that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of meeting locations. Headquartered in Rancho Santa Margarita, California, the organisation’s membership exceeds 345,000 in more than 15,900 clubs in 142 countries. Since 1924, Toastmasters International has helped people of all backgrounds become more confident in front of an audience. There are more than 300 clubs in the UK and Ireland with over 7,500 members. To find your local club: www.toastmasters.org Follow @Toastmasters on Twitter.