Resiliency

Last week I talked about optimism and the role it plays in the lives of entrepreneurs.  Just to recap, I say that optimism is an important tool for any leader, and it is especially important during times of adversity.  However, optimism itself isn’t enough, it’s an “ingredient” but it, alone, does not “bake the soufflé.”

This week I want to talk about resiliency as a deeper use of optimism.

One of my favorite definitions of resiliency was given by a 15-year-old high school student who, after a semester of resiliency training, described resiliency as,

“Bouncing back from problems and stuff with more power and more smarts.”

In these trying times it is easy to see the importance of resiliency.

When we’re on bumpy waters and the raft we are on is going up and down in the tide… we are thankful for the air that is in the raft. It is the optimism that keeps it afloat. But, we are equally thankful that the overall raft is structured in a way that creates resiliency… allowing it to bend, ebb and flow with the waves, take the impact and bounce back when the storm has passed. That’s the engineering that truly gives us the power and the smarts.

How do we shift and modify after the storm to weather the next storm that comes?

Currently our armed forces are utilizing a training they call “Master Resilience Training” developed by Dr. Martin Seligman. The Harvard Business Review recently did an in depth article on this topic which was extremely interesting (http://hbr.org/2011/04/building-resilience/ar/1). Dr. Seligman has spent years developing training based on the premise that while we may have a disposition for resiliency that we are born with, we can actually learn resiliency.

I offer you a quick recap for you on the article on building resiliency.

The master resilience training is a type of management training where they teach leaders how to embrace resilience and then pass on the knowledge. The content of MRT divides into three parts—building mental toughness, building signature strengths, and building strong relationships.

The article states, “Building mental toughness starts with Albert Ellis’s ABCD model: C (emotional consequences) stem not directly from A (adversity) but from B (one’s beliefs about adversity). The sergeants work through a series of A’s (falling out of a three-mile run, for example) and learn to separate B’s—heat-of-the-moment thoughts about the situation (“I’m a failure”)—from C’s, the emotions generated by those thoughts (such as feeling down for the rest of the day and thus performing poorly in the next training exercise).”

Easier said than done, right? Particularly if I’m someone who has always believed that A + B = C. Basically, what he’s saying is it’s about stopping and pausing when the adversity happens, questioning what you believe that means, making a choice, and then drawing the conclusion.

This takes awareness and practice. Lots of practice. It’s about stopping our autopilot assumptions and making a choice.

Next they focus on thinking traps, such as over-generalizing or judging a person’s worth or ability on the basis of a single action.

They also discuss “icebergs” which is what many of us we refer to as “limiting beliefs” or “mental models.” Beliefs that are held so deeply for us, that they unconsciously drive our behavior. One such belief might be “Asking for help is a sign of weakness.” The MRT teaches a technique for identifying and modifying these “icebergs.” It’s an important step in altering your “B”s as mentioned above.

Finally, the Master Resiliency Training deals with how to minimize catastrophic thinking by considering worst-case, best-case, and most likely outcomes.  All of this training teaches optimism as an important tool for “bouncing back from problems and stuff with more power and smarts.”

The second and third parts of MRT training deal with identifying your strengths, and practical tools for positive communication.  Do you know what your strengths are?  What would be the value of really knowing what your strengths are when it comes to being resilient?  What sort of tools do you utilize for positive communication, and how do those affect your team’s resiliency?  Share your tips, or an example of your resiliency in the comments section, and be sure to link us to your blog or facebook page too!

My thoughts on strengths and positive communication are best saved for another blog post.  Check back next week where I’ll continue the conversation on strengths.

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