‘People are like teabags, they don’t know how strong they are until they are put in hot water.’

Eleanor Roosevelt


Are you working in a high stress environment where the demands are overwhelming and/or never ending?

Are you working long hours at headquarters, in the field or on mission?

Have you been posted in another country that isn’t your own and facing the many challenges that it can           bring?

Are you within an unstable political environment with possible safety issues and/or trying to navigate internal politics?

Are you dealing with toxic colleagues or bosses or operating in an uncivil work environment?


If you answered yes to any of the above how resilient do you feel you need to be in order to fulfil your professional role? Having and building resilience is relevant to us all whatever our role, field or life situation.

For instance in a Harvard Business Review article by Andrea Ovans, she discovered a survey by Sarah Bond and Gillian Shapiro of 835 employees ranging within the private and public sector, and non-profit firms within the UK that said, ‘a whopping 75% of them said that the biggest drain on their resilience reserves was “managing difficult people or office politics at work.” That was followed closely by stress brought on by overwork and by having to withstand personal criticism.’

Resilience is a resource we all at some point need to draw upon and continue to be able to summon to the forefront when a situation presents itself. Let’s take a look at how we define resilience and secondly how you can build it.


Defining resilience


The U.S. Department of State recognises resilience as, ‘the ability to successfully adapt to stressors, maintaining psychological well-being in the face of adversity. It’s the ability to “bounce back” from difficult experiences. Resilience is not a trait that people either have or don’t have. It involves behaviors, thoughts, and actions that can be learned and developed in everyone.

Resilience is about being adaptable. It’s about being flexible. It’s about recognizing that we’ve got strengths that perhaps we never knew we had until we have to use them. And like many things in life – the more we practice, the more we learn. The more we find out about resilience and certainly the more we do of it, then the more resilient we become.

Resilient people are able to adapt to stress, crises, and trauma. They find ways to bounce back from the ups and downs of life and move forward.’

According to Carole Pemberton, ‘Resilience is about being open to learning and growth, being able to take risks because of a sense of being able to deal  with the consequences of that risk. Resilience does not protect us from setback, but it ensures we are able to manage our way through it.’

Harvard Business Review describes resilience as, ‘the ability to recover from setbacks, adapt well to change, and keep going in the face of adversity.’

Adaption or recovery were used in each of these three definitions. However, with any emotional state and mindset it’s not all textbook, we’re not necessarily born with it, but it can be learnt and practised to have ultimate impact.



7 steps on how you can build resilience


Resilience is mindset and much like any new habit you are trying to form it takes time and conscious practice. There are a few tools you can implement into your daily lifestyle that can help you to grow resilience and you can build into becoming a natural state of mind.


1) Don’t underestimate the value of sleep and exercise.

Our minds much like our bodies need exercise. This has a positive impact on how we view a situation and then in turn how we choose to respond. When you are well rested you are able to see with clarity. When you’re well exercised you can manage stress much more effectively.


2) Be aware of the demon inside your mind and correct your internal dialog.

That little voice within your head should be your best friend. Try to replace any negative thoughts for positive ones instead. Try to halt those self-deprecating thoughts in their tracks before they manifest and take hold. Try mentally stepping back from and gaining distance almost like you’re another person looking into your thoughts.


3) Smile in the face of failure: see mistakes and failings as a learning opportunity.

It’s not possible to succeed without mistakes and failings. The path to success will undoubtedly be littered with them. See them as an opportunity for growth and learning. Find the lesson in every failing.


4) Your response is within your control: allow calm and logic to prevail.

We all have it within our control to choose our responses. Take time before responding, digest and showcase a response in a calm and logical manner. It’s your choice in how you decide to react.

5) Build and practice self confidence in the face of stress or setbacks.

It is normal to expect the good, bad and ugly amongst our days. Have belief that you will succeed. Having belief gives you strength and confidence.


6) Build a strong support network and create strength in your relationships.

Having a strong support network and developing strength within your relationships enables you to have a network to fall back on when facing times of stress or a setback. Always remember to showcase empathy and compassion with others and in return you will receive the same.


7) Create strength and Prepare your mind: be flexible and adapt to change.

There will be times when your plans, or that of others or unforeseen circumstances will likely have an impact on you. This may make you feel like you’re under pressure, stressed and may make you feel like you’re struggling.

But by preparing your mind to know that this could be a possibility will make you stronger and more resilient to adapt when you are faced with the unexpected.

According to psychologist Susan Kobasa in a Mindtools.com article, she describes three key elements within people that demonstrate resilience as, ‘challenge, commitment, and control.

You can develop resilience in several ways –

  • Take care to exercise regularly and get enough sleep, so that you can control stress more easily. The stronger you feel physically and emotionally, the easier it is for you to overcome challenges.
  • Think positive and try to learn from your mistakes.
  • Build strong relationships with colleagues and friends, so that you have a support network to fall back on.
  • Set goals – preferably (SMART ones) – specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound personal goals that match your values, and work on building your self-confidence.

No role, profession or relationship will be without the need to acclimatise and adapt to change. Allow yourself to reset your mindset regularly and practice resilience. Take time to step back and remind yourself how to achieve this by following the 7 steps above.

Remember mindset is not static, our reactions are our own choosing and success is never without its failings.


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