Without a doubt, (and not surprisingly) the most common request I have received in recent months has been for programs to help with Resilience and Stress Management. In 2020, the world of work has changed significantly, and we need to ensure that we are adapting to it and looking after ourselves and the people we work with.
The road to enhanced resilience is certainly paved with adversity. It is a misconception to think that resilient people are happy and positive all of the time. The reality is that the most resilient individuals have experienced a great deal of difficulty or trauma and worked through it. Examples that come to mind for me are usually; Nelson Mandela, Rosie Batty and Malala Yousafzai. However, my personal favourite is Ernest Shackleton.
If you don’t know Shackleton’s story, I genuinely think it is one of the most incredible stories ever told. In a nutshell, he wanted to be the first to cross Antarctica on foot. Within weeks of arriving, his ship was crushed. There was no contact with the outside world. This was 1914, so no satellite phones! Incredibly, it took nearly two years, however he ensured that everyone in his crew got home safe and well. It is truly the most remarkable story. In the most challenging of circumstances, he was able to keep everyone engaged, safe and focused. I often hear from people who express frustration with having to work with limited resources. Well, for Shackleton and his crew this was a serious lack of resources over an extended period of time such as limited food, insufficient clothing and inadequate shelter in below freezing conditions!
Sometimes unexpected events come out of the blue, that change things for us overnight. COVID has certainly done this for many people. For many people, things changed dramatically and quickly with little or no warning at all. As a leader, Shackleton had a strong and clear vision, which he had to change in the instant that his ship was crushed and sank. He stepped away from his personal goal of crossing Antarctica and instead focused on getting every one of his crew home safely. Like Shackleton (though hopefully in less dangerous circumstances) sometimes we have to let go of a vision for our life, work and family and recognise that there are things that may change which are outside of our influence. When this happens (because this is life and it will happen), focusing on what we can influence is vital.
Remember: ‘While we cannot control the pandemic and all that it brings, most of us actually do have a tremendous sphere of control. We CAN control who we are and what we want to stand for in the face of it. We can control what we read and what we share. We can control how we listen to and support the people around us.’
Everyone is resilient, albeit to differing degrees based on life experiences. Resilience is not fixed and we can all enhance our ability to not only adapt, but to thrive, and just as importantly, to look after others when life throws us a curve ball.
In the words of Charles Darwin: ‘It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change’.