How to Be More Adaptable and Resilient
Harold Cohen, PhD,
defines resilience in practical terms:
When faced with a tragedy, natural disaster, health concern, relationship,
work, or school problem, resilience is how well a person can adapt to the
events in their life. A person with good resilience has the ability to bounce
back more quickly and with less stress than someone whose resilience is less
Copyright, Marcia Zidle
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t
work.” – American inventor, Thomas Edison
Edison, despite struggling with failure throughout his work life, never let
it get the best of him. He kept experimenting and learning. His resilience gave
the world the light bulb as well as these amazing inventions phonograph, the
telegraph, and the motion picture.
Do you have Edison’s resilience to overcome your challenges? Or do you
let your failures or missteps derail your dreams? In this post and the next,
I’ll examine resilience – what it is, why we need it, and how to
develop it – so that you have the strength to keep on moving forward towards
The Importance of Resilience
Resilience is our ability to adapt and bounce back when things don’t
go as planned. Resilient people don’t wallow or dwell on failures; they
acknowledge the situation, learn from their mistakes, and then move forward.
According to the research of leading psychologist, Susan Kobasa, there are three
elements that are essential to resilience:
Resilient people view a difficulty as a challenge, not as a paralyzing event.
They look at their failures and mistakes as lessons to be learned from, and
as opportunities for growth. They don’t view them as a negative reflection
on their abilities or self-worth.
Resilient people are committed to their lives and their goals. Commitment isn’t
just restricted to their work – they commit to their relationships, their
friendships, the causes they care about, and their religious or spiritual beliefs.
3. Personal Control
Resilient people spend their time and energy focusing on situations and events
that they have control over. Because they put their efforts where they can have
the most impact, they feel empowered and confident. Those who spend time worrying
about uncontrollable events can often feel lost, helpless, and powerless to
In other words, resilient people:
- Maintain a positive outlook, despite having just lost a promotion or getting
turned down for a job. They don’t allow present circumstances to cloud
their vision of themselves or their future.
- Have solid goals in all parts of your life. This gives you a compelling
reason to get out of bed in the morning.
- Never think of yourself as a victim. – focus your time and energy
on changing the things that they have control over.
It’s inevitable that at times we’re going to fail, make mistakes,
have setbacks and occasionally fall flat on our faces. The only way to avoid
this is to live a very sheltered life never trying anything new or taking a
risk. Few of us want a life or career like that!
2 of this article.
Adaptability and Resiliency as Overlooked Leadership Qualities
In my mind the unsung hero of effective leadership are two related and overlapping
qualities: adaptability and resiliency. The ability and, probably more importantly,
the willingness of a leader to adapt his or her thinking, behavior, or strategy
based on changing circumstances, miscalculations, or other factors, is a historically
underrated quality that is starting to get its due in this rapidly changing
world. And maybe even more so than adaptability, resiliency — discussed
here as the capacity to bounce back from perceived and actual mishaps, set-backs,
and adversity — has been overlooked as a leadership competency.
Research on Resiliency
I recently read that Ceridian Corporation conducted a study and published an
executive briefing on organizational resilience. They arrived at the conclusion
that resilient organizations are those that are able to respond to two seemingly
paradoxical imperatives: 1) managing for performance (enhanced by consistency,
efficiency, and immediate results) and 2) managing for adaptation (enhanced
by innovation, improvisation, anticipation, and commitment to long-term benefits).
In my mind what is reflected here is a mindset that embraces disruption to
organizational plans, strategy, and operating procedures, as normal and inevitable.
The leader that maintains this mindset does not react with shock, dismay, or
confusion to disruption of the best laid plans. Instead, he or she is eager
to analyze the circumstances, ascertain the meaning behind the unexpected, and
determine whether there are appropriate adjustments to be made. In addition,
leaders demonstrating this type of leadership are able to build more resilient
direct reports, teams, and ultimately organizations.
Origins of Resiliency
It is the viewpoint of many psychologists and sociology experts that resiliency
is a quality that is partly inbred and partly developed through childhood experiences
and modeling. The problem with this viewpoint is that it presumes that a person’s
level of resiliency is pretty much set by the time they are in early to middle
adulthood. It is my opinion that a certain amount of resiliency – definitely
enough to make a difference as an organizational leader – can be developed
in adults simply by embracing a worldview that change, disruption, and mishaps
are as normal and predictable in organizations as salaries and vacation days.
Or perhaps it is more analogous with the sentiments I heard expressed by a veteran
of the Iraq conflict: “It is a given, no plan ever survives first contact”.
Take this short on-line test.
So how resilient are you? The articles in the following topic include suggestions
for becoming more resilient.
Benefits of Being Adaptable
Adaptability is Key to Success
Positive! Resilient and Adaptable Teams are Key to Business Success
What are Resilience
and Adaptability Skills
Increase Your Adaptability Make it Personal
in the Workplace: Strategies and Importance
and Inspiring Yourself
Learn More in the Library’s Blogs Related to Awareness and Self-Awareness
In addition to the articles on this current page, see the following blogs which
have posts related to Awareness and Self-Awareness. Scan down the blog’s page
to see various posts. Also see the section “Recent Blog Posts” in the sidebar
of the blog or click on “next” near the bottom of a post in the blog.
For the Category of Personal Wellness:
To round out your knowledge of this Library topic, you may want to review some related topics, available from the link below. Each of the related topics includes free, online resources.
Also, scan the Recommended Books listed below. They have been selected for their relevance and highly practical nature.