Resilience: How People Are Different From Rubber Bands
4 Minute Read
Words like resiliency are often interchanged with words like flexibility or adaptability. When you think of what resiliency means, most of you probably go to something along the lines of “the ability to bounce back.” Things that are resilient return to their original shape after change, and keep their integrity.
Have you ever tinkered with a rubber band? You can snap it, and strum it, almost like a guitar string. And it always goes back to its original form. The definition of resilience related to a system, organization, or person, is the ability to maintain a core purpose and integrity in the face of dramatically changed circumstances.
But, here’s what that definition lacks. Resiliency isn’t just about returning back to normal or adapting. It’s also about your ability to recover. Think about the rubber band. If you mess with it enough, or stretch it too far, it eventually loses some of its elasticity. It becomes weaker. And after a while, it’ll break.
Resilience is the ability to maintain a core purpose and integrity in the face of dramatically changed circumstances.
While rubber bands can’t recover, people and organizations can. As long as you give yourself permission to do so. In the face of disruption, it’s a common misconception that people must work harder. But if you’re maintaining your core purpose and your integrity, why does that mean you have to put in more effort? In fact, we’re here to challenge that belief.
A recent article by Harvard Business Review states, “The misconception of resilience is often bred from an early age. Parents trying to teach their children resilience might celebrate a high school student staying up until 3AM to finish a science fair project. What a distortion of resilience! A resilient child is a well-rested one. When an exhausted student goes to school, he risks hurting everyone on the road with his impaired driving; he doesn’t have the cognitive resources to do well on his English test; he has lower self-control with his friends; and at home, he is moody with his parents. Overwork and exhaustion are the opposite of resilience. And the bad habits we learn when we’re young only magnify when we hit the workforce.”
In the rush to return to “normal,” it’s important that we stay resilient.
Think about this as an employee. When an exhausted employee returns to work, he is more likely to make mistakes, more likely to violate important safety procedures, and more likely to engage in toxic or collusive interactions with coworkers.
In the rush to return to “normal,” it’s important that we stay resilient. And to do that, you need to focus on a few things:
Be the best version of yourself.
This means taking care of yourself, your needs, and the needs of those important to you. When we hit a bump in the road, most of us try to put our heads down and work even harder to push through it. Instead, stop for a second. Make sure that you feel safe, collected, and confident in yourself. What all of us have been through looks different for each person. Give yourself grace, and take time to make sure that you are truly bringing the best version of yourself back from this pandemic. Make sure you’re giving others grace too. Every person you meet could be fighting a battle you know nothing about.
If you have fears about the pandemic, reservations about working closely with others, or even questions about what the “new normal” looks like, speak up. Odds are, others have the same fears or questions that you have. Or your ability to be transparent could spark candidness in others. Be willing to share your unique experiences and perspectives. With a desire to improve and a belief in your organization’s future, you and your team may come out even stronger, as long as you communicate.
Let go of the past.
Elizabeth Edwards, author of Resilience: Reflections on the Burdens and Gifts of Facing Life’s Adversities, once said, “Resilience is accepting your new reality, even if it’s less good than the one you had before. You can fight it, you can do nothing but scream about what you’ve lost, or you can accept that and try to put something together that’s good.” The way we worked together before looks differently now. And it is going to continue to evolve. Yes, we’ve all been pushed outside of our comfort zone, but try to let go of what once was and find the light instead.
In the end, only you can control how you adapt to the “new normal.” You can go in with the mindset that it’s stressful, not ideal, and you just have to work harder to get things back to the way they were. Or, you can take a different perspective. Find ways to lift each other up, take care of yourself, and redefine what “good” looks like. Time to get back into the zone.
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