Do you know some people who just seem to sail through the bumpy patches of life more easily than others? These people probably have strong “resiliency muscles” – and this means that they show up better, perhaps by projecting more calm and confidence in the face of uncertainty or adversity, than those who allow the stresses of work and life to impact their presence.
Resiliency is being talked about a lot today in organizations because of life’s inevitable challenges. More than ever we’re asked to adjust, thrive through change, make peace with the unknown. Perhaps you’re juggling multiple priorities: trying to balance work, family, friends, hobbies, and the pace feels overwhelming. You may also be dealing with complex work issues and relationships, realities of time constraints, unrealistic expectations, limited resources and limited control on the outcomes.
The stakes are high: if we can’t find ways to effectively manage these challenges they can seriously harm our executive presence by impacting our health and well-being. This leads to poor concentration and lack of focus, anxiety, impaired decision making, lack of creativity, and self-doubt. It may mean we’re tired and more emotional, which can lead to conflicts with colleagues and others, a reduction in the quality of our work, and ultimately, reduced joy and pleasure in our lives.
From my experience coaching some very smart leaders, I’ve noted five things these leaders consistently do to build their resiliency muscles. (And please know that regardless of how strong your resiliency muscles currently are, they can be strengthened!). These leaders consistently show up with a strong executive presence, gaining a calm confidence in their own ability to cope. They are able to shift to a new way of working when the old way is no longer possible and sustain good health and energy even when under prolonged pressure.
Identify Your Circles of Control: Resilient people focus their energy on those things that they have control or influence over, rather than things or situations out of their control, and they accept circumstances that cannot be changed.
Take the time to clarify what’s within your control (certainly what actions you take and how you react to other things). Note what you can influence, but not necessarily make happen. Then finally note what is simply out of your control and requires simple acceptance of this fact.
Nurture Your Relationships: Resilient people rely on others for support during times of stress and adversity, both at work and home. They know they need others to thrive and they both give and provide support to others but not at the expense of themselves. Developing a good support network of colleagues, friends and family can help lessen the impact of stress. And gaining awareness about who drains them (and then taking steps to protect themselves from these relationships) is also key to building muscle strength.
Identify who you need in your life and who you need to protect yourself from (and then commit to not allowing yourself to get “sucked in” to other peoples’ issues).
Clarify Your Boundaries: Resilient people set and honor boundaries. By clarifying their boundaries, knowing what is okay and what is not okay with them, they put themselves in the control and influence circles. Obviously not everything requires a boundary, but when it does, it means they know when they need to say: “No, I can’t do that.” And it may also allow them to say more often: “But I can do this instead.”
Think about what situations in your life require a boundary and then determine what boundaries you want to create and how you will communicate and honor them.
Care for Yourself: Resilient people do as the familiar airline directions instruct them to do: in the event of an emergency put your oxygen mask on first before helping others with their mask. In the same vein, caring for themselves, first, is a major part of developing more resiliency. This requires clarifying what they need and what self-care is most important to their well-being – even at the expense of helping others. Self-care might include: an appropriate amount of sleep, regular exercise, a healthy diet, and making time for outside interests and hobbies.
What kind of regular, ongoing self-care will serve you best? How will you prioritize this in our schedule?
Take Time to Recover: Resilient people take time to fully recover, not just to cope with stress but to truly stop and recover after times of great adversity. Some leaders take a “tough it out” approach and believe that the longer they persevere, the tougher they are, and the more successful they’ll be. But this thinking is flawed. The very lack of a recovery period is dramatically holding back their ability to be truly resilient. They need to strategically stop what they’re doing, not all the time, but at strategic moments, and give themselves recovery periods so that they can start up and try again.
How do you recover from prolonged periods of intense stress and how do you know your recovery period is sufficient for you?
We cannot prevent adversity and stress from happening in our lives. But by having a plan for how we can increase our resilience we can minimize the negative effects on our executive presence and become one of those people who seems to sail though the bumpy patches of life. What’s your resiliency plan – which of the five strategies resonate with you and what will you do about it?