Building Resilience – When Life Gives You Lemons
Updated: Apr 19
Why are we talking about resilience? Every now and again we hear stories about someone who just lost their job of many years or life threw such a curveball at them that recovery is taking time. A professional or personal tragedy may be just around the corner. We always think it’s something that happens to the other guy, not us.
It got us thinking about what job security means, and if anyone’s jobs are safe and secure in today’s times. A sudden shift in technology, as is wont to happen every few decades, can throw much-skilled professionals off their tracks. Right-sizing, the politically correct way of saying we have too many people, is the buzzword across industries. Software products and services, logistics, financial services – robotic automation, artificial intelligence, or something new tomorrow are going to take away jobs. We can blame automation and AI all we want, but the truth is that innovation can only move in one direction, and that is forward. Perhaps a day may come when none of us will have full-time jobs anymore!
When that day comes (and not if), we have something that machines don’t. At least, it is a skill we can build for ourselves. That is resilience. The standard definition of resilience is the ability of a material to come back to its original shape when subjected to external forces. We can look at it as the capacity to endure pain. When applied to the human mind, this can mean:
The ability to stay balanced, no matter what work throws at you
A desire to be more than the circumstance
The ability to excel, especially when things go south.
You will notice how each of these is not individual attributes to be developed independently, but steps on the resilience ladder you can climb.
Professor Adam Grant and Sheryl Sandberg talk about resilience in their best-selling book, Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience and Finding Joy. Born out of Sandberg’s personal tragedy, Option B looks at resilience as the speed and strength of our response to adversity. Defined this way, opens the door to a simple truth – we can build resilience.
Only when the mind can stay true to itself when under external forces, have me mastered resilience. That said, we all have our weaknesses. Some of us may be thrown off by a new addition to a tight schedule, while others may find a spanner in the works when they’re told to pack up and move geographies. Indeed, since our day jobs make up most of our wakeful hours, losing it is the single worst thing that can happen to many of us. However, there is always a way out, and this isn’t just philosophy. If you know what would upset your current course significantly; if you can be honest in admitting that to yourself, you will be prepared for all eventualities. Here are a few logical ways to go about building resilience:
Always keep learning (that’s what billionaire Mark Cuban does!). Learn a skill to an extent where you will be paid to use it. This skill can be anything at all, and it can have nothing to do with your day job.
If you have a family dependent on you, going off-course can be very demotivating. Plan your finances such that you can look after yourself and your folks for at least six months even with no income.
Resilience As A Stepping Stone
Resilience is a personal trait, and insuring yourself against uncertainties is just one aspect. Think about how you deal with stress on a daily basis. Does your job bother you well into the night? Do you overthink everything? Make a conscious effort to make small changes to these patterns. Sometimes, when you are in a quagmire, it is best to seek help. This can come in the form of a counsellor or a friend. A neutral third party can give you a new perspective on the problem.
Sandberg and Grant ask you to ‘bounce forward’ and there are many ways to go about it:
Find a greater purpose
Develop new and deeper relationships
Find personal strength
See new possibilities
Changing circumstances or not, resilience is an attribute that can take you very far both in your work life and outside of it. If you want to build it, today is a good time to start. When life offers lemons, bounce them around a bit, maybe have fun along the way and remember that this isn’t the end.
You can find Option B on our Bookshelf.