I’ve been thinking a lot about resilience recently but in several quite different but related ways. I have a particular interest in developing resilience both from a professional and personal perspective.
Like many of you I have been watching the news of Typhoo Haiyan and the devastating plight of the victims in the Philippines. No-one who has seen the news coverage can fail to be moved by the situation and by the bravery and resilience of the Philippine people as they, literally, try to pick up the pieces of their lives. I had by coincidence recently watched The Impossible, a film about a tourist family caught up in the tsunami of 2004 and how they managed to survive against the odds. Too many times in recent years whether from terrorism or natural disasters we have seen ordinary people whose lives have been turned upside down in the most dramatic and devastating ways able to find within a resilience within themselves which enables them to carry on and rebuild their lives.
There have been times in my life when I have needed to develop resilience in the face of life’s ordinary challenges – redundancy some years ago being particularly challenging to my sense of justice and expectations as to how my career was going to develop. I can honestly say, however, that this has led to the best chapter of my professional life in so many ways. The situation forced me to rethink my career and led to me starting my own successful business doing exactly what I love. I wouldn’t have taken this step without the opportunity to rethink what I wanted to prompted by no longer having a job. I could have felt sorry for myself, and wallowed in the unfairness of it all but chose instead to turn the situation and create a new version of my professional self. It took courage and confidence and was a risk but I found self-belief and a sense of purpose which gave me resilience to take on the challenge.
As a coach, I often work with clients in developing their personal resilience. I have been developing a workshop for the Challenging Times – Better Outcomes conference in Dublin at the end of November and I’m looking forward to working with leaders from various universities in Ireland in a workshop about developing resilience. Ireland faces a set of economic challenges and the public sector has been hard hit. Resilience – the ability to bounce back from adversity, to maintain performance when times are tough is particularly important for leaders there.
Clearly these examples are all different but when change and challenge are the norm, resilience is a key skill for us all. Darwin’s words are still true – ‘It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change’.