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Developing Resilience in a Volatile World

Posted on September 7, 2022
developing resilience

With so much uncertainty, volatility, and disruption in the workplace, developing resilience to cope with stress has become a common topic among executives. Given the post-pandemic situation, along with numerous social, cultural, environmental, and technological challenges, we are experiencing once unimaginable levels of anxiety and stress.

Many leaders would like to see this time as an opportunity — one that inspires organizations to be more innovative, responsive to changing demands, and efficient in their delivery. There’s even an acronym many use when they embrace this way of thinking: VUCA, for volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. The belief is that by better understanding a marketplace that is demonstrating these qualities, leaders improve their strategic competencies, which in turn leads to better outcomes. Though this may be true, teams and organizations that are constantly exposed to volatility and uncertainty over long periods of time become anxious, doubtful, overwhelmed, and less creative, motivated and productive, all of which potentially leads to burnout, depression, or people resigning. So it’s no surprise we are looking at ways to cope, such as by building resilience.

What Is Resilience?

Resilience comes from the Latin word resiliens, meaning “act of rebounding or springing back.” It’s the recognition that some living and non-living things have an elastic quality that enables them to return to their original shape after compression.

A common understanding of resilience is our ability to withstand stress and bounce back from difficult life events. If we look at our lives holistically, we can see that our minds and bodies are always trying to find some kind of balance or equilibrium. When we exert ourselves physically, our heart rate goes up, and then our bodies naturally return to their natural resting heart rate. When we feel strong emotions like frustration or anger, our spirit also wants to return to a sense of calm or peace. Trouble arises when we’re overwhelmed by stress. For instance, when volatile situations come too fast for too long, it becomes difficult to return to an embodied sense of balance because we’re bracing for the next stress-inducing episode.

Unfortunately, we must accept that the world is a stressful place. However, there are ways we can do more than merely cope with it — through finding resilience.

Your Leader Within and Resilience

As Co-Active coaches, we build upon the natural resources within our clients so they can do more than just cope with volatility or adversity — so they can proactively create a more fulfilling and meaningful life. A life of joy, gratitude, connection, and purpose. A life where what they do is aligned with who they are. One resource we co-create is the Leader Within.

Our Leader Within is an inner authority that stands in full self-acceptance that we’re constantly changing beings. It acknowledges who we are being right now and who we are becoming. Our Leader Within also claims full self-authority, actively choosing the fullest expression of our life purpose and values in every aspect of life. It’s by creating this awareness of self-acceptance and self-authority that we see our wholeness, creativity, and resourcefulness with a deep sense of purpose and knowing which empowers us even though we’re facing adversity and dealing with the most challenging and volatile times. It’s from here that developing resilience becomes much more than a way to cope. Rather, resilience becomes a natural quality that enables us to respond to most circumstances.

Four Ways to Develop Self-Acceptance

So much of our stress is caused by stories or beliefs of how we should be. We carry misaligned expectations of ourselves and others. We are consumed with worry about the future or frustration about what happened in the past. These create emotional leakages that lead to fatigue or burnout. Self-acceptance begins with being present with who we are in this moment and curious about who we’re becoming. Self-acceptance is about creating alignment with what’s truly important and what we want for our life, which, in turn, helps with developing resilience.

Here are some ways to foster self-acceptance:

  1. Get in touch with what’s most important to you to live a fulfilling life. Explore your core values, longings, and vision for your life. See where you’re honoring or dishonoring what you truly want.
  2. Begin everything with gratitude or appreciation. It’s way too easy to judge everything in our lives. However, if we start into gratitude, we can see that there’s always something we can appreciate in any given moment — even with the most challenging and stressful circumstances, people, and situations. When we can see value in the moment, we can shift our energy towards a mindset that is more compassionate and responsive.
  3. So much of our stress extends beyond the facts of a given circumstance or situation. It includes our perceptions, our beliefs, and the emotions we experience about the circumstance or situation. Accept that life is complex, challenging, hard to predict, and impossible to control. By accepting where we are now, we can source inspiration to create from it.
  4. Accept that you can’t do it all and that we all have limits. Put more focus on what you can do. Accept that you will make mistakes and that mistakes are opportunities for learning and growth. As Nelson Mandela said, “I never lose. I either win or learn.”

