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How to Surf the Waves of Challenge With Resilience

Even before COVID-19, leaders were looking for ways to build greater resilience in themselves and in their teams. If it was important before the pandemic, it is critical now.

But what is resilience? And how can we all get more of it?

Resilience is easily defined. It’s the capacity to recover quickly from difficulty.

The developmental aspects of resilience are complex. Emotional self-management is one key to resilience. So is compassion, self-awareness and creativity. Thanks to the advancement of functional MRI machines, science can give us a snapshot of what helps to build those neuropathways in the brain, leading to greater resilience and a more profound sense of well-being.

Let it RAIN: Four Steps for Building Resilience

The RAIN model is a well-known meditation technique, popularized by psychologist and author Tara Brach. But the same acronym is also a powerful approach to building resilience. It works like this:

Recognize

When faced with a challenging situation that makes you feel overwhelmed or outmatched, just stop. Take a deep breath and acknowledge the circumstance. Too often, when faced with challenging scenarios, our coping mechanisms are to avoid, resist or distract ourselves. And if the difficulty persists, we may even look to outside sources (food, alcohol, online shopping) to numb ourselves against reality.

Instead, take a moment to acknowledge what is happening and the emotional and mental impact it is having on you. The point here is not to get deeply engaged or involved with any of the storylines attached to these thoughts or feelings. That’s called rumination. Rather, just recognize that all this is part of your current reality.

Allow

Allow life and your circumstances to be here just as they are. Notice your tendency to believe that circumstances or people should be different than they actually are. Release that “should” and allow it to be, just as you are experiencing it. This is not an invitation to passivity or inaction. It’s simply coming to terms with reality.

Investigate with curiosity

Generally, when faced with a problem, we retread the same terrain in our minds, thinking the same thoughts and rehearsing the same internal dialogues. This kind of rumination is rarely helpful and, in fact, tends to lead to greater rigidity.

Instead, approach this challenge with curiosity. Consider what this problem might look like from an outside perspective. Consider only the facts, not the stories and interpretations you make of the facts. Explore how an outsider’s perspective on your scenario can also be completely true. If you can manage that shift, consider how someone you may be in conflict with views the challenges. See if you can bring yourself to see how their story or interpretation may also be true.

Nurture

This is a time for self-compassion. Tune in to what is most needed, emotionally, relationally, as well as physically. Bring kindness and gentleness to yourself. If you notice a tendency to be somewhat rigid, this might be a time to aim for more flexibility. Consider a broader range of potential responses. What else might be available if your options were wider?

If you’re interested to learn more about the neuroscience of resilience, Rick Hanson’s book, “Resilient: How to Grow an Unshakable Core of Calm, Strength and Happiness,” is the gold standard.

Loretta Cooper is a Senior Consultant at Wheelhouse Group. She is an ICF Certified Executive and Team Coach (PCC) and an accomplished consulting professional with more than 12 years of private and public sector experience. Loretta comes to consulting after nearly two decades in network broadcasting. As an award-winning, Washington-based, National Affairs Correspondent for ABC News, Loretta (aka Lauren Rogers) had the opportunity to observe leaders in every sphere of influence – political, government, corporate, activist – and learn from their strategy successes and failures. She is married, the mother to two fabulous young men (just ask!), and enjoys long walks, jet skis, good books, and knitting.

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