How to Cultivate Resilience

If you have ever bought a Dyson vacuum cleaner then you may be aware of the story of James Dyson. A local sawmill caught James’ eye and under the cover of dark he sketched the timber yard’s giant cyclone. It spun saw dust out of the air, collecting it in a chamber. James wondered if the same principle could be applied to vacuum cleaners and put an end to clogging vacuum cleaner bags?

It took James 5 years and 5,127 prototypes later to produce a machine that had no bag and no loss of suction. This is a great example of personal resilience and never giving up in the face of adversity and rejection.
Resilient people seem to have an approach to life that is characterised by a realistic optimism, self-confidence, a sense of humour and finding meaning in every negative experience.

So how can we become more resilient in our working environment where on occasions both our physical and mental boundaries are pushed to their limits?

Change your inner dialogue –

Work at putting a positive spin on a negative experience. Resilient people know and understand that there are 2 possible scripts that can play out in the mind in the face of a setback. The quote “what’s meant for you won’t go past you” is a great example of rationalising and dealing with a setback and then learning to move forward positively. If you have ever had a setback always consider what you learnt or took away from the experience that then enabled you to move on.

Take time out –

Sometimes the best thing to do is to take yourself out of the situation you are in for a moment to get clarity and perspective. Go for a walk, sit in a coffee shop and pause for reflection. It is much better for you to take the required space than perhaps lose it with colleagues or your boss. This is especially pertinent if you spend a lot of time in meetings as most senior leaders do. Even just going to the toilet or leaving the room to get a drink can just break the negative space you were previously occupying.

Ask for help –

According to John Lees, author of Secrets of Resilient People you don’t need to be a different person to be resilient. He states that sometimes it is about owning up to what you are not good at and then asking others who are good at it for their help. Sometimes as leaders we can put a huge amount of pressure on ourselves believing we have to be good at everything. If you are able to declare what you are not good at then you can honestly turn to others and ask for help.

Reframe the fear –

Psychologist Emma Barrett states that if you control your thoughts, your physiology will be better able to cope with the situation. When symptoms of fear kick in try reinterpreting them. For example when speaking in public tell yourself that it’s ok to feel like this because I am hyped up and it’s exciting to be asked to speak at such an event.


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