In a year like 2020 all of us could use a bit more resilience. The good news is, resilience can be learned.
In my book, The Resiliency Effect, I take you through the journeys of more than 50 people, the vast majority women, including those from the LGBTQ+ community, black people and other people of color. The common denominator of the women I profiled was that they made a big change to live a life more in sync with their purpose and passions. They had untapped potential and found the courage to harness their creativity, their values, and a vision for creating a better community around them.
Here are three tips from my research on resilience.
Self Reflection is Powerful
Most of the people I profiled experienced a period of burnout prior to making a big change in their life. Burnout is an epidemic in this country. A 2015 Deloitte study discovered that 77% of respondents experienced burnout in their current position — feelings of energy depletion, negativity or cynicism about work, and/or reduced personal and professional capacity.
There are many ways in which we can combat burnout in our own lives. For instance, I chose to stop using “to-do” lists. But one good thing about getting to a low place like experiencing burnout is that it can lead to a lot of self reflection. Self reflection was a catalyst used by many of the people profiled in my book to start living the life they were meant to.
This is an partial excerpt from a self-reflection workbook found in Chapter 1 of the book:
- How have you tied your self-worth to your achievements?
- Think back to the times right before burnout? Did you ever have self-doubt or a strong need to “prove yourself?”
- What does filling up your life with to-do lists and achievements mean you DON’T have time for?
Find the courage to go back to look at experiences and adversities you’ve had in your life and consider what coping mechanisms and limiting beliefs you developed that may be hindering you today. When I went through this process for myself, I found that I was able to unlock a life that is no longer a series of fires, to-do lists, or emergencies that needed to be addressed. Instead, my life is filled with the things I’m passionate about.
Success Catalysts Exist
One major success catalyst described by a lot of the people I interviewed was the recognition that working harder, faster or smarter isn’t the answer. Instead it’s about unlearning behaviors and coping mechanisms which have in the past kept us feeling safe, but in the present no longer serve us well. The challenge lies in doing the deep work that will give you the energy to not just say what your biggest dreams are, but to take action on them.
Some examples of unlearning from interviews I had yielded the following:
New Knowledge Doesn’t Always Lead to Better Performance
Tennis star Serena Williams learned this lesson well. 8 years ago she experienced a number of setbacks and lost a number of pivotal matches. She attributes her turnaround to unlearning a lot of old behaviors. She got a new coach so she could work from a clean slate tweaking her practice techniques and grew into the world renowned player we know today.
You Don’t Have to Do It Alone
Building a team of friends, supporters, and even professional help is a major success catalyst. Many of the women I spoke to mentioned key support such as mentors who helped them discover their true potential. Others reflected on a failed business launch and credited not finding help sooner as their biggest regret.
You Can Reframe the Idea of Security to Create More Freedom
Some of us fear making a change because it feels unsafe or insecure. Sometimes we have to let go of that fear. Those who do may find that they can create a new path / life / career choice that brings them more freedom and flexibility.
Let go of Perfection and Overachievement
A big thing we could all stand to unlearn is our perfectionist and overfunctioning behaviors. Sometimes the only thing standing in our way from living our best life is ourselves. If we believe we have to be near perfect before we’re worthy or capable of doing something scary, we’ll be waiting a long time.
One solution to this kind of perfectionism found from my research is that learning to be ok with vulnerability — with ourselves and with others — and learning to be ok with discomfort is important.
The way we grew up and coped with adversity in our lives is a well-worn path that feels comfortable despite the dysfunction. The nature of our experiences means that it’s easy for us to stay stuck simply because it’s what we know and are familiar with. To begin to change and think bigger, temporarily you have to learn to be ok with being uncomfortable. Being vulnerable with others is part of the solution because the more you can name your feelings, the less power they have.
But there’s another value too – being vulnerable can put us in touch with our tribe, our people, our support network. Being vulnerable creates connection. Yet, we’re often too scared to get vulnerable for fear of not fitting in.
Writer and entrepreneur, Nilofer Merchant knows this very well. On her long-running blog, she allows herself to get vulnerable about many challenging events she faced growing up: from experiencing her parent’s divorce at a young age, abuse from her mother, bullying at school, and a rape in her 20s, and ties them to pieces of wisdom, life and business lessons.
Merchant’s life stories are inspiring, and I’m sure she gets a lot out of processing her traumas through writing. But this is the part I love most: Her vulnerable blogging led her to get syndicated by the Harvard Business Review, which eventually led to several book deals. These days, she serves on corporate boards and writes about the concept of, “Onlyness,” the topic of her 2017 book.
In a way it brings together all she’s learned through her experiences, both the positive and negative, business and personal, to better the world. I don’t think utilizing vulnerability to work through traumas and coping mechanisms has to be done in a public way, however, that method clearly has worked for Merchant.
- What are some ways you could explore getting comfortable with vulnerability?
- When will you put these skills into practice?
- Who could you share some of your ideas with?
Hopefully some of these tips resonate with you as they have with me. I wish you luck and support on your own inner journey.
More about The Resiliency Effect: In the first part of the book, we examine the root causes of imposter syndrome, which is often a catalyst for overwork and burnout. Then we look at the health impacts and high probabilities that people who deal with imposter syndrome and burnout also deal with trauma.
We also examine how the cycle of trauma, as well as the health effects of adversity are passed down within families. Finally, we look at the latest research-backed techniques for creating lasting resiliency that let you move on from surviving into thriving in your greatest life. Collectively, I refer to this deep work as the “inner journey.”