I was recently asked to run a workshop for The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) on resilience. A dictionary definition of resilience is “an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change”. The concern was that employees have tools and resources that can make them more resilient. This not only makes them more inspired and empowered in their personal lives, but also more effective, creative and productive at work. Resilience is a multi- faceted quality that can be tackled from numerous angles.
Resilience Bank Account
As is so often with complex ideas, a metaphor helps to simplify. I like things to be simple. So, as a working example I use the idea of a Resilience Bank Account. Like all bank accounts, the Resilience Bank Account has to have money coming in and going out. We are all familiar with our own bank accounts and the many demands for withdrawals there are. Often, our source of income is limited to only one or two.
Any strategist will tell you, this is a weak and vulnerable place to be. If that single source ceases due to redundancy, illness etc., suddenly there is no way to top up the account and the demands for withdrawals remain the same- perhaps even increase. So, it is good practice to have as many sources as possible. To be truly resilient, the more sources of income your bank account has, the better. If one source of income dries up, you have others to buffer the loss and give you some time and wiggle room. This might be in the shape of savings, stocks and shares, part time jobs and other investments. You may even have passive sources of income.
Your resilience and your Resilience Bank account are the same. You want to top them up from as many sources and as often as possible so that in the event of withdrawals, you have plenty there to cover the cost. If one of your sources is not delivering at this time, there are others to cover the shortfall.
We will look at the withdrawals later. For now, let’s look at the deposits. Deposits are the things that build your confidence, grow you, strengthen you, make you feel enlivened and empowered, move you forward, get you thinking with positive focus and intention. Here are some examples:
The attitude you bring to a situation often determines how successful you are, how quick you bounce back when derailed, your ability to adapt and generate positive outcomes. So, a positive mindset which is solution focused is best. This leads to more creative thinking.
Setting goals is a positive step to help you move forward. Large goals get split into smaller manageable pieces. Achieving these smaller goals bolsters your confidence. Savouring the victory has even greater positive psychological impact. You may not achieve your larger goals. Whether you do or not, these smaller steps moved you forward in life, created experiences and learning which all add to your Resilience Bank Account.
It is important for your values to be honoured and appear in the goals and activities in your life. Doing so leads to feelings of fulfilment, contentment and well- being. Gaining awareness of your values means you can make life choices aligned to them. More deposits for that account.
Have strong boundaries and keep to them. These are the things you don’t want to negotiate on based upon your goals and values. If you value health and fitness you may want to say “yes” to exercise and “no” to sugary and fatty food. If family is important to you, you may want to say “no” to working evenings and weekends and “yes” to individual time with each family member (for me details see bogs on “yes” and “no“). There is no right or wrong. It is simply a question of creating boundaries for yourself and others to respect and honour so that you live with integrity and contentment.
Feeling great in your body is a powerful resilience tool. Good diet, exercise, sleep, rest and relaxation are essential to this end. Correct hydration and breathing are invaluable. Use massage, meditation and mindfulness to aid in health, rehabilitation and restoration.
Emotion and mental health
Do not suppress your emotion. It leads to all kinds of mental and physiological distress. Gain awareness and notice your emotions. Build an emotional vocabulary that becomes more discerning over time. Finding the right word to describe how you feel is a liberating experience. It’s like you can “name” it, see it for what it is. As a result, it loses some of its power. Find ways to express your emotions appropriately in writing and speaking to the right people who will really listen and give you time and space. Develop emotional mastery and your life will blossom in SO many ways.
Family and friends
Surround yourself with supportive, positive and nurturing people. One’s whom you respect and enjoy and enjoy and respect you. Have mentors that can guide you. Cheerleaders who are in your corner. You want to have limited access to people who leave you feeling “less than”. Instead, surround yourself with people around whom you feel great. Make deep and meaningful connections with people, share life’s moments with them and the bond will deepen.
Make sure your working and living environments are tidy, clean and ordered. Have calm spaces, places for family activities and space to be alone, restful rooms for sleep and garden space that allows you and the family to do more of what you love to do.
