Bend without breaking: The Power of Resilience

Many people imagine the perfect life to be one where it is all smooth sailing, a tropical paradise, simple peaceful and fun. Unfortunately, that is not the way most of us experience life. Storms come, clouds block the sun, the wind whips us and things turn ugly – its just the way it goes. Life is complex and includes continual pressure and stress. We can’t avoid it, but we can prepare for it. It’s all about having the resilience we need to be able to bend without breaking, to weather the storms of life and bounce back.

The idea of resilience came initially out of properties of materials. It is a measurement of the extent to which materials such as concrete can flex then come back to their original state without breaking. The concept then got taken into and applied into a living systems like ecosystems and again it was a measurement of the extent that a system can adapt and be flexible without breaking.More recently the idea of resilience got carried over into the realm of human behaviour.

While the traditional notion is that resilience is just about your ability to bounce back after a major setback, John Sautelle from Exceptional People takes a much more expanded and proactive approach. His work with resilience building includes a strong emphasis on learning from experience. As he puts it, the goal is to develop the capacity to cope much better in the future, without the burnouts or crashes. To become much more self-aware, much more able to manage and regulate our thinking, our mindsets, and our emotions so that we cope and perform much more effectively when we are confronted with challenges or put under pressure.

John’s expanded definition of resillience, when it comes to people, is ‘The ability to learn from experience, grow and develop, become more flexible, adaptable, as well as a capacity to cope with the challenges and the setbacks.’

When it comes to building resilience in people John and his colleagues at Exceptional People, approach it from from three different perspectives or angles.

Firstly, there’s self-resilience which is really about increasing self-awareness and self-regulation. The key here is being able to surface and identify some of the deep seated mindsets and assumptions that are out of our awareness which drive, often in a protective way and an unhelpful way, these sorts of behaviours that we want to change and can’t change.

Next they look at resilient relationships, applying some core tools and processes to build much more robust resilient relationships both in work and personal environments.

The third element is around problem solving and processes that help people get unstuck. When they are really stuck in their thinking and they’re going around circles it can undermine their resilience. Or their resilience can be damaged when they’re wrestling with an important decision about their future, their career, what they want to do and they can’t find a way out of it.

So the three key elements to building resilience are: resilient self, resilient relationships and resilient problem solving.

To learn more about building resilience listen to episode 7 of The Coach Mentor Podcast: Building Resilience in Leaders, The Journey of Self-discovery, Leadership and Capacity Building or download the full transcript.