Resilience is a tool, not a personality trait

Written by Jane Kim Coloseus. Originally Published on Medium.

Simple but mindful steps to overcome the bias that we might not be resilient.  

Our Assumptions about Resilience

When you think of resilient people, who comes to your mind? People whose perseverance led them to make it against all odds? Or those who went through all kinds of trials and tribulations and got awarded with sweet success? Are you thinking about those who are able to bounce back, failure after failure, mistake after mistake? Does it remind you of outliers (Malcolm Gladwell), grit paragons (Angela Lee Duckworth) or originals (Adam Grant)?

If this sounds familiar, then we might share a similar sentiment that stories of successful individuals are underlined by their ability to stubbornly chip away at obstacles, piece by piece, to achieve their ultimate goal. Resilience is understood as an innate trait or a part of a pioneer’s DNA, and something that can be capitalized upon discovery.

Our Assumptions are Neither Right nor Helpful.

We need to start rejecting this kind of thinking. We need to move away from the narrative of resilience being a personality trait that you either have it, may have it, or don’t have it. We need to stop assuming that a certain level of vulnerability and uncertainty can be overcome by simply closing your eyes and marching towards your end game. Rather, we need to start the conversation around resilience as a tool that enhances one’s creative process.

So, how do we reconfigure resilience from an innate characteristic to a resourceful capacity for innovation? Here are three mindful steps for a start.

 

1. Work from goals to actions.

Make your actions results-based and keep the big picture in mind. Ask yourself what your ultimate objective is (goal) and work backwards (actions). What are the tasks involved to achieve your objective? What resource implications does it have? Who are the people that you may need to involve? Managing your projects through a results-based approach will not only allow you to get a clear sense of how to go from A to B, but it also prepares you to be goal-determined, flexible and innovative in the face of disruption.

2. Resist the pressure to make quick decisions.

Whether it’s time, money or people, pressures force us to make quick decisions. It comes in all kind of forms — from making an elevator sales pitch to defending your position in a meeting or having to network unexpectedly. And sometimes it can feel like you are in a fight-or-flight response mode. When in doubt, think back to your ultimate objective and ask yourself how that decision will fit into your roadmap, and what kind of impact (or implication) it will have. Capitalize on the opportunity but make a mindful decision for long-lasting benefits.

3. Create an enabling environment.

An enabling environment, where diversity of thoughts is appreciated and respected, has a positive impact on the resilience of your team. It gives a recovery space for you and your colleagues. No matter where you sit in the hierarchy, demonstrate leadership and empathy by accepting mistakes and failures made by others, and vice versa. Provide and receive constructive criticism and guidance which builds trust among colleagues. Doing so can enhance confidence among people to be bold and innovative because they know that they have a support system to play off of.

 

We all know how to be resilient to get what we want. It’s just a matter of rethinking its definition — not as an innate trait that you have or not, but as a tool that can be further enhanced.

How will you redefine resilience as a tool?


InnovatorsBox | Jane Kim Coloseus
Jane Kim Coloseus is an observer of people and relationships. She works in the public sector and helps organizations be at their best, so that they can continue to benefit the public. She holds a MSc in Government Analytics from Johns Hopkins University and a B.A in Anthropology and History from the University of Virginia. As a contributor at InnovatorsBox, she explores what it means to tap into one’s potential using the resources that one already have — but perhaps have not discovered yet.