Resilience is fundamentally the ability to recover quickly from setbacks.
In a professional context this can make you more efficient and can also have a positive impact mentally, preventing you from getting too bogged down by negatives when things go wrong and allowing you to enjoy your role more. Setbacks will always happen in any role, whether it’s a nasty bug that needs fixing before new software can be rolled out, the programme you’re trying to use repeatedly crashing, or missing an important email mistakenly hidden away in your spam folder. These things happen to everyone, but how you deal with these setbacks massively affects how you experience them.
Ultimately resilience is all about your reaction when things go wrong and how quickly you bounce back both professionally and emotionally. It’s easy to feel demotivated or frustrated when things go wrong, but it can be much easier to deal with when you can take a deep breath and move onto solving the problem.
Resilience can be a key factor in professional success and can be one of the hardest things to demonstrate in an interview. There is a debate over whether resilience can be taught or whether it’s something innate that you either have, or don’t have.
I’m very much a believer that resilience is a skill like any other and while some people have a natural talent for it and other people struggle with it, it’s something that anyone can work on and build up over time.
How resilient you are depends on how you react to problems, so in order to build resilience you need to change the way you react. Changing patterns of thinking isn’t always the easiest thing to do but it’s definitely doable (it’s the foundation of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy). But while it’s not easy it is in many ways quite simple – what makes it hard is the fact you have to be consistent with it.
To change a thought pattern you have to identify it. First of all, think about your starting point: how do you react when things go wrong? Do you launch straight into looking for solutions, do you find yourself demotivated, or tend to look for who to blame, or something else? Just be honest with yourself when you answer this question. If you do normally bounce back quickly then you’re already quite resilient, so your focus is mostly going to be on maintaining that and recognising when it’s harder. If you don’t, then make a note of what you do instead so that you can identify when you’re doing it. For example, do you end up ranting about the problem to different people, or does your self-confidence take a hit and you start worrying about you performance?
When you next face a problem, the first thing you need to do is take a deep breath (really, it lowers your heart rate and encourages the release of endorphins). Take a moment to get the tension or frustration out and then say to yourself: “okay, what do I need to do?” and make a list of next steps. Even if your first steps are all about informing other people of the problem, you’ve still started working towards a solution.
After you’ve reached a solution, or at the end of the first work day if it’s a larger issue that will take longer to fix just reflect on the difference. Maybe you felt less stress, or happier, or more in control. You may also find that the people around you are less frustrated by the problem too.
In order to develop this skill you need to make this response habit and that will take time, and there will probably be days where it’s really difficult to be proactive. But if you’re consistent then you’ll find yourself automatically looking for solutions. Not only will this help you professionally as you build a reputation for problem-solving, but it will also make you less stressed and happier overall.