More Resilience, Less Retreat

Emotional resilience is one of the components of emotional intelligence most sought after by leaders in all organisations and industries along with competencies such as self-awareness, self-motivation, self-control, influencing, empathy and intuitiveness.

How is resilience currently defined?

  • The power of ability to return to the original form, position etc. after being bent, compressed or stretched; elasticity
  • The power to recover readily from illness, depression or adversity
  • The “rubber ball” factor: the ability to bounce back from adversity
  • The ability to cope with and rise to the inevitable challenges, problems and setbacks you will meet during the course of your life and come back stronger from them


Which of these definitions is most helpful?  What would you add?

However, when we define resilience the following certainly appears to be true:

  • Resilience relies on different skills and draws on various sources of help including, rational thinking skills, physical and mental health and your relationships with those around you.


  • Resilience is not necessarily about overcoming huge obstacles or challenges; each of us faces numerous challenges, even on a daily basis, for which we must draw on our reserves of resilience.


The four ingredients of resilience

  1. Awareness – noticing what is going on around you and especially in your head.

Self-awareness really is the foundation al component of what we call “emotional intelligence”. Most of us are nowhere near as self-aware as we believe ourselves to be. And it was written on then temple walls of the oracle at Delphi, and it may be one of the oldest pieces of psychological advice every given:  KNOW THYSELF! There is a real emphasis today on mindfulness (a part of the wider field of meditation, practiced in many religions over thousands of years) – and developing mindfulness really can help in developing a much more realistic view of what I am and what is happening to me. Observing and paying attention to what we are observing is critical – and this is why many have resorted to journal keeping; a written record of one’s thoughts and reflections over a period of time.

  1. Thinking – being able to interpret the events that are happening in a rational way.

Once we have done the observation, attended to what is happening in and around us, and recording our reflections, the next step is interpretation. Can you see why interpretation  should always follow sound observation? It would be truly foolish to jump into “Why is this happening to me? And what does it mean?” before we have, as objectively as possible, exactly what it is that is happening.  When we misread the situation – we can be absolutely sure we will come up with and interpretation and strategy that doesn’t work, and, in fact, makes the situation even worse. Let me give you just one or two examples of these destructive thinking patterns – you will have to come to our “Power of 10” workshop to work through the rest of them.


Catastrophising (the opposite of turning mountains into molehills)

Catastrophising is taking a relatively minor event and imagining all sorts of disasters resulting from that one small event.

Fixing catastrophising:

Put your thoughts in perspective

Consider less terrifying explanations

Weigh up the evidence

Focus on what you can do to cope with the situation, and the people or resources that can come to your aid.

All-or-Nothing Thinking  (rather than find somewhere in between)

All-or-Nothing Thinking is extreme thinking that can lead to extreme emotions and behaviours, people either love you or hate you, right? Something’s either perfect or a disaster. You’re either responsibility-free or totally to blame?

Fixing All-or-Nothing Thinking:

Be realistic

Develop “both-and” reasoning skills

Don’t let All-or-Nothing Thinking sabotage your goal-directed thinking. You are far more likely to throw in the towel at the first sight of something blocking your goal when you refuse to allow a margin for error. Beware of “either/or” statements and global labels such as “good” or “bad” or “success” or “failure”.


Can you see how this dysfunctional thinking can derail any attempt you may want to make to build greater resilience.

3. Reaching out – how we call upon others to help us meet the challenges that we face because resilience is also about knowing when to ask for help.

Building resilience is a co-operative exercise and trying to do it all on our own is often very difficult. Identify folk you can trust and you believe have your best interests at heart, and share your situation for them. Have they ever had to face a similar situation to what you are going through? How did they cope? Start with family members and really close friends. And of course there are many great resources on-line and in books. If your struggle is unending and increasingly debilitating, please don’t hesitate to seek professional help.


4. Fitness – our mental and physical ability to cope with the challenges without becoming ill.

Look after yourself! As a leader, your team need you to be on top of your game most of the time. The best way to stay resilient is to stay fit – physically ( eating wisely, sleeping well and exercising regularly, as we are so often told), intellectually (keep reading, learning, thinking, alert), emotionally (be good to yourself, reward yourself, don’t feel guilty about everything), socially (maintain and nurture and solid relationships, especially at work) and spiritually (keep connected to that which affects you most deeply, whether it be your faith or your deepest values).

 Written by Rob Gee | Senior Partner of The Living Leader | Power of 10

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