How to Build a Micro-Resilience Strategy and Toolkit
Sometimes thing don't go as planned. We’ve all been there. We’ve felt what it’s like to be discouraged, angry, or lost when our hard work and best efforts don't bear fruit. At times like these it is tempting to put aside our emotions so they don’t interfere with our forward momentum or with finding new solutions, but is this a good strategy? Though it may feel like the shift in focus is exactly what we need to stop us from dwelling, more often than not we would be better served by tackling these emotions in the moment. Why? Because confronting them head-on enables us to acknowledge our efforts and redirect our energy where it is needed.
The key is to start small and get better at rebounding as you respond to life’s "dynamic flow." This idea is at the heart of Bonnie Saint John’s book, Micro-Resilience, in which she describes how adopting minor shifts can help create major boosts in what really matters to us. The first step is to identify what helps you rebound faster using a self-assessment, such as those offered by Dr Stefani Yorges.
How do you respond to adversity?
In her inspirational TED Talk, Saint John shares the experience of when she won a silver medal for Ski Racing at the Austrian Paralympics. She fell in the midst of the competition, but she picked herself up and went on to take second place to another skier who had also fallen during the race. The other contestant didn’t beat her by not falling, she beat her by standing up faster. When we are running towards our goal, the last thing we want to do is stumble. Yet, when we do, it’s up to us to decide how quickly and adroitly we rebound.
For my clients working in the humanitarian field, rebounding faster often means saving more lives. One such client, we will call Leila, worked in a refugee camp. When she had to share difficult news, she found it helpful to describe it out loud in a deliberately calm voice: “The food trucks are now delayed and tomorrow night we might not have enough for everybody. What are our options?” Altering her tone of voice helped her regain confidence and shift her focus to identifying solutions.
Leila's colleague Carlos used a different tactic. He would gather his team together to discuss options and plan, since shifting his focus outside of himself motivated him to keep going. For Ashraf, the opposite worked. He would spend at least five minutes alone or if possible (i.e., in a war zone), go for a short walk. His colleague Elena had photos of the children she had met and saved and used these visual cues to reconnect with her purpose.
What is resilience and what does it mean to you?
We all have ways in which we help ourselves get up faster and foster resilience, we just need to identify and implement them more purposefully. This echoes what I find to be true about how we manage our energy: the key is in focusing on how we recharge our 5 batteries, not how we keep them full all the time.
Chances are, the word resilience conjures thoughts of major life events, episodes of adversity, or turning points — not routine habits that we purposefully apply to our day-to-day.
By definition, resilience refers to our ability to rebound or spring back from difficult situations with renewed confidence and trust. It manifests in traits like persistence, confidence, and adaptability. However, each of us mobilizes our resilience through different mediums. For example, Leila found resilience by altering her tone of voice to shift her emotional state, Carlos by reaching out to his team, Ashraf by retreating to a place of solitude, and Elena by conjuring memories of positive outcomes. Once we identify what catalyzes our resilience, we can purposefully apply it to our day-to-day and put it to work for us.
How do you create a micro-resilience strategy?
Micro-resilience refers to implementing small changes that have transformative effects, or as Saint John puts it, “minor shifts for major boosts in focus, drive and energy.” That’s why it’s valuable to see resilience as a set of skills that are within you and can be built on in your daily life – not as an outgrowth of adverse life events.
There are a multitude of ways to create micro-resilience habits. Saint John suggests creating an “Emotional First Aid Kit” — a stash of resources you can turn to for TLC when you need to quickly raise your mood. Just as a traditional first aid kit contains medicine, it can be a physical box, digital folder, or combination of both, that holds what is guaranteed to lighten your spirit. Perhaps these are notes from loved ones, favorite scents, small quantities of your treats, something soft to hold, a collection of uplifting songs or images. You store it away to use it only when you need it, as looking at these items every day would diminish their positive impact. Watch this 2-minute video for more information.
Whether it’s by meditating on the strategies that have helped you pull through in the past, taking an assessment, or creating a "First Aid Kit" of potent catalysts, find micro-resilience habits that best serve you. To find out more, visit my "Manage your Energy - Be your Best & Give your Best" LinkedIn Group, where members share practical and effective solutions to the challenges we face as leaders.
Francesca Giulia Mereu
An executive coach with more than 20 years’ experience, Francesca Giulia Mereu is also author of the book Recharge Your Batteries. She regularly works with Frontline Humanitarian Negotiators (CCHN) and at IMD with senior leaders of global organizations. She is a Genesis Leadership Consultant working with global clients to support transitions and development.