Resilience - what is it and how can you acquire it?
In last week's blog I talked about the importance of resilience and the sad news of the suicide of CEO and founder of Las Vegas based ecommerce site Ecomom. Since then I have been thinking about all aspects of resilience and wanted to share some of what I have learnt over the last few years. Although I am no psychologist nor a qualified coach, I feel it is legitimate to offer advice because I have seen and helped so many young entrepreneurs when they are very stressed and finding it difficult to deal with failure.
Firstly, let's look at what resilience really means. So many popular words are bandied around without adequate explanation that I don't want to be guilty of that here. It is the ability to withstand stress and failure. It doesn't eliminate problems, but it does give you the strength to overcome them and move on. Sounds easy enough but how do we do it? Can anyone do it or is it just certain people? The good news is that many experts say resilience is actually quite common and people are very capable of learning the skills and behaviours that it takes to become more resilient. That's not to take away from those people who appear to be totally unflappable in a crisis with little apparent effort, but we are not doomed if we don't fall into the Superhero category.
Crucially, we need to know what to look out for.
It is not just a mental process which makes us become more resilient. It is also spiritual, physical and emotional. If one of those areas is shaky, it affects the others and it is very easy for someone to spiral out of control.
Over the years, I have seen many young people spinning into depression and so firstly I would really urge you to learn to spot the signs of it happening within yourself. Early signals include how you respond to challenging situations. If you fly off the handle because someone has put your cup of tea in the wrong place on your desk, if you start withdrawing into yourself and become numb and silent and start disconnecting from your colleagues and friends, or if you start seeing yourself as a victim and blaming everyone around you for your problems, be aware that you are stressed and your resilience may be very low low.
So, what do you do if you know you're stressed? Firstly, look after your health because that is generally the first thing that goes. From my observations, this is the stage when many people stop eating or start eating junk food, have problems sleeping, start drinking excessively or all three. At this point you need to down tools and take a day at home to think and rest and re- evaluate. If you can't take the whole day off, take two hours off and away from your office or your home. My colleagues and I have a monthly team lunch away from our desks where we purposely talk about everything from Justin Bieber to Lady Gaga and we find that we can discuss our concerns and worries openly and in an atmosphere of relaxation and camaraderie.
If I am feeling particularly stressed about something, I might go to the cinema for the afternoon and clear my mind. I find it really works. Taking yourself away from a situation physically to do something you enjoy doing can be amazingly effective, whether it's to swim, go to the gym, run or play golf. As long as it keeps your physical and mental wellbeing in shape, it will work. Often I find that seemingly insurmountable problems don't seem so bad after a short break from them.
Secondly, make sure you talk to your friends. I have always found the more people I tell about particular challenges, the less of a burden they seem to become. It is that old adage of a problem shared is a problem halved. There is no shame in having problems and you don't always have to put a good face on everything.
Seek help. This might be from family members, colleagues or mentors. Talk things over with a coach if you have one. If you have investors in your business, ask them for help and advice if If you need specific answers, I am always amazed at how helpful people are prepared to be. Look for role models around you and ask them for advice.
If you are making difficult decisions like whether to shut down or discontinue a business, do it openly and celebrate the fact that you've made the right decision and have decided what is best for you. It shouldn't be a hide in a dark corner affair with you feeling ashamed with head bowed. Then you need to reset your goals and move on. Far from being despised, you will be admired for being brave and confident.
Last but not least, be realistic about what you can achieve. If you raise your bar too high, you are setting yourself up for failure. Never create unattainable goals for yourself that you will never reach.