Much ado is made of resilience in today’s literature. Everything from mental health to success in business seems to rely on this elusive trait.
I thought of resilience as being the ability to withstand stress, to be calm under pressure, to maintain a positive outlook even in life’s darkest moments. The dictionary definition is “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness”. I’ve always considered myself to be a strong person – indeed, my name means ‘the strong one’ – but sometimes it is the strongest branch which snaps in a storm rather than bending to the winds. I realised that resilience in effect captured the type of strength I wanted to cultivate, and I wondered how to work on it.
In my usual way, I turned first to a combination of self-help books and scientific literature (more on this later). However it wasn’t until one evening, exhausted by a day of child and baby-care with the added stress of a cold, that I really understood the meaning of true resilience. I was tidying up, past my bedtime, and felt as though I was once again fighting a never-ending tide of ‘stuff’ the chaos caused by the inevitable entropy of a family. I thought ‘this what my life will be like for years to come…the tidying and sorting will never end, I will never quite get to the nirvana of a well-ordered household, no matter how much I nibble around the edges.’ And that’s when it hit me. Resilience is not a one-time thing, an ability to handle the acute pressures that ebb and flow in a workplace and in life, hanging on in there until things get better. Resilience is the ability to face up to slow, creeping progress, and a never-ending task, a constant state of being that is not quite what you’d like it to be. To face up to it, to accept it, and to improve on it, without giving in to hopelessness, despite the fact that you know the problem will never be ‘fixed’.
This constant low-level stress – punctuated by more acute moments – is a state of being certainly familiar to entrepreneurs and change-agents working to make a vision reality. Progress is rarely as fast or as smooth as you would like, so it’s important to cultivate a positive, resilient attitude where you try hard every day, and celebrate the small wins along the way.