Dr. Tony Alessandra
Resilience means knowing how to cope in spite of
setbacks, or barriers, or limited resources.
Resilience is a measure of how much you want
something and how much you're willing, and able, to
overcome obstacles to get it. It has to do with your
emotional strength. For instance, how many cold
calls can you make in a row that all turn out to be
"no thank you?"
Remember Abraham Lincoln? You wouldn't, if he had given up. In 1832 he was
defeated for the state legislature. Then he was elected to it in 1834. In
1838 he was defeated for speaker of the state house. In '40 he was defeated
for elector. Lincoln ran for Congress in 1843 and guess what - he was
defeated. He was elected to Congress in '46 and then lost for re-election in
'49. He ran for U. S. Senate in 1855 and - was defeated. In '56 he was
defeated for Vice-President. He ran again for the U.S. Senate in 1858 and
lost. And in 1860, Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the United
States - one of the best ones we've ever had. That's resilience!
challenge to stay resilient may not be quite the size of Abe Lincoln's. You
might be working on making a sales quota when 90% of your prospects say
"no." You might be pushing for a change in a local zoning ordinance and you
have to fight city hall. You might be trying to get your co-workers to
recycle paper in order to save money and trees. When you're up against
obstacles you can either maintain your resilience, or cave in to defeat.
all pretty resilient when we're little. We fall down and pick ourselves up
again. The tent we make with sheets and cardboard gets blown apart by the
wind and we put it back together again. Someone says we can't go to the park
'cause it's raining, and we find something else to do. But somewhere along
the way, we start to develop a rigidity toward the unexpected, and then
toward change in general. We lose our ability to shift course or to try
something else. We lose our resilience.
his book, A Whack on the Side of the Head, Roger von Oech tells the
story of when he was a sophomore in high school; his English teacher put a
small chalk circle on the blackboard and asked the class what it was. After
a few seconds, someone answered: ďA chalk circle on a blackboard." No one
else had anything else to say, since the drawing had obviously been named.
teacher told the class: "I'm surprised at you. I did the same exercise with
a group of kindergartners yesterday and they thought of 50 things the chalk
mark could be: an owl's eye, a cigarette butt, the top of a telephone pole,
a pebble, a squashed bug, and so on."
lesson the teacher was giving was clear. As we grow older, we lose the
ability to imagine alternatives. And the ability to imagine alternatives is
crucial when you've received a setback, or something doesn't work and you
need to find another approach.
Another reason we lose resilience is because we stop playing games. We stop
playing board games, unless it's to entertain our kids. We stop playing
basketball or baseball with our friends. Whether it's checkers or
volleyball, games teach us to stay open to new situations. One-on-one sports
like tennis and racquetball can teach us resilience because we constantly
have to react to the unexpected - to our partner's next move. And that's
good training for life in general. But too often, when we play games as
adults, it's a win-lose proposition, not an occasion to test our resilience.
Remember that we're talking about resilience as an ability. It
relates well to two of the traits we defined as flexibility traits:
confidence and positiveness. The versatility traits build on those flexible
attitudes. Having a sense of confidence in yourself, and maintaining a
positive expectation toward people and situations lays the foundation for
the ability to be resilient.
me give you a couple of tips on improving your resilience. Here's an
exercise that's fun and can tell you something about yourself. Finish this
sentence with five different endings: When I'm faced with a problem I....
give you 30 seconds to come up with any 5 answers. Be creative. Remember the
kindergartners. When I'm faced with a problem I... PAUSE: 30
there a pattern to your answers? Here are some answers I came up with for
myself: When I'm faced with a problem I generate several different options
to deal with it.
ask my wife, Sue, what she thinks.
listen to music in the dark.
say to myself: OK, "this too shall pass."
call one of my friends to get their input.
decide it's time to read the sports page.
some of those answers are useful and some are silly. But what that exercise
revealed to me was that my attitude is basically one of engaging the problem
rather than running away from it. I hope you have some silly answers among
the serious ones. But I hope that your answers indicate that your basic
approach to problems is a hands-on, can-do attitude. That's the stuff
resilience is made of.