“Resilient people and companies face reality with staunchness, make meaning of hardship instead of crying out in despair, and improvise solutions from thin air. Others do not. This is the nature of resilience, and we will never completely understand it.” — Diane Coutu
Resilience is that stubborn ability to bounce back from adversity. It is both the skill and capacity to be robust under enormous stress and change. Businesses train their workforce for it. Nature bounces back because of it. Human survival is a testament of it. Resilience moves us on to the next thing. And the next, and the next.
“More than education, more than experience, more than training, a person’s level of resilience will determine who succeeds and who fails,” resilience-training specialist Dean Becker goes so far as to say. “That’s true in the cancer ward, it’s true in the Olympics, and it’s true in the boardroom.”
Former senior editor of Harvard Business Review, Diane Coutu, published an article in 2002 about How Resilience Works, where she talks about the three common characteristics that resilient people share.
“Resilient people… possess three characteristics: a staunch acceptance of reality; a deep belief, often buttressed by strongly held values, that life is meaningful; and an uncanny ability to improvise. You can bounce back from hardship with just one or two of these qualities, but you will only be truly resilient with all three.” It’s an article well worth reading, and includes the fabulous perks of being a Bricoleur.
Resilience is also part of our ‘freeze, fight or flight’ instincts: when the poo hits the fan, organisational experts have observed how easily humans regress to their most habituated ways of responding in a crisis. Resilience provides the steel and instinct with which we choose to respond to stress. And while resilience itself is a fairly intangible quality, and while genetics go some way in explaining whether you have it or you don’t, the great news is that resilience can be learned.
It should come as no surprise that regular exercise increases our resilience to stress and crisis. It boosts our immune system, blunts our hormonal stress response to danger, and even reorganises the brain to regulate stress better. If you are genetically prone to stress, regular exercise even changes your gene expression to give you a more even keel. (The science of it is called epigenetics.) Good mental health is a big part of resilience as it enables us to realistically reframe a crisis and work through a solution.
In this time of uncertainty and nervousness, may you never forget that you are unstoppable.