Resilience – not just for Super-Humans

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Dinah Liversidge explains how we are all capable of resilience provided we set ourselves up to succeed

It is often said that we all love the “underdog”; the athlete taking part who nobody expects to finish the race, or the Assistant who applies for the job that’s “out of your league” and gets it, despite all the odds.  The very thought of these outcomes makes us smile and nod, bringing to mind examples of our own to feel proud of.  I have a slightly different view of why these situations appeal to us, I believe we actually appreciate resilience in others and see their success as a reinforcement that we should continue to follow our own dreams, however impossible they seem.

Resilience is defined by The Oxford English Dictionary as “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulty.”   Interestingly, I am not sure we often consider the timescale when we think about resilience; recovering “quickly” seems to be hard to measure to me, and often recovering at all is what makes us resilient.  A great example of this has been the recent Olympic and Paralympic Games.  We heard many stories of remarkable resilience displayed by those taking part, from overcoming prejudice in their country, to recovery from injury that seemed impossible.  Many of these athletes deserve to be seen as resilient, yet their success has taken years of work.  Perhaps we see resilience now as a longer-term thing, “the capacity to recover from difficulties and maintain that recovery despite set-backs” seems a more fitting definition today.

There is a danger; however, in seeing resilience as a quality reserved for some kind of super-human, something only displayed by a magnificent few with massive abilities and support.  I believe we are all capable of resilience, provided we set ourselves up to succeed instead of fail.  The first three steps I share to support clients to become more resilient when dealing with massive change are:

1)    Do not put a timeframe on recovery.

Ever.  The idea that “you should be over that by now” is pure nonsense, and is usually someone else’s way of saying they are struggling with something.  Getting used to massive change, brought about by something out of your control, will take you as long as it takes.  Telling yourself to hurry that process usually results in failure as you put on a brave face to appease others. Give yourself permission to take as long as it takes, and you’ll feel less pressure and more inclined to stick with it.

2)    Keep it real.

Nobody has a great day every day.  The most resilient, positive people still have bad days, days where they feel like quitting and sitting under the duvet.  The key to success here is to allow yourself those days, and be honest about them.  Nothing is more difficult to sustain than artificial happiness.  It will break you if you fight it and your resilience will hit rock bottom.  Have a buddy you can connect with on your down-days, a person you trust and can share with.  You’ll lift each other and re-ignite that resilience.

3)    Celebrate every single success.

Many years ago, whilst working as a PA to the Head of Personnel (HR these days), I fell massively out-of-love with “To Do” lists.  Each day, my list got longer and I felt less and less in control, despite the fact I was getting a huge amount done each day.  It struck me that I needed to acknowledge my daily achievements and I came up with my “look what I did today” list, which I still use to this day.  When we’re facing challenges, every single step in the right direction needs to be acknowledged, so a daily achievement list is a great tool to keep your resilience at maximum levels.

Those most likely to succeed with their efforts at resilience can cope when plans are changed by influences outside their control.  No matter how well we plan, there are always situations in life that we cannot be responsible for, cannot prevent, or control.  All we do have control over is the way we react when they occur.

This, I believe is when real resilience is required; when the ability to turn off our “head-talk” and ignite that spark of self-belief that is brave enough, bold enough to believe again. That tomorrow, with nothing more than our resilience, we will get up and take another step towards our dream.

Click here to learn more about Dinah and her story, in her #AdminChat interview with Lucy Brazier 

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About Author

Dinah Liversidge

Dinah Liversidge is a Massive Change Mentor and no-box-thinker. She describes her working experience as diverse and exciting, having started as a PA in the 1980s, where she acquired the skills which gave her the confidence to transition into a hugely challenging role as International Event Manager for Smithkline Beecham, for 11 years. Having overcome massive change in her own life, Dinah helps people re-invent a new life for themselves, a version of themselves that allows them to thrive despite the odds. Dinah will be speaking at Executive Secretary LIVE in Johannesburg, 28-29 February 2020. For further information and to book, visit www.executivesecretarylive.com

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