Many of you were affected – either directly or indirectly – by the strength of Hurricane Sandy’s force as it whipped through the Northeast last week. You gritted your teeth and endured through the inconveniences, while appreciating the blessings you do have. There was a lot of talk about resilience: the ability to bounce back from setbacks and keep going towards your goal even more effectively than before.
Resilience is also relevant for your day to day business success. Indeed, in a 2010 study by Accenture, 71% of senior executives said that “Resilience” was a trait they look for in whom to retain and promote. Business owners who are resilient see opportunities instead of obstacles and can quickly grow their income in response.
One lesson in resilience that can be learned in the wake of Sandy is Live your life in “Ready” position!
Though I’m not much a frequent sports spectator, between my father and brother I grew up with the baseball games always on television. We could all learn from the fielders who await the play in “ready” position: a resting stance with bent knees, eyes present to the upcoming play, full body ready to spring into action. When you are resilient, you have a mindset that expects things will go wrong and that you will encounter obstacles. You see possibilities in the changes that happen and are ready to spring.
Things are happening in the world now that are outside our imagination, whether its 9/11, Facebook, or the pace and intensity of natural disasters. So we have to broaden our imagination and our ability to see what is possibly emerging from the periphery. The times require of us a new way of living and thinking.
How can you do that?
1. Build in “connect the dots” time. Stress narrows our focus to the moment. When you are so focused on getting through the day that’s all you know. To develop a resilient mindset you want to get out of the day to day weeds by building in time to listen, plan, consider contingency plans, or problem solve how to make things even better.
One of the skills I teach in my trainings on Resilience for Fortune 500 companies is to build in time to ‘connect the dots’. During this time you can try to synthesize the things that you hear from different people and trends in the news from the prior week. Ask yourself: What am I noticing? What are my skills or what do I want for my life, and how can it fit in with the trends? Creativity happens at the periphery, from paying attention to your intuition and the facts that are emerging.
I even have an example of this from my own life – at the time the world economy plunged, 80% of my business came from executive coaching, which was wiped out in corporations. I was scared about my future and I could have tried to force a career path with the same old offerings. But instead I started listening to the requests from people around me: “How can I keep a positive outlook amidst the doom and gloom, how can I deal with my constant anxiety, how can I get buy-in for my ideas so that I can keep my clients, keep my job, and advance in my career?” I realized I was being asked to help people deal with their stresses. And voila! I became a stress resilience expert and have been speaking and training non-stop since then. (If you had told me I would write a book on Success Under Stress 5 years later I would have looked at you like you were crazy!)
2. Ask yourself: how can I improve the way I do things? When you encounter problems, instead of trying to band-aid together a solution so things can stay as they are, make it better going forward. For example, in NYC devastated by the Hurricane, instead of “building higher walls — it’s about accommodating the waves. Officials are developing the kinds of infrastructure more commonly associated with the Army: temporary bridges that can be “inflated” or positioned across rivers when tunnels flood, for example, or wireless “mesh” networks and electrical microgrids that can compensate for exploding transformers.” What great examples of staying in ready position!
3. Breathe! When it comes to dealing with stress you always hear advice like “take a deep breath” or “breathe!” Why? When you are just trying to get through the day by pushing yourself, your focus is only on the moment and on the problem. Your breathing becomes shallow and you don’t have a lot of natural energy available to you. Your energy comes from a shot of adrenaline, you have to manufacture it in order to keep pushing yourself.
By contrast, deep inhaling and exhaling brings in a more sustainable kind of energy into your body, its energy that is available to you anytime and it nourishes your body rather than depletes it.
The inhale part of your breath energizes you. The exhale part of your breath helps to relax you, detox you, and give you access to the ‘bigger picture’ thinking part of your brain. There are two breathing approaches that can help you balance your focus on the problem and also lift up your perspective. You can learn one of these techniques on a previous video blog, or here’s another simple breath you can do during busy days. It will help you clear away the build up of stressful emotions and activate the intuitive part of your brain:
Breathe in to the count of three, exhale to the count of 6. Repeat for 1-3 minutes.
Leave a comment below: What are your tips for being resilient?
Dr. Sharon Melnick is a business psychologist who helps talented and hardworking people have more success with less stress. Informed by 10 years of psychology research at Harvard Medical School and trained in cutting edge stress resilience techniques she provides tools to help people master the stresses of the current times and still make the contribution they were put here to make. As an expert and speaker on the topic of Success under Stress, she receives the highest ratings and repeat invitations from organizations such as G.E., IBM, American Management Association, National Association of Female Executives, Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association, Working Mother Media, Bloomberg, MedImmune, Oracle, Deloitte, Associated Press, and many others. Participants in her programs report increases of 60-90minutes extra productivity, while dramatically reducing stress. They typically sleep well through the night, reduce blood pressure medication, stop snapping at people and gain cooperation of others both at work and at home. Discover more at www.sharonmelnick.com