Rachel Arkle: 3 things to ask yourself about resilience

resilience

According to IBEC’s 2013 Management survey, stress was the predicted hot topic for the future of Learning and Development, with the solutions market expected to grow 27%.

Now 3 years on where are we at?

Well, when it comes to stress busting techniques, rightly or wrongly, resilience has been heralded as THE single biggest skill to develop to alleviate these symptoms.

This has created a flurry of interest in the topic, with 47 million results for “resilience training” on google, 51 related TED talks and a wave of new academic funding pots. Companies are also following suit, with firms such as PWC, tracking resilience as their primary route to measuring overall wellbeing.

So with all this in mind it’s right to assume we are all on the same resilience “wave length”….right? Well from my experience sadly not. And this is why those leading the field are moving away from the term. But before you decide where you’re at I challenge you take answer these 3 simple questions.

#No. 1 What does resilience mean?

Let’s start with the origin.

Resilience was originally used in science and referred to the elasticity or rebounding potential of materials. It was only more recently that the term was applied to human capabilities and in particular the idea of “bouncing back” to where we came from. Good resilience was therefore about demonstrating consistent capabilities to cope with uncertainty and return back to our starting point. And if we were really good at it, we could ‘rebound’ quicker & harder than before.

Sadly in the organisational landscape, this definition has been misconstrued. Instead of being a progressive term it has actually cultivated a new way to excuse the reality of throwing unrealistic quantities of work at people. Tones of ….surely you can cope with that now you have been on resilience training?!?!

A sustainable practice

Thankfully some companies, such as Unilever, are realising that this definition is not real resilience and are instead moving towards a more sustainable definition. As the philosopher and academic Carol Osborn states, resilience is more about using adversity as an opportunity to transform into a new expression of ourselves and continuously moving forward not back. Resilience is therefore just as much about appreciating the newness of our evolving life (and learning not to crave for past mindsets or experiences) as it is mindfully reserving energy for future uncertainty. Viewing life as sustainable resilience practice while preserving time for restoration is key.

# No. 2 Do I believe that real resilience is good for me?

Put crudely the “old” definition of resilience is dangerous. Pushing people or ourselves to do more and go beyond realistic limits simply fuels breakdown risks and jeopardises duty of care obligations.

However we also need to recognise that a sustainable view of resilience is proven to be very good for us. As Arianna Huffington says, the majority of us are aware that eating better, sleeping better, taking time out and reflecting is good for our overall resilience. Yet how many of us actually prioritise it? And if not, why not?

Well the sad reality is very few of us practice real resilience, partly because if we did we would be forced to redesign a large part of the way we work and live.

“For far too long we have been operating under a collective delusion that burning out is the necessary price for achieving success. This couldn’t be less true. All the latest science is conclusive that, in fact, not only is there no trade-off between living a well-rounded life and high performance, but performance is actually improved when we prioritise our health and well-being. It’s time to move from knowing what to do to actually doing it.”

– Arianna Huffington –

# No. 3 What small step can I take today?

Let’s make things simple.

After a lovely yoga workshop this weekend I was inspired to put energy back into my personal wellbeing practices. For me the most profound way to restore my resilience capacity is to notice and improve my self talk or inner dialogue. I think like many of us, I am my harshest critic and with that I dispel a lot of energy that saps my capacity for uncertainty.

So this week I invite you to join me in challenging the way we talk to ourselves. Every time I (we) hear negative, guilt driven phrases in our heads, whether that be because we took a lunch time walk or a midday swim, I am going to read Arianna’s quote.

And slowly day by day I will reeducate myself about what real resilience means.

About Rachel Arkle

Rachel has over 15 years of Management Consultancy experience and an MSc in Organisational Wellbeing. She is the key driving force behind Yoke and so excited to be at the forefront of such an inspiring industry.
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  1. Passive resilience is something that is common – people existing through challenges hoping the challenge will go away, and if it doesn’t, the person experiences a degree of stress. Active resilience takes many forms, but mental resilience is having flexible strength of mind to rise up to and overcome chalenges. So, it’s a choice, depending on the answer to the question ‘What’s in it for me?’ Answering that question involves understanding context, as resilience is situational, and using the combination of the situation and self interest to form the attitude required to ‘fire up’ the mind to use your flexible strength of mind. Strength of mind is being in mental control of yourself (not as common as we would like to think) and flexibility is required to access the strategies (often more than two) that might be the key to overcoming the challenge. Thus the process of resilience expands the mind, as suggested above. In the workplace, the culture and leader/manager behaviour are crucial in the formation of attitude and choice to be resilient. If the individual feels it’s worthwhile putting energy into resolving a challenge it will be because the individual gains. Therefore smart organisations will recognise that it’s in thier interests to create the environment that provokes psychological wellbeing as that will influence the amount of energy individuals put into resolving challenges. Obviously if you feel physically fit and healthy it helps, but you can be mightily resilient without being physically healthy. Mental health is the key, and if the environment is toxic no amount of yoga is going to make much impact on your mental state when faced with challenges at work.

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