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at-work culture. Te average office worker receives around 120 emails a day and many of us would admit to checking emails in bed and repeated smartphone checking. Tis worrying trend is continuing with the World Health Organisation (WHO)1


that, by 2020, stress (defined here as an inability to cope with perceived pressure) and depression will be the major source of ill health globally and this is partly driven by the blurring of the lines between work and rest through connected technology. Te pace of change will not

relent soon (if ever) and, while the business landscape cannot be altered, leaders can still do something to adapt to the way they meet this potential overload challenge and build their personal resilience. Much has been written in

recent years around the subject of resilience and what is now becoming evident is that resilience, like any other skill, can be learnt and developed through thought and practice.

Resilience – a definition and its importance

Resilience is linked to terms around flexibility and pliability. It suggests the ability to bounce back from adversity with a suggestion of the ability to ‘self-right’ oneself like a boat. Te Oxford English dictionary definition of resilience is: Te capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness. An aggregation of the key

ingredients of resilience indicate that those with reserves or skills

in resilience are: able to adapt to stressful situations or crises, to steer through everyday challenges more easily, to roll with the punches or bounce back from adversity without lasting difficulties and ready to reach out more frequently for challenges and experiences to fulfil one’s potential. Ultimately, resilient people

can deal with change more readily in whatever shape or form that represents from fundamental life changing events to relatively incremental work-based changes. Table 1 makes a clear personal and business case for building one’s resilience. Te Flourishing quadrant suggests a more expansive view whereby change may be viewed as a time of opportunity, personal growth and gaining new perspectives and skills. It’s a quadrant in which we are able not just to cope, but to actually thrive. What is clear is that we are all

resilient to some extent and that the skills are quite ordinary: accessing a social network; being self-confident and handling unpleasant emotions. A review of some of the latest thinking on personal resilience now recommends a number of key approaches to bolster and build effective resilience:

1. Exercising mindfulness Tere is an increasing body of evidence that is pointing to the efficacy of mindful practices in increasing one’s mental flexibility and self-awareness and, more importantly for leaders, the ability to lead through complex

Table 1: adapted from Meichenbaum, 20052

The Resisters • Critical • Narrow thinkers • Unconvinced • Resists change

; and Siebert, 20053

The Flourishing • Personally developing • Open to learning • Enthusiastic, optimistic • Embraces change

situations. In their HBR article “How to bring Mindfulness into Your Company” Reitz and Chalkson4

to three “Meta-Competencies” of mindfulness developed through 10

minutes of mindful practice each day. ``

Metacognition. Tis is the ability to choose at crucial times to simply observe what you are thinking, feeling and sensing. It’s like stepping out of a fast-flowing stream and on to the riverbank so you can actually see what’s going on. When you learn to do this, you can better see your thoughts, feelings, sensations, and impulses for what they are.

` `

Acceptance. Tis refers to the ability to let what is the case, be the case. It’s about meeting your experience with a spirit of openness and kindness to yourself and others.

` `

Curiosity. Tis means taking a lively interest in what has shown up in our inner and outer worlds. Without curiosity, we have no impetus for bringing our awareness into the present moment and staying with it.

Harley Street psychotherapist Donald Robertson5

elaborates on the power

of mindful acceptance through the example of the pink elephant exercise. Often, rigorous suppression of unpleasant thoughts simply doesn’t work and causes more anxiety, whereas acceptance of unpleasant and unhelpful thoughts as natural may be more helpful in building resilience. For example, if you were asked to not think of a pink elephant under any circumstances, you would find this difficult, since thoughts are often hard to directly control, especially during emotional periods of one’s life. Te more you try, the harder it becomes and therefore the stress builds. Alternatively, if you were asked to hand over your wallet or a valuable item to avoid being harmed, you would be able to comply with this demand more easily. Controlling actions is therefore

The Drowning • Overwhelmed • Betrayed by management • Withdrawn • Passive aggressive • Disfunctional coping

Low 24 | February 2017 |

The Quitters • Eager at beginning • Disillusioned when going gets tough • Resentful, blames others • Opts out

Change readiness High

much easier than controlling thoughts. Te key is to focus on accepting that negative emotions and thoughts are quite normal and to gradually distanc- ing oneself from these through not being judgmental of them and focusing on what is important to you and acting in accordance with one’s core values.

@TrainingJournal point


Personal resilience


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