July 31, 2018
Women are half the educated labor force and earn a large number of today’s advanced degrees, yet outside academia women are still dismally behind in titles, promotions, and advancements. Having the ability to be resilient—to bounce back, regroup, and lead and inspire others—is an enormously important attribute that could decide if a woman advances professionally or gets passed over for career opportunities.
Some women seem to be born resilient. For everyone else, there are learned skills that can increase our resiliency aptitude.
Having the ability to take whatever is dealt and still focus on staying on top of our game takes awareness, understanding, and action. Without this mindfulness, I’ve seen some incredibly bright folks become so entrenched in negative thinking that nothing can convince them there is hope or possibilities. Yet we can change the character of our lives by changing our beliefs.
We get to choose how resilient we’re going to be by how we respond to everything in our lives. It’s all about being aware that things will continue to annoy or frustrate us and that not everyone will like us or our ideas. And that’s OK. We are smart enough not to give away our power, and that means paying attention to how we’re thinking and adjusting when necessary.
Here are some simple steps to boost your resiliency:
Restructure your attitude. Attitude is responsible for our successes, and when we cultivate the belief that internal fortitude, not circumstances, affects achievements, it enables us to bounce back no matter what. I had a friend whose son received rejection letters from Harvard, Princeton, and Dartmouth on the same day. He said he was amazed at how three major universities could make such a bad mistake and not admit him. He went to Ohio State, graduated in three years, and then turned down Harvard to go to Yale.
Think E+R=O: An Event we have no control over, plus our Response, which we have every control over, has everything to do with the Outcome.
Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. To grow and become more resilient, we must get used to being uncomfortable. Once you settle on that, it’s easier to move closer to the table instead of sitting in the back of the room if you come in late. It’s easier to disagree or speak up or any number of other things when you know it’s OK not to be comfortable during the process.
Build your support network. The more we can get allies at work, the easier it is to problem solve when things get challenging. Use emotional awareness, display empathy, communicate with compassion, and look at what you can do for others. The simple act of focusing on helping others enables us to be more effective in our own endeavors.
Be grateful again and again and again. Remember how much we have to be appreciative of, even on our worse days. After I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, I went back to my guide’s home in Tanzania. He had no plumbing or electricity and was incredibly proud of where he lived. We have so much more than we realize, and that awareness can really put things in perspective.
Take time for you. Find some time to replenish or reenergize, regardless of your schedule. Taking a break can also lower your stress, strengthen your immune system, improve cognitive performance, lower your heart rate, increase your energy, and balance your cortisol (stress hormone) levels. There are obviously many good reasons to take time for you.
Women often have the added burden of proving their own competence while facing the everyday challenges of a busy career. Resilience is the skill that enables women of every age to cope, regroup, and model the attributes of leadership, wherever they are within an organization.