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Have you got the bounce back factor?

Along with the rest of the nation, the FreshMinds team have been gripped by the new Channel 4 series "Educating the East End". A few episodes in, we've noticed a definite theme emerging - the importance of building up resilience. At Frederick Bremer School the focus is on ensuring that their pupils are prepared for the challenges that life will inevitably throw at them. This was perfectly illustrated when a pupil, after being rejected by a top drama school, was told by the deputy head "Babe, these (obstacles) make us more resilient!"

But building up resilience is something that we need to continue to focus on in the working world. At FreshMinds we know how much this quality is sought-after by our top clients, so we thought we would take a look at what the key elements of resilience are and, perhaps more importantly,  how we build it up.

But what exactly is resilience?

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, resilience is defined as "the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness."

What distinguishes resilient people?

In their book 'Resilience Bounce Back from Whatever Life Throws at You', Dr John Nicholson and Jane Clarke suggest that there are five key signifiers of resilience:

  1. Optimism  - The key thing here is being able to reframe a difficult situation for your own and other peoples' benefit rather than just imagining the worst case scenario. It’s about always looking for the silver lining. Optimists believe that things are getting better all the time, and not necessarily just for themselves, but for others close to them, and even society in general. Sales people are famous for their optimism and for seeing each rejection as getting them one step closer to their next sale.
  2. Freedom from stress and anxiety - Resilience is about bouncing back from stress, which when not handled well can seriously affect you - temporarily or even permanently. Therefore the ability to identify and then deal effectively with stress is a key characteristic of all resilient people.
  3. Individual accountability - A resilient individual needs to have a clear understanding of the implications and obligations of accepting that the buck stops with you. However, a quick word of warning - this needs to be balanced with seeking support from others.
  4. Openness and flexibility - The ability to change your mind, and even to make the occasional u-turn is also highlighted as being critical to the resilient decision maker. Resilient people recognise that it often takes a great deal of courage to change your mind.
  5. Problem solving - A key element of resilience is finding a resolution to even the most insurmountable challenge. This involves analysing the cause of a problem and establishing a solution. Needless to say this is rarely simple in reality! For people who lack resilience when under stress, unconnected and trivial issues become part of one immense and complex problem.

How can I become more resilient?

Research has shown that while some people seem be rather resilient naturally, these behaviours can also be learned. We've highlighted just a few of the techniques you should focus on in order to foster your own resilience:

  1. Value social support: Embrace social problem solving and become an active member of your team and the wider company. This support network will enable you to discuss your problems with a group, hear alternative perspectives and find the solution together.
  2. Promote realistic thinking and a sense of purpose: Develop reasonable goals and do something each day to move towards them.
  3. Take a step back: Crisis situations are frightening and may even appear insurmountable. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by a situation, take a step back to assess what it is before you. Brainstorm possible solutions and then break them down into manageable steps.
  4. Treat obstacles as a learning process: Use challenges as opportunities for improvement of processes or the chance to learn a new skill. This is called adaptive coping.
  5. Avoid making a drama out of a crisis: How we interpret and respond to events makes a big impact on how stressful we find them. So don’t be a drama queen!
  6. Take action: Doing something in the face of adversity brings a sense of control, even if it doesn’t remove the difficulty.

We'll leave you with the wise words of Darwin - “It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”