Seven Routes to Self-Authority

We are always creating from the world. Don Miguel Ruiz wrote in the book Wisdom of Shamans, “The simple truth is that every person is an artist, and the art that we create is the story of our life.”

When we are consciously creating, we’re leaning into our self-authority. Self-authority is about taking responsibility for the creation we call life and for the impact we want to have for ourselves and others. It is from self-authority that we are grounded, clear, intentional, and less reactive to what’s going on around us. When we are consciously choosing from this place, we move towards developing resilience: we can quickly return to wholeness and balance from states of stress. Viktor Frankl wrote in Man’s Search for Meaning, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

Here are some ways to foster self-authority:

  1. Prioritize activities that embody your core values and vision for a fulfilling life. This could include setting time for family, friends, travel, exercise, or a hobby.
  2. Set clear boundaries and expectations around work and your personal life, especially when either becomes increasingly uncertain and stressful.
  3. Make time to recover from stress and overwhelm. For some, this may include moments of solitude, self-reflection, meditation, quiet walks, or massage, while others recover with time spent with close family and friends.
  4. In times of volatility, we can experience a world of emotions, feelings, and thoughts. It becomes important to take time to process these experiences through meditation or journalling, or by speaking them out loud with someone we trust, such as a friend, coach, therapist, or colleague.
  5. Get enough sleep. We culturally underestimate the restorative qualities of sleep. It’s vital to our mental, physical, and spiritual health and resilience.
  6. Give yourself something to look forward to, such as making plans with yourself or others. Create a vision board, or set some short- or long-term goals. If we don’t have a direction in life, we are susceptible to being taken adrift by every form of distraction or stress.
  7. Clean house. Take control of your procrastination list. Rearrange your living and workspace. Purge your inbox and unread text messages.

When we live our lives from this internal compass of our Leader Within, we can respond to the volatility and uncertainty of life with creativity and resourcefulness. It’s from here that developing resilience becomes much more than a way to cope.

What does the term “developing resilience” mean to you? Is there a situation in which you must be resilient? Tell us more in the comments section below.
Written By

Charles Sue-Wah-Sing

I am a certified Co-Active leadership and life coach. I’m also on the faculty with CTI. I have over 30 years of experience in leading teams on a variety of innovative initiatives. And I’m passionate about culture, music and an advocate for social change. You can find me online at www.suewahsing.com

What People Are Saying

  1. I was just talking with my team yesterday, during one of our weekly catch-ups, that I’ve got very little resiliency these days. These days, my experience of life feels very unpredictable. I start the day strong and stable and then one small (and I mean tiny) thing happens, and it throws me immediately into reactivity. My heart rate increases, my mind stops functioning, I feel myself freeze and get quiet, and a sense of sadness and disconnection washes over me.

    Interestingly, with all the self-care I’ve been practicing, it’s allowed me to stay somewhat calm enough to observe myself in those states. Intellectually, I can explain to myself (and others) what is happening inside me. I know that everything will be okay, that I’m burnt out, and that my body is overreacting to the situation, but physically, my body continues this uncomfortable response. It’s painful.

    Currently, I’m doing my best to lean into my colleague and be transparent about my experience. I believe I’m not the only one feeling this way and I hope my transparency will help others feel less alone.

    I also think sharing my experience and asking for help is helping to somewhat reduce my own burden, it’s helping me to process my feelings, and most importantly it’s helping me find some human connection so that I don’t feel as alone.

    This article resonates with me so very much Charles. Thank you for writing it. The suggested activities for self-acceptance and self-authority are absolutely on point. I’ve been incorporating many of those practices on a daily basis, taking a lot of breaks, practicing yoga, eating well, sleeping well, not working overtime, and being as compassionate with myself as I can be.

    Reply

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