Resilience - the Key to Rising Above Your Circumstances

How is it that some people are able to rise above their circumstances while others seem to let their current circumstances dictate their future? 

I don’t know about you but I’ve been inspired by the way some entrepreneurs have pivoted to keep their businesses running during quarantine such as the pastry chef who started teaching virtual cooking classes, the personal trainer that started offering online workouts, and the winery that started virtual tasting rooms. I love to see people’s creativity, resilience, and triumph, don’t you?  

Maybe these stories speak to us because of the triumph over obstacles a common storyline we see over and over in books and movies and don’t we love to celebrate the real-life stories of overcomers like JK Rowling, Oprah, Bethany Hamilton, and Michael Oher? 

We find hope in their stories when we’re facing rocky times of our own. We think “if they overcame that, I can overcome this” and we find the strength to keep going. Now more than ever we need to be taking steps to develop resilience in our homes and our workplaces. 

Resilient people are better equipped and able to adapt to change, persevere through the pivots, and recover from setbacks and failures. 

Resilient organizations are 1.2x more capable of responding to the competitive environment, 3.2x more prepared to anticipate and react to change, and have 4.6x more leader engagement and retention (Global Leadership Forecast 2018). 

The good news is, resilience can be learned, cultivated, and honed; it’s not an inherited trait. Here are four practices I use in my home and at my workplace to develop resilience in the people I lead.

1.       Define (or redefine) your narrative. How you see yourself is critical to the story’s ending. Do you see yourself as the victim resigned to accept the hand you’ve been dealt or do you see yourself as the protagonist who overcomes their present circumstances and forges on to the next obstacle? 

The stories we tell ourselves about who we are shapes our actions. Decide today that you are not a product of your circumstances –both you are your circumstances are changeable. Think of one thing you can do to begin to move out of your present circumstances and take the first step.

2.       Embrace failure as an opportunity to learn. I think too many companies punish failure instead of using it as an opportunity to grow stronger, more resilient leaders. I’m not talking about ‘bet the company’ kind of risks but I do think we need to be more encouraging of measured risk-taking and embrace failure as a learning opportunity.  FAIL is not the F word. 

FAIL is simply the First Attempt In Learning. I love the question Sarah Blakely asks her children, “What have you tried to fail at this week?” 

In our family we try to encourage our children to take age-appropriate risks and we try very hard not to rescue them from the consequences of their actions. When they get frustrated by failure we remind them of all the things they didn’t do well the first time (like riding a bike) but later mastered with hard work and perseverance. 

We also take the opportunity to show them examples of people who failed before reaching the pinnacle of their success. Michael Jordan didn’t make the varsity basketball team the first year he tried out. Rather than giving up he used the setback to fuel his comeback, doubled down on his workouts and practice, and made the varsity team the following year. 

So, what have you tried to fail at lately? How are you using your setbacks to fuel your comeback?  

3.       Avoid the urge to rescue. I find this is sometimes easier to do with my children than with my employees. 

When leaders rush in with the solution we rob our employees of the learning opportunity and the sense of accomplishment that comes from struggling through a problem to get to the solution. We need to guide our teams, provide advice, direct them toward resources and people who can help them work through the problem (such as subject matter experts), and ask thought-provoking questions but we should not rush in with the solution.  

4.       Find the right tribe.  Who are the voices in your head? 

Jim Rohn said “You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with,” so I’ll ask you: who is speaking into your life? Are they encouraging the greatness in you or are they allowing you to wallow in your present circumstances and settle for less than a fully-lived life? We always tell our kids “if you want to soar with the eagles, you can’t hang with the turkeys.” 

Consider J.P. Morgan, Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, and Henry Ford, the tycoons of the early American economy. These leaders consciously surrounded themselves with like-minded leaders forming mastermind groups under the premise that by joining minds their collective wisdom and experience could be leveraged to help each individual member think bigger, improve their ideas, and further their performance. 

Are you surrounding yourself with people who have overcome obstacles and will support you as you work to overcome your circumstances or are you sitting with the group that continually complains about their life circumstances but fails to take any action to change them? 

In an environment where change is constant and stress is heightened resilience helps us cope, adapt, and carry on.  “On the other side of a storm is the strength that comes from having navigated through it. Raise your sail and begin.” George S. Williams

Original article published in LinkedIn:

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