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Resiliency Loves a Pandemic: How Leaders Can Prep for the Worst

Laura Artman
May 12, 2020

What a time to be alive! Every human being on the planet is affected by COVID-19. People are grieving the loss of income, loved ones, businesses, and life experiences that were taken for granted as a guaranteed norm. We’re forced to remember and understand that the future is forever unknown and there are powerful forces at work. It’s a pretty humbling time for humanity.

COVID-19 pressed the pause button on life as we’ve known it. We’ve been given permission to sit still and recognize the limits of our personal power in the face of a virus programmed to infect without discernment. It’s scary. It’s the stuff that scary movies are made of. What we see in the movies are people banning together to battle the common enemy, sacrifice for the sake of others, and work toward a better future. And it’s the same script we’re seeing play out in the world right now.

It’s pretty amazing! Amidst this watershed moment, we’re witnessing the true resiliency of our species. We’re seeing so many messages of hope, creativity, sharing, connection, and also great sacrifice for the wellbeing of others. People are embracing this new paradigm and the world will be forever changed, including our approach to work.

I don’t just mean the increase and quality of remote work or distance learning, but heightened change at an individual level. Resilience is a form of strength which has the potential to transform our personal lives and our work. For those of us fortunate enough to still be employed, resiliency benefits our capacity to continue doing good work.

What does it mean to be resilient?

In exploring the characteristics of resilience, the hope is to foster empowerment and understanding that even in the face of an unknown future we can be okay right now.

Resilient people seem to understand that to be human is to experience suffering at some point. They understand that they’re not entitled to a happy life free of pain. We all experience hardship and hardship takes on a million different forms.

We know that to live is to experience suffering. Another key ingredient of resiliency is in understanding the impermanence of suffering, i.e. when we can grasp the value of equanimity. Equanimity is maintaining peace and composure in the face of adversity or stress. It’s about living in every moment with a sense of calm wisdom and freedom, allowing for compassion and joy on even your darkest days.

How does resiliency show up at work?

The basic assumption is that resilient individuals build resilient teams. These are teams with core characteristics of empathy and optimism. They maintain flexibility and are poised to adapt, iterate, and even welcome failure as an opportunity for improvement. They remain calm, seeking meaningful progress even in the worst of circumstances. These are clearly the types of postures that any leader would want to reinforce.

Resilient leaders can set the tone within their organizations, and indeed hold that responsibility. For example, great challenges are approached with rational inquiry, never from a place of fear. Just as fear is contagious, so are tranquility and kindness. Leaders who lead by example with equanimity will foster it among their team.

Hot tips!

We cannot completely escape anxiety, stress, grief, and feelings of fear and isolation. However, we always maintain a degree of control in the way we process our own experiences and how we choose to act. We can build resiliency and we can prepare ourselves for the inevitable. So how do we do that?

Everyone is unique and arrives in this moment with an individual outlook and set of experiences. Becoming resilient is a personal journey. It requires a level of radical self-inquiry to develop equanimity and it’s no small feat! Here are a few suggestions to help no matter where you find yourself along this path.

Tune into the good in your life and tune out the things that create anxiety and fear. Try to find a willingness to examine old stories you’ve told yourself for so long which don’t reflect the person you are now or the person you want to be. Don’t be afraid to let go of past pain.

Practice gratitude. We know this helps! There is always something to be grateful for in this life, no matter how small. Try to write down 3 things you’re grateful for every day for a week…a month…a year. This is a perspective game-changer. Routinely taking notice of the good in your life creates a virtuous cycle that induces joy.

Find a reason to laugh! Laughing is literally good for your health. It boosts your mood and immune system, alleviates stress, fosters connectivity, and does strengthen resilience.

Resiliency loves a pandemic because it’s an opportune time to shine a light on the fact that nothing is guaranteed. Doing our best at any given moment is truly all that we can do. Let’s all do our part to contribute to a better post-pandemic world by taking steps to find out how we can improve as individuals. I think we can all agree that we’ve got the time!

We’ll find that as resilient individuals we’ll heighten the resilience of our teams. As leaders we’ll see the positive impact our own resiliency has on our business. Humankind can emerge from this crisis stronger than before and with a fresh preparedness for the inevitable challenges that lie ahead.

Header photo image credit goes to Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

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