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Resiliency: An Equal Opportunity Resource

By Eileen McDargh

Do any of these sound like you? Your organization has been downsized, "right-sized," capsized. Perhaps you've been merged, remerged, submerged. Every time you think you know the answers, they change the questions. Up is down and down is up.

Perhaps you have the opposite challenge: your organization is growing so fast that it's hard to maintain the pace! Business change is a daily fact of life.

Perhaps you're the leader with followers looking toward you as a model to move forward in complex and demanding times. You feel stuck in a time warp and want nothing better than the old days of career progression, linear movement, and a marketplace that is predictable and faithful.

Perhaps you've assembled a team of world-class performers but getting them to play from the same "sheet of music" and honoring each other's skills appears a task worthy of Hercules. Teamwork is a fiction. Virtual teams are virtually invisible.

Or perhaps you're juggling the professional and personal demands of requests that surround you 24-7. Aging parent, ailing spouse, boomerang kids, or your own soul wanting more - it's all a sign of the times.

In all of these cases what is needed is resiliency. Not the dictionary definition of bouncing "back," but rather the proactive result of growing through challenge AS WELL AS opportunity. That's right: opportunity. You see, we're used to thinking about resiliency only when faced with hardship, loss, or negative events. However, I believe that resiliency is a life skill!

Resiliency is rooted in energy - the capacity to keep on keeping on. This is not about adversity but advantage. It is not about pain but possibility. Resiliency can be learned, cultivated, and practiced. And it can be done with vision, foresight, and joy. It is about thinking differently, learning to ask critical questions, and most importantly, discovering how to listen deeply to yourself as well as others.

Regardless of your current situation, here are four actions to be practiced. Yes-practice. Some days we will be better than others. It takes practice:

1. Work on intelligent optimism
To see the glass as half-full rather than half-empty, reframe whatever is going on in terms of possibilities. As a simple example, a bad hair day becomes a great hat day. A downturn in personal finances becomes an adventure in minimal living. (Amazing what you can do without).

Ask yourself, "And what else can I do?" My friend Jesse lost her opening bid for a house she wanted to buy. She literally had no more money to offer. But she kept thinking, "What else could I put in the mix?" She had some gold coins in her safety deposit box. She offered to introduce the sellers to key people in the city where they would be living. AND, she told the sellers that if they wanted to relive memories where they started their family, she'd move out for a weekend and they could come stay. She got the house!

2. Create a support network
None of us are "islands". Stay in touch with people where mutuality is a given. You support them and visa versa. Don't hesitate to ask for help. Often, reframing takes someone with fresh eyes to see what we can't see. Think contribution with your support network. What can you give? Energy returns when we move out of ourselves and into aiding someone else. If fact, consider helping people who are NOT in your support network. Energy expended on behalf of others returns multiplied.

3. Celebrate small steps
There is a reason babies crawl, stand, walk and then run in that order. They are building up muscle and muscle memory. Some babies might be faster than others but developing new responses takes time. We often forget to acknowledge ourselves and others in moving through change. Some days it takes courage and energy to just show up! In the book OPTION B, Sheryl Sandberg confesses that there were days she just wanted to crawl in bed and stay there. Just showing up was cause for a pat on the back.

4. Laugh
I have always believed that people without a sense of humor have no sense! In challenging times, laughter is the literal breath of fresh air that laughter brings that re-energizes.

According to Cancer Centers of America, laughter offers these healing results:

  • Enhance oxygen intake.
  • Stimulate the heart and lungs.
  • Relax muscles throughout the body.
  • Trigger the release of endorphins (the body's natural painkillers)
  • Ease digestion/soothe stomach aches.
  • Relieve pain.
  • Balance blood pressure.

Whether watching funny animal videos, cracking a joke at a pun, or using humor to lighten a mood, laughter offers perspective. At the height of the Civil War, Lincoln was heard to mutter, "If I didn't laugh. I would cry."

Resiliency is a trait that is not hard-wired by genetics or restricted by life's circumstances. But it is a choice point. When we begin to get our head, heart and hands involved in growing resilient responses, we will have a renewable energy source that defies OPEC and pipelines. In fact, human energy is the most important renewable resource we have.

© 2017, The Resiliency Group
Resiliency expert, speaker, consultant and author Eileen McDargh has helped organizations and individuals transform the life of their business and the business of their life through conversations that matter and connections that count. Visit her website at to read her blog, join her e-zine (and receive the free e-book "Mastering Resilience Skills for Off-The-Charts Results") and hire her to speak.

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