A few years ago, swept up in excitement with some friends, I agreed to train for and compete in an Ironman triathlon. For those of you who aren't endurance junkies, the distance covered in an Ironman is 140.6 miles. The event consists of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride, and a 26.2-mile run (a marathon). The race must be completed in under 17 hours.
I knew going into that year of training that my body would be stronger when I crossed the finish line. What I didn’t expect, though, was that my mind would be stronger as well. I had no idea how much that year would test me, not just physically but mentally and emotionally. Many times, over the course of that year, I wanted to quit. Training for the Ironman also improved what I now call my resilience muscle — and this knowledge has since helped me immeasurably in my business.
Resilience is the ability to rebound from setbacks and adversity when faced with difficult situations. Everyone experiences setbacks. What makes resilient people stand out is that they anticipate the setback.
They meet the setback head-on, they can withstand it, stay positive and they believe there is a path forward - even when that path isn't obvious. They believe it is not what happens to you that matters, it’s what you make out of what happens to you. It is how quickly you learn, bounce back, and move forward.
While working a full-time job, I put in two-a-day training sessions for the Ironman. Week in and week out, I pushed myself past my stress limits physically, mentally and emotionally. I discovered that resilience really is like a muscle. You can exhaust your resilience one day and be on the verge of giving up, but the next day you’re a little bit stronger and can withstand a little bit more.
The night before race day I was terrified. Terrified that I would fail, that I wasn't up to the challenge. Worried that I hadn't put in enough training time. Concerned that I didn't have what it would take to complete the race. I will never forget the triumph and relief I felt when I crossed that finish line. For the year of training and 15 hours of racing, I earned the designation of “Ironman”. I also earned the ultimate reward: a stronger resilience muscle. I now put that muscle to use every day. As a mom, a business owner, and amateur endurance athlete, I have a lot of opportunities to practice flexing my resilience muscle.
I now know whether you are just starting out in your career or you are a veteran pro, learning to cope with stress is a crucial skill in today's fast-paced work environment. In your career, you will likely focus on developing your technical skills, your leadership skills, your communication skills, etc. Yet, what I am seeing is that often missing from that list is building resilience.
In today's rapidly changing world of business, a critical competency in any role is your ability to cope with stress and rebound with composure. Strengthening your resilience muscle enables you to take adversity in stride, learning to leverage stress and turn it into a motivator.
Korn Ferry Leadership Architect global competency framework calls “Being Resilient” one of the 38 leadership competencies that matter most for performance in the 21st century.
The good news is there are lots of ways to strengthen your resilience muscle. And you don't have to swim, bike, and run 140.6 miles to do it! In my leadership coaching practice, I’ve found that some of the best ways to strengthen resilience are…
Frame setbacks as an opportunity to learn.
George Bonanno, a clinical psychologist at Columbia University, found that one of the central elements of resilience is our perception of adversity. The key is to frame adversity as a challenge, as an opportunity to learn and grow. Flex your resilience muscle by facing adversity head-on, staying positive, and believing you will learn from your setbacks.
Go for a walk!
When we get stressed or something upsets us, we experience a physiological response to that stimuli. In the acclaimed book Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, Stanford University biologist Robert M. Sapolsky examines our biological response to stress. In stressful situations, our bodies are flooded with hormones like adrenaline, cortisol, epinephrine, and others. Moving your body can disperse the build-up of stress hormones. When you catch yourself feeling stressed, go for a brisk 15-minute walk. Walking off some of the stress hormones will allow you to feel calmer, think more clearly, and work more efficiently. I have found that when I feel emotionally flooded, merely getting up from my desk and walking a couple of loops around the office can have a significant impact on my mood.
Get a daily dose of vitamin N.
You will get an extra benefit from your walk if you do it outside in nature. Today more than ever before, we live our lives in front of screens, perpetually connected to technology. In one of my favorite books, The Nature Principle, author Richard Louv explores an expanding body of scientific evidence that links spending time in nature to reduced stress and enhanced cognitive abilities. I have found that when I am feeling stressed or depressed, getting a big dose of Vitamin N can be just what my body and my brain need to bounce back.
Start training your resilience muscle now.
The more resilient you are, the easier it will be to stay calm under pressure and bounce back after a difficult situation — and you’ll be a better leader for it.
Interested in learning more about how you can strengthen your resilience muscle?
Reach out to the team at Coreisma Consulting! Our founder Dorothy is excited to hear from your today: firstname.lastname@example.org