“Under adverse conditions – some people break down, some break records.” – Shiv Khera, Indian author, activist and professional speaker
Life can be complicated. Add to that the stress and uncertainty of the pandemic.
The adjustments you have had to make in work and life schedules can take a heavy toll on your mental and emotional reserves. You may be concerned about the future of your finances, job or industry. You might be confused about how to stay safe and healthy.
2020 is the year that tests your resilience.
Even before the pandemic, resilience was a hot topic in corporations. The 2018 IBM Institute for Business Value Global Country Survey rated the behaviors inherent in resiliency (flexibility, agility, adaptability) as the most critical attributes for the workforce. Business leaders know resilient team members are more likely to achieve superior results while navigating changing and challenging environments.
In these challenging times, we are all more susceptible to stress, frustration and overwhelm. Resilience is our ability to adapt positively to this adversity. To thrive and flourish in this adverse moment in history and in the everyday difficulties we face, the quality of our response is what counts.
Consider the story of two brothers raised in a dysfunctional environment with an alcoholic father. One grows up to be an alcoholic. When asked what happened, he says, “I watched my father.” The other brother grows up and never once touches a drink. When asked why, he says, “I watched my father.”
What makes the difference? Resilient people see things differently and so they do things differently. Your perspective of the adversity determines the choices you make.
In his ground-breaking 1997 book Adversity Quotient: Turning Obstacles Into Opportunities, Paul Stoltz coined the term adversity quotient. AQ has four dimensions that measure the ability of a person to deal with adversities. The dimensions are:
- Control-how much influence you believe you have over the adversity and what happens next.
- Origin and Ownership- How accountable you are for the way you see the adversity and the likelihood you will do something to improve the situation.
- Reach-to what extent you believe the adversity will impact other areas of your life.
- Endurance-how long you believe the adversity will last.
Let’s revisit the story of the two brothers above. I’ll call them John and Jake.
John believes he has no control over his choice to drink because of the environment he grew up in. He has a “learned” helplessness when it comes to the influence of his father’s alcoholism. John believes he was doomed to repeat his father’s behaviors and didn’t believe it was possible to make different choices. He blames himself for being too weak to get out from under his father’s influence. As a result, John doesn’t have confidence that he can get ahead in other areas of his life. He sees this as a lifelong issue for him without much hope for change.
Jake, on the other hand, believes he always had a choice. He did not like seeing his father destroy his life and vowed not to do the same. Jake put the responsibility for his poor childhood environment on his father. At the same time, he held himself accountable for how he would deal with it. One choice he made was to never drink. The other was to seek out other male mentors that could model a better way. As painful as it was to have a father like this, Jake focused on doing well in school and playing sports to create a sense of stability in his life. He knew that as soon as he was able, he would move out on his own, which gave him an end game to the daily drain of his home life.
Resilient people don’t believe their past or current state necessarily defines their future. They are confident in their ability to investigate and experiment with different choices for different results. While it’s true that some people seem to have a natural or learned resiliency from an early age, you can strengthen your resiliency at any time of life.
Would NOW be a good time to polish up your resiliency skills?
One way to do that is to explore any adversity you face through the four AQ dimensions represented by these four questions:
- How could you influence the adversity for the better?
- How do you contribute to the adversity?
- How does this adversity affect other areas of your life?
- How long do you think this adversity will last?
Once you answer these questions, you will have a broader perspective on how you see the situation. Your answers alone may be enough to motivate you to find ways to adapt more positively. If not, you can further your investigation with these three questions about the adversity:
- Own it-what am I willing to take responsibility for?
- Shift it- what am I willing to believe, think or see differently in this situation?
- Act on it- what am I willing to do right now that will make that shift concrete?
Notice that willingness is key to strengthening your resiliency. Being more resilient can happen in a sudden shift or it can occur over time. Be gentle and don’t compare yourself to other people’s ability to adapt. Everyone has different strengths and skills. Your job is to be clear about yours and begin from there.
The good news is that feeling just a tiny bit more resilient can make the difference between having a good day or a bad day, feeling hope or hopelessness and persevering or giving up.
Right now, you and I are living in a similar story of the two brothers. In our case, the alcoholic father is the pandemic and we are the brothers. How we emerge from this time of chaos and disruption has less to do with our circumstances and more to do with how we respond to them.
Will you be the brother that breaks down or the one who breaks records?
- In what way could you be flourishing and thriving a year from now, regardless of what happens with the pandemic?
- What would you need to start thinking, feeling or doing differently right now to help that vision become a reality?
- What would you need to stop thinking, feeling or doing right now to help that vision become a reality?
Thanks for reading. Until next week,
(Need a resiliency boost? Join me for a live, online training August 1st, Resolve To Be Resilient. Learn a method to transform a challenge into a chance to succeed. → details here )
Jo-Aynne von Born, Certified Professional Coach
(reprint from Authentic Success newsletter. Sign up here to receive free in your inbox every Wednesday)