What does personal resilience mean to you, why should you care and how can you build it?

Keep Calm and Carry On. Go into any of the multitude of British souvenir shops and you’re bound to see, inscribed on rows of mugs and coasters, the government’s famous slogan that symbolises the British stoicism in the face of adversity. While it was initially intended to lift spirits in the run up to WWII, it’s become the mantra for maintaining one’s composure in stressful situations.

In the workplace, this ability to take stress-inducing situations in your stride and ‘bounce back’ after experiencing failure is often referred to as resilience and is a skill that is in high demand. A survey of 300 UK employers by CV-Library found that 57.5% of the companies favours resilient candidates.

But what makes a person resilient?

According to leading psychologist Susan Kobasa, there are three key elements vital to resilience: challenge, commitment and personal control. When faced with a difficulty, people with high resilience view it as a challenge to be overcome. Committing themselves to a goal, relationship or belief keeps resilient people grounded and gives them a purpose to get up from their beds every morning. They also tend to focus their time and energy on things they can control and where they can make the most significant impact. Not only is this empowering but also cuts unnecessary stress over events they have no power over.

Regardless of our position at work, we can all do with a bit more resilience to cope with the everyday demands of our jobs. The great news is that resilience is a skill that can be worked on and improved. Here are a few practical tips on building your own personal resilience, so you can respond better to whatever challenges your working life may throw at you.

Assess your current position

Take a step back and understand the situation you’re in. Are you in the place you want to be? What’s in your ‘To-Do’ list? Are you doing it for yourself or someone else? By asking yourself questions like these, you can gain insight into your needs and priorities, which helps to put everything into perspective. You can then see where you might be spending excessive energy or putting yourself under unnecessary stress.

Set SMART goals

Setting realistic, achievable goals for yourself has significant benefits. First, it helps you focus and gives you a sense of purpose, secondly splitting big tasks into several smaller goals makes them much more manageable, and last but not least, it gives you something to celebrate. It will prevent you from feeling overwhelmed and, by tackling tasks one step at a time, can make road-blocks much easier to navigate.

Acknowledge your failings

A lot of us are scared of making mistakes or being rejected. But resilient people see failure and rejection as stepping stones towards their goal. They’re something to acknowledge, to grow and learn from, not something that’ll stop you in your tracks. As Thomas Edison famously said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”. Seeing past mistakes and failings in a more positive light, and as necessary steps to get closer to your goals, demonstrate your personal resilience.

Practice mindfulness

For many, mindfulness is an effective route to building resilience. By freeing your mind, you leave more space for problem-solving and inspiration that will facilitate you in coping better with pressure. Give yourself time to prepare for daily tasks, such as calls or meetings, and to reflect on them afterwards; when working on intensive projects, set small breaks or diversify your work so you have a chance to do different things during the day.

Take care of your wellbeing

When things seem to be going downhill, it can be all too easy to neglect your own needs. Losing your appetite, ignoring exercise and not getting enough sleep are all common reactions to pressure. This is not only detrimental to your physical wellbeing but also your mental health. By taking care of your own needs, you will protect your overall health, boost your resilience and be fully ready to face life’s challenges.

Embrace change

Flexibility is an essential part of resilience. By learning to love change, you will be better equipped to respond to any unexpected issues that may arise. This often involves increasing your curiosity and openness to new experiences and getting outside your comfort zone, both in and out of work. Being open to change can provide you with opportunities that you may not have considered possible before.

Learn new things

To adapt to change, you need to be a continuous learner. While making the time to get to grips with yet another new concept or skill into an already crowded day may feel counter-productive, it’s important not to get hung up on doing things the traditional or conventional way. By opening your mind to new methods and ways of thinking, the chances are you’ll find it pays off later on. Check out our list of TED talks on continuous learning, and how to develop a growth mindset.

Don’t take your job too seriously

Having a sense of responsibility is important, but you need to know when to stop. Obsessing about your job, especially when things might not be going well, can easily lead to overwork and eventually burnout. If things are getting tough, don’t take it all upon yourself and remember that you have a team to seek support and guidance from.

Resilient people don’t just survive in stressful situations but thrive in them, enhancing their potential for growth and productivity. Companies looking to develop a strong pool of talent will do well to encourage their employees to build personal resilience by creating an environment that helps them develop the appropriate skills and offers supports during times of stress.

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