Ensure you have “me time”. What do you want? Go out and get it. It’s so easy to put others at the top of your priority list while never meeting your own needs. Sometimes put you at the top of the list. Buy yourself gifts sometimes. Take yourself away or go on a trip with a friend. You’re worth it. So often, you forget about your needs. Please don’t. Sometimes it’s because you cannot think of what you want. This is something I struggle with. It may be because you are out of practice recognising what you want. Please, get practising and begin to notice what you desire in life and go out and make it happen. Like all things it gets easier with practice. If you are not well cared for by you, you cannot be fully of service to anyone else.
Spirituality and Contribution
Do you have a spiritual practice(s): Meditation, prayer, contemplation, reflection, mindfulness, writing, music, charity and movement? Anything that connects you to something larger (Source, God, Universal Energy). If that seems too big, what makes you feel like you contribute in a significant way? Moments shared with others, or alone, nourish the flame within that burns in your heart or soul and makes you feel alive, connected and enamoured with life.
What brings you joy? What activities beyond work, with or without family, with or without friends, also makes you feel alive? Adventure, exploration, learning, new places, people and cultures, exercise and fitness or things that bring pleasure to the mind and senses like gardening, collecting, making and designing. They all deepen your connection to life.
Short- term Stress
This is the good stress. Things that make your heart pound and quicken your breath can really deepen your resilience. The little things that scare you can give you a buzz. Most especially if they are aligned to your goals and values. You sign up to give a talk or attend a networking event and beforehand you’re wondering what possessed you to commitment to it. Once you’ve done it you feel pride and achievement. It also takes your life towards new directions, experiences and learning.
Balance this with Relaxation
It’s important to relax too. Sleep, rest and rejuvenation are essential. Weekend breaks, holidays, spa days, adventure days with friends, dinners, lunches and get- togethers are all active relaxation opportunities that help you thrive. Chilling on the sofa, reading a book, watching TV or soaking in the bath can all rejuvenate your body and soul. Just don’t do too much- it has the reverse affect if you do!!!
Education and Growth
Constant learning, challenging, experimenting and enquiry help to keep you sharp physically and mentally. Education can bring you all kinds of information and learning experiences that may come to be really useful as resources towards resilience.
You are not a robot. Nor can you work all hours, sleep little, rest little, eat poorly and drive yourself endlessly. You are human- in need of change, variety, and diversity. Humans adapt to subtle cycles and nuances through the day. If you were a battery, you would need to recharge regularly (see blog: Recharge). Much of the above points will do that for you. Energy is an essential resilience resource. Learn to conserve it as well. Use your boundaries to protect yourself. If your energy drops too low, your health and well- being will suffer.
That is a list of the things I have learned to use to make deposits into my Resilience Bank Account. Together they make a formidable set of resources that can give you a cushioning when life gets tough and set- backs occur so that you can bounce back. The more of the list you use, and the more often you use it, the more resilient your Resilience Bank Account. Not all of them will work for you. Perhaps you have some of your own?
Keep track of them and use them to keep your Resilience Bank Account topped up. You have control over these fifteen inputs. You can choose. Make changes to build your Resilience Bank Account up every single day from multiple resources.
You will enjoy better health, contentment, meaning and purpose. Life will feel more fulfilling. You’ll have more fun, feel part of something larger to which you positively contribute. You will love and be loved.
And so when the inevitable pains of life come: the annoying work colleague; someone cutting you up in traffic; redundancy; relationship breakups; disloyalty; death; illness; financial issues; machines breaking down; internet going off- line and so on…….. you will have plenty in the Resilience Bank Account to ride the storm. You’ll be able to make the withdrawals required for yourself and others and still have resources left.
And, if you run out of resources, you know there are at least fifteen ways you can build yourself up again.
Over to You
How do you stay resilient? What do you do to keep your Resilience Bank Account topped up? Which of the one’s listed do you use? What one’s are missing? Do you find that you bounce back from set- backs and challenges quickly or do you struggle? What does resilience look like to you? How could you become more resilient? Why not post in the comments box or on social media and let us know your thoughts and experiences?
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