Five critical skills you need to pivot: #3 Resilience

By Jacqueline Allschwang
Raizcorp Guiding Quality Manager

Building a resilience mindset is a constructive and empowering choice. It will determine your everyday state of mind, restore some sense of control and impact on your ability to conceptualise, create, seize and maximise new opportunities. It is this specific skill that will ultimately determine how effectively you will pivot in your personal life and your business when we inevitably come out of lockdown and over the coming months.

So, what is resilience exactly?

Psychologists define resilience as the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress. The dictionary defines it as: toughness; the ability of an object to spring back into shape; the capacity to come back from disappointment and failure stronger and more determined than ever. Boxer Muhammad Ali’s view on resilience is perfectly captured in this quotation: “Inside of a ring or out, ain’t nothing wrong with going down. It’s staying down that’s wrong.” Ali’s resilience is unquestionably one of the reasons for his legendary success.

When I think of resilience, what comes to mind is one of those action movies where the hero gets knocked down but he never really comes to a complete standstill. Instead of crumbling defeated on the ground in a heap, he harnesses his strength, applies determination and sheer force of will, and uses momentum to rebound, landing right back on his feet so he can keep fighting another round. In my mind, resilience is the ability to bounce back and land on your feet, after suffering a huge often painful or devastating blow.

So, why is resilience a skill? There is a strong possibility – if not a probability – that at some point in your life you will go through hard times. Everybody does. Relationship breakups, losing loved ones, bullying or abuse, financial hardship, physical illness – no human is immune. And, as an entrepreneur, hard times are more than likely guaranteed.

Resilience is a set of mental, emotional, physical and spiritual responses one can cultivate to deal with difficult life events and circumstances. It is a muscle that can be exercised, strengthened and built by engaging in specific repetitive activities, habits and practices. As this muscle becomes stronger, your immunity grows and you become better at responding to life’s obstacles, challenges and tests.

Why is resilience more important than ever right now?

Resilience connects us with the part of ourselves that is level headed and rational, the part that gives us inner strength and the capacity to withstand enormous adversity and to come out stronger on the other side. With resilience, we can maintain access to our toolbox of resources and capabilities, and we can adapt and recover quicker from tough situations and against impossible odds. It helps us to navigate life’s ups and downs, to bounce back from hard knocks and to get back up on our feet quicker with more determination, focus and purpose than ever before.

Bouncing back quicker means we can mitigate the losses and damage caused by the event itself. Without resilience, it would be difficult if not nearly impossible to practice any of the other skills we need to pivot – creativity, yearning for learning, adaptability and proactive responsibility.

Here are some ideas to help you develop your resilience mindset.

Emotional first aid
Transitions and times of change can be terrifying. Our ability to deal with uncertainty – not knowing how things will be – can be challenging for most people. This is particularly true if you are someone who is used to planning, organising and being in control of every area of your life.

Give yourself time to be present with whatever feelings are coming up every day. Make space for these feelings, feel them fully, breathe deeply into them and then find constructive ways to process and express them. Some options for processing emotion include movement, music, art or journaling.

If you are experiencing an emotion that you are having difficultly processing – such as fear, anger or grief – reach out to a professional, a coach, a mentor or a friend. An honest conversation should help you clear the emotion, gain perspective and feel better.

Mental focus
It is important to distinguish between what is within your control and what is not. While you can’t control many of life’s circumstances and what happens to you, you certainly do have the power to choose how you are going to respond. When you catch yourself in the middle of thinking doomsday or fearful thoughts, remind yourself that you can choose your own thoughts. Yes, you can choose what you want to focus your mind on.

Focus on what you can control, not what you can’t, and reframe your thoughts if you keep slipping into negativity. Select thoughts that strengthen and fortify your energy rather than those that drain and deplete your life force. Choose self-soothing or reassuring thoughts such as gratitude. Speak words to yourself like: “I know it’s stressful and hard right now but this too shall pass and we will be okay.” Or “I appreciate and am grateful for [fill in the blanks] today.” Encourage yourself with words such as: “I am resourceful. I am intelligent. I am capable and I am [fill in the blanks].”

Remember what Winnie the Pooh said: “You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.”

Treasure hunting
Sometimes we are afraid of trying new things – in case we mess up, get it wrong, fail or embarrass ourselves. Often, we underestimate our capabilities and stay blind to our natural talents, skills and gifts; our latent and hidden potential that has been lying dormant waiting for the right opportunity to be activated. It may be a skill or capability that you haven’t used for a while or a buried passion that you have always dreamed of following . . . but you were too shy, too scared or just too lazy to put it into practice. It may be a unique character trait like humour or wit, gentleness, imagination, kindness or wisdom. It may be one of your strangest quirks or idiosyncrasies that could be your most important resource.

Make a list of your unique character traits or hidden strengths and think about how you could use these in service of others. These are your buried treasures.

Right now is the right time to pull out all latent and hidden talents, skills, capabilities, characteristics or resources, and to face the fears that have been keeping you in a comfort zone. Take them out the closet, dust them off and find ways to put them to good use. It’s even better if you can use them to create value in your life and the life of a friend, neighbour, customer, or the country or even the world. Answer this question: how could I use this skill, talent or capability in service to others?

Start practicing the buried treasures you have uncovered. Find a way to practice using the skill or capability every day, consistently and deliberately. Practice using it over and over again until you get better and better, until you have mastered it. It will feel good and you will be doing something you love and are good at in order to make a difference. (By the way, discipline is a topic that warrants an article all of its own.)

Throughout my life, I have navigated and survived some major challenges. I remember clearly the day I got divorced, the day I had R0 in my bank account, the day we found out my mother had stage four lung cancer, and I will forever remember the day, two years later, when we said our final goodbyes and laid her to rest. I will never forget her words to me when things got hard. She always used to say, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

Looking back at my life challenges, I understand that had it not been for every single one of them, I would not be who I am, where I am, and doing exactly what I am doing today . . . the two things I love most – inspiring transformation and adding value to the people I love doing this for, namely, our entrepreneurs, Raizcorp, and our amazing team of guides (mentors).

Stay safe, stay healthy and practice building your resilience – and remember to keep washing your hands!