Tom Jepson Creative

The Power of Resilience


The dictionary defines resilience as ‘the capacity to recover from difficulties’. It is what enables us to keep moving; it is toughness, strength. To be resilient is to face down the things which challenge us and say ‘not today’.

In the age of rapid technological progress, ever-changing consumer whims, and seriously variable economic climates being able to weather a storm can mean the difference between veering slightly off course and capsizing altogether.

Against almost-insurmountable challenges, it doesn’t dehumanise you to say ‘I must deal with this; I can deal with this.’ and move on. If anything, it puts you more in touch with how you’re feeling and perceiving the world around you. Acknowledging and bracing yourself when there is a period of trial approaching is infinitely better than denial. I wonder how many ostriches have been kicked in the backside while they had their head in the sand?

If resilience is a contributor for our future successes, how then can we increase our capacity for it? I will not proclaim that is easy however we each have the ability. It just takes a little drive, persistence, and perseverance; a willingness to start.

Removing Stressors

In ‘The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People’ Stephen R. Covey talks about circles of control and influence. These are the spheres into which all of our interactions and actions fit. When we’re talking about resilience and facing a challenge, we’re talking about meeting things which are going against the grain; against our own natural order. We can use these challenges to benefit us, if we look through them and see them for what they really are.

Change the narrative for these challenges; who is really the protagonist and who is the villain? Seek to understand what really affects you (the outside influences), which of these affecting factors you must really pay attention to (your circle of concern), and which you can work to affect in return (your circle of influence). Be mindful of the concerns. However, your circle of influence is where your attention needs to live.

By developing an understanding and acceptance of what fits the three circles, you begin to remove stressors from your worldview. You give yourself space to build tolerance, toughness and say ‘Not today!’ to things which you know you cannot control or directly affect.

Goals and Direction

Setting out with an end in mind is the beginning of your intent to succeed. Strategic goals - those which state why you’re setting out as much as where you’re going or what you’re going to do - help frame everything you do.

Within this frame is the knowledge about what you can and cannot affect and that there will likely be more than a handful of unknowns along the way. Your map is far from the territory you’ve covered, but it’s a damn good start. You’re bringing your experience, your insider knowledge, your research and using it all to your advantage.

To allow yourself the time and space to think about the things you don’t know are coming up, clear from your mind the things you do know. Write them down somewhere visible so you can revisit them later. Review them when you need a little redirection. Don’t be afraid, either, if you have to change course. Being resilient allows you to roll with the changes.

Put On Your Own Oxygen Mask First

During aeroplane safety demonstrations, cabin crew always instruct you to put on your own oxygen mask first. You cannot help other people if you’re incapacitated. This is exactly the same when you’re dealing with something challenging.

Centring yourself and understanding your own mind can help significantly when working towards becoming more resilient. It may sound trite but holding on to the faintest thread of a positive mindset can sometimes be just enough to carry you through a dark time.

Meditation and mindfulness activities can be an excellent way of clearing your thoughts and allowing your mind the time it needs to reset. There are myriad apps and programs to help you; even the Apple Watch has a ‘remember to breathe’ prompt. Do what you need to get that mental space.

Communication - again, however you need - and maintaining relationships with friends, family, and colleagues opens you to sharing your challenges; you don’t need to shoulder burdens alone. I speak from experience when I say that isolating yourself and avoiding contact is unhealthy and breeds inner toxicity. Talking things out can, too, be a great way to give yourself a little perspective and help prioritise your challenges. Use someone as a sounding post - like talking to the wall! - if you don’t want a chat about it. Working through your thoughts out loud could help.

Whatever you need to do; give yourself space and remember to put on your own mask first.

Becoming more resilient by removing stressors and giving yourself direction with clear, intentional goals could be the next step to take in securing your version of success. Roll with the punches. You have got this.


Resources & References

  1. ‘10% Happier’ by Dan Harris. A story about the power of meditation and its effect on your personal and professional trajectories. Reading Dan’s story and walking a mile in his shoes was inspiring.
  2. ‘The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People’ by Stephen R. Covey. A bona fide classic for personal and professional growth, inner strength, and a positive mindset. Have at it.
  3. Article on building reilience from Forbes
  4. Article on building reilience from Berkley