Finding Balance and Simplifying Resilience for Leaders
Starting a new year there can be a natural push and pull between old and new; the current state of things and the desired state. The concept of resilience can get caught in this tension of “I want to be resilient, but I don’t want there to be things in my life that I need to be resilient with.” Regardless of this wish for ease, modern life includes a lot of stressors that we can each choose how we approach and address.
Let’s talk about what we mean by resilience. In the context that I work in as a leadership coach, I define resilience as the ability to bounce back from setbacks. We all face challenges in our daily lives personally or professionally whether they are small or life-changing. Our mindset can determine whether these obstacles knock us off balance or just cause a little wobble. Resilience can be like a rubber band that stretches and bounces back into shape or a band that stretches too far and snaps.
Over the last several years, we have been rocked by the COVID-19 pandemic, economic volatility, political discord, racial injustice and now job market uncertainty. And those are just the outside stressors that we have in common that demand our attention and energy. Personally, we may have experienced the start or ending of a meaningful relationship, a job or household move, or a change in health, to name a few. Even the positive changes, the ones that we seek out, can draw down our energy so that we have lower reserves to respond when something else arises.
One of the most thoughtful, recent examples of resilience in the face of unexpected change I have witnessed happened early in the COVID pandemic. This executive was working in the entertainment industry, a field she loved. With COVID shutdowns, her organization went through massive changes and she found herself without a job. She recognized that the entertainment industry might be in flux for some time so she had to decide whether to wait it out to pursue a continued career in arts and entertainment or draw on other strengths to set a new path. She reflected on past successes and looked strategically at other sectors, including consulting and nonprofits, where she had worked previously, to understand where her talents would be used and her career most likely to thrive.
Multiple factors helped her as she bounced back from this unsought change. She had resources that allowed her to take her time figuring out what to do next and a strong network to tap into for new opportunities. She had a range of previous career experiences which gave her more options for the path forward. And importantly, she kept an open mind about how living in alignment with her values would show up in her career and personal life. Ultimately she made a career decision that allows her to leverage her strengths while giving back to the arts and nonprofit causes she cares about in other ways.
One key to building resiliency that I have found working with leaders over the years is getting clear about what restores your energy and then doing those things. The possibilities are endless and vary based on your interests, personality and the demands on your time and energy. A few recharging options that come up frequently:
A call with a friend
Listening to your favorite music
Spend time in nature
Clearing mental or physical clutter
This list is not comprehensive but you may notice the mix of solitary and social activities, physical and mental recharging options. What works in one circumstance may not work in another because you are managing a different type of depleted energy. Self-awareness is a critical skill in emotional intelligence and for resilience. We have to be aware of what is most likely to bring us back into balance after something takes us off course.
There are so many helpful and accessible resources on this topic that it was hard to pick just a few. Here are several that my clients and I have found helpful:
This Wall Street Journal article from a few years ago on the restorative aspects of forest bathing might inspire you to go for a walk in your local park or plan a hike. I personally find the time I spend in nature to increase my sense of calm and mental energy.
The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor
Thrive by Arianna Huffington
Minding the Body Mending the Mind by Joan Borysenko
Flourish by Martin E. P. Seligman
Eat Move Sleep by Tom Rath
Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin
This article was also published on Medium.com.