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5 Steps to Building Resilience

How do you respond to the unpredictable? How about when obstacles emerge?

Sometimes in life and in your career, things don’t go as planned. At its core, resiliency is the ability to bounce back from adversity. In today’s world, there is no shortage of adversity ingredients: you might not like your boss, your project or maybe even an executive action. For some, this is an equation for burnout or withdrawal. For the resilient, these factors ignite motivation, optimism and creativity.

To stay focused and adaptive to changing surroundings, resilient leaders develop “strong backs” of mental determination, grit and hardiness. They also cultivate “soft fronts” comprised of emotional intelligence and agility.

If these qualities do not describe you right now, there is good news. Resiliency can be cultivated and strengthened. In a recent session at GovLoop and Young Government Leaders’ Next Generation of Government Summit, executive coach Frieda Edgette, helped session attendees build both mindset and tactical skill to bounce back while retaining personal beliefs through a few steps.

First, Edgette said it’s important to understand what resilience even means, or how you define it. It can encompass a lot, but it starts with being able to bounce back, as well as the ability to…

  • Be attuned to ever changing circumstances
  • Master yourself emotionally
  • Bounce back
  • See challenges as opportunities to demonstrate abilities
  • Focus on reality of the present moment,
  • Let go of worrying about the future and afterglow obsessing
  • Say “no thanks” to overgeneralization and overreaction
  • Be good to yourself
  • Engage mistakes for learning and growth
  • Connect with purpose, passions, principles and your peeps

That’s a lot. So how can you start to get there? Edgette recommended starting with a game. Think back. What was a time you were leading at your best? You were totally on your A Game. Got it? Then think of ONE word or phrase that describes you in that moment. Then, use a Post-It and markers to draw an image representing your answer.

That’s the place you want to get to, a place where you feel safe and confident and purpose-driven – and your goal is to be able to get back to it even when you face failures and challenges. In order to become resilient, Edgette recommended focusing on five steps that can help you improve this area:

Step 1: Notice: your natural stress response. What sets you off? What are your trigger indicators? Do you fight or flee in a stressful situation?

Step 2: Balance out: regain control. Work on strategies to ramp down if you’re up – like one deep breath to calm nervous system, and strategies to ramp up if you’re down – like power posing or taking a lap to boost adrenaline.

Step 3: Shift: from debilitative to generative. How can you reclaim control? Understand what you can and cannot control – that will help you create certainty amid uncertainty.

Step 4: Persevere: leverage strengths and community. Use the 3:1 ratio — experiencing positive emotions in a 3-to-1 ratio to negative emotions leads people to a better, stronger place.

Step 5: Power on: take values-inspired action. Choose one thing you can control. What is one specific action you can and will take to make that thing happen?

Edgette framed these steps by talking about the parable of the two wolves.

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.

“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

What qualities in you will you be feeding to create your resilience?

This blog post is a recap of a session that took place at the recent Next Generation of Government Summit. Want to see more great insights that came out of NextGen? Head here.

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I really appreciate this article. Unlike other articles on resiliency, it actually addresses the human element/condition and how to work within those perimeters. Very thought provoking.