Michael Aquilino posed this question in his 2016 article on resilience published in the journal Explore. Why is it that some people can take the difficult experiences of work and life and roll with them, even gain strength from them, while others are overwhelmed and deeply stressed? He suggested a major factor in the quality of “one’s life experience” is resilience.
He offered these questions for the reader to ponder:
- “In your day-to-day, week-to-week, or month-to-month, do you find yourself unable to catch-up or get ahead?”
- “Are you ever anxious or worried?”
- “Do you feel overwhelmed more than not?”
- “How is your energy and spirit? Are they less than what you would like or hope?”
In times of adversity and challenge, what is your level of trust? Do you trust in your ability to overcome or bounce back? Do you trust in your ability to meet the challenge strongly, positively, regardless of the odds? Or do you “slide down the slippery slope of worry, anxiousness, upset, frustration, fear of letting others down, lost energy, unhappiness . . . and hopelessness” (p. 385).
So what to do? Here are some of Aquilino’s suggestions as I understand them:
- Build a framework. Be aware. Do you truly understand the circumstances? What can help you? What can’t? A framework helps us understand our choices and clarifies the actions we can take.
- Examine your own thoughts and behaviors (informed mindfulness). Have you given up, resigned yourself to the situation, said “why bother anymore?” Be sure that giving up is not a pattern by which you experience life.
- Dig deep and “remind yourself of the real, deeply personal reasons that you do what you do. It is not about motivation; it is about ‘sense of purpose’” (p. 386). Focus on that purpose as you work through adversity.
- Be accountable. Blaming events, others, etc., or making excuses risks credibility. Commit to choices that help you move forward.
- Recognize self-imposed limitations and then choose freedom. In the horrors of the concentration camp at Auschwitz, Viktor Frankl chose to experience wonder and great beauty in a magnificent sunset.
- Know that “You can’t worry enough to affect an outcome.” Don’t forget who you are, what you have achieved, how you have met difficulties.
- Keep a journal. Record your thoughts, what you are saying to yourself about your circumstances. After a while review your journal and look for themes, patterns. This may help you better see the choices you are making and perhaps alternatives.
- Ask yourself: “What is it that I don’t know that I need to know right now?” What can be known? What can give you more control to deal with adversity?
1. Aquilino nails it. So much of our experience at work and in life comes down to how we frame those experiences, how we give meaning as events unfold. People vary widely on how they respond to difficult situations and resilience is probably the biggest factor differentiating us.
2. Ultimately resilience is about how we come at life. This is a choice. Life can hand us hardship, heartbreak, and difficult circumstances in the extreme. I would not argue all can be overcome through resilience. I would argue that resilience makes a difference in the quality of life in tough circumstances, both ours and others.
3. I recommend journaling. Over months and years, and even decades, insights emerge that help in understanding one's self. Abraham Maslow started writing a journal later in life, in his 50s. It is never too late.
4. Want to be an even better leader? Journal. Learn from your thoughts and actions.
Aquilino, M. C. (2016). How strong is your “R factor”? Explore, 12 (5), 385-387.
Image by Gerd Altmann.
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© John Ballard, PhD, 2017. All rights reserved.
Author of Decoding the Workplace, BEST CAREER BOOK Next Generation Indie Book Awards 2016.
Please visit www.decodingtheworkplace.com.