by Jim Bruce
[Today’s Tuesday Reading is from Jim Bruce, Senior Fellow and Executive Coach at MOR Associates. He previously was Professor of Electrical Engineering, and Vice President for Information Systems and CIO at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA. He may be reached at email@example.com.]
Resilience1 is the psychological strength that allows people to be knocked down by life and come back at least as strong as before. It has been called a mental reservoir of strength that individuals can call on in times of difficulty to carry them forward without falling apart. After misfortune, resilient people are able to change course and move toward achieving their goals. It is believed that resilient individuals are better able to handle such adversity and rebuild their lives after a catastrophe.
And, let me be clear, catastrophes come in all sizes to all people. It may be the personal catastrophe of missing the anniversary of a significant event in a family member’s life, or not delivering a key project on time, or providing incorrect advice or information. Or, it could be your performance in a joint activity such as striking out every time you were at bat in a pick-up baseball game in your after-work summer league. Or, the way your major presentation at the company’s technical conference came across. Or, a major weather event. The list is endless with small and large, personal and work-related instances.
We all have experiences such as these. Because of what we have experienced, or seen others experience, we may often enter new experiences with a lot of anticipation, more focused on what could go wrong and how to avoid that, than on getting it right.
Yet, while some of us may come “un-glued” in the face of the possibility or the actuality of things-going-bad, others are able to remain calm and continue forward. These individuals who remain calm have what psychologists call resilience, the ability to cope with problems, setbacks, and failure. Kendra Cherry2 states it this way: “Resilient people are able to utilize their skills and strengths to cope and recover from problems and challenges.”
She continues, “Those who lack this resilience may instead become overwhelmed by such experiences. They may dwell on problems and use unhealthy coping mechanisms to deal with life’s challenges. Disappointment or failure might drive them to unhealthy, destructive, or even dangerous behaviors. These individuals are slower to recover from setbacks and many experience more psychological distress as a result.”2
The good news is that resilience can be cultivated. And, that is the subject of this essay. The Wikipedia essay on psychological resilience3 is a good place to begin. It points out that psychological resilience exists in people who develop psychological and behavioral capabilities that allow them to remain calm during times of all manner of chaos and crisis, and to move on from the incident without long-term negative consequences. So, how might we do that.
The American Psychological Association paper Building Your Resilience,4 suggests that we build our resilience by doing work-on-self in a number of areas:
We all can benefit from becoming more resilient. While this list of ten items to work on may (it actually will) seem daunting, I encourage you to make a plan to work on them, perhaps focusing on one each week over the coming weeks. And, I also want to urge you to make the necessary notes in your calendar now and to commit a small part of each week’s time to this important piece of your work on yourself.
I hope that you and your team will make your week a truly great one.
. . . . . jim
1. Psychology Today, What is Resilience?
2. Kendra Cherry, The Importance of Resilience, verywellmind, November 2019.
3. Wikipedia, Psychological Resilience.
4. American Psychological Association, Building Your Resilience, February 2020.
5. Greater Good Magazine, What Is Mindfulness?
1. Kira Newman, Five Science-Backed Strategies to Build Resilience, The Greater Good Magazine, University of California – Berkeley, November 2016.
2. Mayo Clinic Staff, Resilience: Build skills to endure hardship – Mayo Clinic.