While it’s a fact that some of us are naturally more resilient than others, the good news is that those of us who find it difficult to bounce back from difficulties, can learn how to be better at it. Resilience can help us as much in our personal lives as it can in our professional lives; if we can learn to be resilient in our careers, we will find it easier to progress and to move on after a setback rather than let it overwhelm us.
Think about the last time something bad happened in your career: how did you handle it? Depending on your attitude and your resilience, you either accepted it as a mistake, learned from it and moved forward to bigger and better things, or you saw it as a setback that made you despair that things would never be the same again and that you were doomed to forever repeat your failure.
Good news! History doesn’t always have to repeat itself, and with some simple changes to your outlook you can make sure it doesn’t. Here are some things for you to try:
1. Failing Does Not Make You a Failure
"I haven’t failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that don’t work." Thomas Edison. Also known as the inventor of the light bulb. What do you think he did after each failure? He believed in himself and his skills, figured out why it went wrong and didn’t make that same mistake again next time. What he didn’t do is throw his hands up in the air, declare himself a failure, and give up. He knew that a failure is not the end of the world, it’s a small blip on the way to success - and the more resilient you are, the more you’ll be able to see that too.
No one’s promising you’ll become a household name some day, but it is up to you whether you fail once or ten times. When you get unfavourable feedback on a project, that does not mean you’re no good at anything; it means that that particular project went wrong. Your goal now should be to find out exactly what went wrong, understand why it was wrong, and make sure you never make those mistakes again.
Failure should be seen as a way to learn, and not something to avoid: you will only move forward if you get out of your comfort zone, try new things, fail, and learn how to do them right.
2. Embrace Change
People who lack resilience tend to be resistant to change. Change happens, they respond negatively to it, and fall into a spiral of falling further and further behind as they suffer more setbacks due to their pessimistic outlook. If you can learn to embrace change, setbacks won’t seem so major, you’ll help your self esteem and be prepared for the next big thing that’s going to help propel you to the next level in your career progression.
It isn’t just about change, either. It’s inevitable that unfortunate things are going to happen to you; they happen to everyone. Resilience is about accepting that fact and knowing how to handle it as the temporary setback it is. Compare it to bracing yourself for a trip to the dentist: it’s going to be unpleasant, but it’s up to you how you approach it and how much worse you make it by letting yourself start thinking about the "what if"s.
3. Don't Play The Blame Game
Which person do you think is the most (healthily) resilient?
- Person A: "Yes, it did go wrong, but it was all X’s fault and I’m perfect."
- Person B: "Things went wrong, it’s all my fault and I’m useless."
- Person C: "Things went wrong and I’m partly to blame... how can I fix it?"
That’s right, Person C. They’ve accepted that they aren’t perfect and that they should hold themselves at least partly accountable, but they aren’t letting it hold them back and they’re focusing on improving themselves rather than blaming anyone. Putting all the blame on yourself will ruin your confidence, and blaming someone else will only cause that person to hate you. Person A could also be considered resilient, but thinking like that isn’t going to do them much good in the long run.
Think of a resilient person a a bouncy ball. The ball will always bounce back, even if you’ve bounced it against something that’s caused a little damage. Most people can’t handle a setback without some dent to their pride or their feelings, but the more resilient someone is, the easier they find it to move on.
Worry less about it being someone else’s fault and out of your control, or about it being totally your fault and feeling useless, and look to the future where it will never happen again.
4. Think Like an Entrepreneur
Just because you aren’t an entrepreneur, or perhaps you have no interest in being one, doesn’t mean you can’t learn lessons from them. Take a moment to think about how resilient an entrepreneur has to be, from selling their idea to getting people to buy into it to putting in all the effort to make it a success.
Those businesses don’t always go well straight away, but the entrepreneur has to pick themselves up and move on if they want to succeed. While you’re sitting wallowing about a negative line in your performance report, imagine how much worse it could be: you could be looking at a lack of revenue for your business that means you can’t pay all the employees who have put their trust in you. It’s called perspective, and it plays a big part on how resilient you are.
The same way that entrepreneur has to pick themselves up and do better - and they probably have to do it pretty quickly, too - that’s exactly what you have to do. Your business is you, and you’re the brand that you’re trying to sell to the world and convince your boss that they were wise to invest in.
5. Manage Your Stress
You should be in control of your stress, and not let it control you. No matter how high powered and stressful your job is, it’s up to you to make sure you keep it in check and that you don’t end up wearing yourself out and ending up in a nice white jacket, in a nice white room. Better stress management means better health, which means more resilience and a happier life.
Resilience is not the absence of stress (everyone gets stressed, honestly), but the ability to overcome it and not let it destroy you. People handle stress in different ways, and you need to work out the way that works best for you, or else you’ll start a vicious cycle where stress will affect the quality of your work, the negative feedback on your work will make you stressed, and so on. Here are some things you can try:
- Understand what makes you stressed. Try keeping a journal for a week to identify spikes in your stress levels, and then once you know what bothers you, you’ll be able to figure out how to make it less stressful.
- Learn to say no. If your workload is already piling up and you don’t start saying no to extra things, then attempting to get through it all will only add to your stress levels. You can’t make more hours in the day, so don’t take on more than you can get done.
- Disconnect. Do you have to check your emails when you’re at home? If not, then stop doing it and make the evenings your own. A period of disconnect lets your subconscious take over for a while and gives you a chance to unwind and stop stress in its tracks.
- Don’t hold grudges. Not only does holding a grudge never make you feel better - if you really hate that person, then do something about it and get it out of your system - but you’re causing a situation where you’re becoming stressed every time you see that person. Of course you have to be careful about what you say and who you say it to, but if a colleague needs to be put in their place, then do it!
See Also: Why it Pays to be an Optimist
The same way some people are "natural" leaders, speakers or entrepreneurs, some people are naturally resilient - and in the same way anyone can learn to be anything if they just put their mind to it, you can turn yourself into a more resilient person. By changing these few things about the way you approach things, you will boost your self esteem, boost your resilience and find future setbacks that much less unsettling. Never again will a professional misstep mean the end of the world, as you will have the ability to look at it as something to be fixed in the future.
Are you resilient? Do you know of some other ways to improve resilience? Let us know in the comments section below.