Building Emotional Resilience

January 8, 2017

I was recently asked to speak on the subject of resilience for a major corporation. Allow me to offer you some context. This company is in the midst of change unlike anything that it has experienced in the past. Many of its employees can say that they have worked there for well over 15 years and the majority are startled by the increase in strategic pivoting, company re-orgs and layoffs. In reality however, its not just this company that is seeing a new way and wave of change, but the world in which we live. Well, let me say this.. the world has always been changing, however we feel that change more than ever because that evolution is happening much more quickly. It is safe to say that our focus to become expert change agents is critical. The call to increase our ability and expertise in what it means to be resilient is now.

 

Let's examine this. We believe that resilient people can absorb the impact of change and soldier on. Those who lack resiliency are more likely to feel helpless in the face of change. Why are some people more resilient than others? Differences in resilience come from a combination of physical makeup, genetics and of course the environment. Now, you can’t do much about your physical makeup or genetics, but you can manage your environment. This becomes the most important point of focus within our working lives and careers. People who have chosen this focus make the decision to do the following:

 

A. They have committed to being in control of their lives and of not letting circumstances control them. We are not the pain or the loss – we experience pain and loss. The beginning of the path towards building and increasing emotional resilience lies in separating devastation and pain from who you are into something that you have witnessed, experienced, and ultimately – learned valuable lessons from.

B. They are willing to see change as an opportunity to make the desired state into a better place than before.

 

In every moment of everyday we are at a crossroads; we have the ability to make a decision. The more we are disciplined to make sound decisions, the more we cultivate will. We strengthen the habitual pattern in a positive way... practice makes perfect. I'll put it this way, we understand that the more you come to gain a sense of control, the easier it becomes to look at each change and examine the possibility that it has, inherent in it, an opportunity. Since the amount of changes is only going to increase in the future, those changes can either wear you down or can be seen as an inevitable part of your life that you are going to manage, not be managed by. Once we have decided to cultivate the will to not be controlled and to see opportunity, we must identify the emotions that each change evokes and think about why we feel the way we do. Instead of dismissing your emotions as illogical, understand that those feelings have a legitimate and rational source. 

 

As you start to recognize the emotions you experience around the loss of the current state, you can prepare for changes that will come along in the future. You’ll gain comfort in the knowledge that you can create a change plan if needed. And as you boost your resilience, your body, mind, and emotions will benefit.

 

Begin to identify some of the triggers that you may need to work through. Each time you are struck with emotion, allow those sensations to come and give yourself permission to pause and take a look. Where are those emotions coming from? 

 

A few ways to build your emotional resilience: 

 

(1) Focus on what you can control, not what is out of your control.

(2) Use events as learning experiences.

(3) Alter your perceptions.

(4) Strive for goodness rather than perfection.

(5) Develop compassion through empathy; acknowledging common ground.

(6) Develop good self-care habits.

(7) Don’t isolate yourself – connect with others (find work buddies and peers to lean on).

(8) Look for the humor in things.

(9) Don’t ruminate on events that cannot be changed.

(10) Accept the good as well as the bad; neither will last forever.

 

 If we are able to learn more effective strategies for living a healthy balanced life, then positive emotions and resilience – the ability to withstand and bounce back from adversity – follow naturally.

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