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How to Be Resilient

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I am strong.… I am able not only to weather storms, but to stand facing the wind…. I am capable.… I am ready to be challenged.… I am resilient.

Do these words sound like you on an average day? Try this: Take a deep breath, and read it again with you as the “I….” Does it feel familiar? Uncomfortable? Unlike you at all? Now ask yourself, why?
When exposed to this exercise in workshops, a hush often falls across leaders as they discover something about themselves. Often, they recall times when they wished they could have managed themselves or the situations they were in with more grace—more control.
When we’re struggling to stay afloat, it’s easy to succumb to the pressure and react. Our reactions don’t often showcase our best selves, nor the best strategy for our organizations. We can ask later for forgiveness, but wouldn’t it be better for ourselves and for our companies to remain calm, strong, and steady?

What is resilience?

Resilience is often defined as the ability to overcome adversity, but it’s more than that. It’s the ability to navigate challenge without changing who you are—without wavering from the values that shape your character or without drifting from your organization’s brand.
Think of a time you overcame a significant challenge. When you made it to the other side, did you feel proud or inspired? Or did you look back and wonder how you fell into anger, or said things you didn’t mean?

Resilience is your ability to navigate challenge without changing who you are.

Three steps to building resilience

Our habits and rhythms in life and work, along with our perceptions and judgments about our experiences, shape our actions. When our actions align with our values, we feel stronger. We can do things we previously felt were beyond our limitations. Courage and vulnerability become possible. We stand up for ourselves, for our beliefs, and for one another.
Resilience grows when three major channels of development converge. These are true for us as people as they are for the organizations we lead.

1. First, “know thyself”

You are not born with a fixed amount of resilience. Like a muscle, you can build it up, draw on it when you need it. In that process you will figure out who you really are—and you just might become the very best version of yourself. — Sheryl Sandberg

Great leaders are self-aware. They see and understand their assumptions and biases. They know their strengths and limitations. They manage themselves.
Resilience comes naturally from strong self-esteem. Hire a coach to help you personally, and at the organizational level, use a values-driven approach to strategy, planning, and brand development.

2. Practice: ‘Be the Change’

Practice creates the master. — Miguel Ruiz

From a resilient point of view, challenge invites us to see opportunity. When we know ourselves, and the capacity of our organizations, we find the confidence to ‘be the change we wish to see in the world.’
Practice resilience by seeking challenge. Set personal goals and encourage your team to do the same. Share your goals and progress. Be bold, even audacious, with your company’s vision and mission. These set the culture toward which you coach and elevate your team.

3. Meet Challenge with Your Face to the Wind

In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity. — Albert Einstein

The catch-22 is that resilience is built in times of challenge. It can be tempting to turn and take shelter in hard times, but your personal growth and your organization’s capacity will only develop when you’re able to face challenge with a growth mindset.
The first step is to recognize when challenge is upon you. Then make the time and gather the energy to look straight into its heart. From this powerful perspective, choose actions that align with your values. Then engage your team. They’ll be mustering their own energy, and some will be equipped to do so, while others will need your support.
To become resilient, know your personal and organizational talents and capacity; seek opportunities to experience challenges, to learn and grow as people, teams, and organizations; and recognize and accept challenge when it comes your way.
Urszula Lipsztajn ( and Mike Rowlands ( will lead Business Inside Out at Hollyhock September 16 – 19. Designed for leaders of social purpose and technology ventures, it will be an intensive retreat to accelerate personal leadership and business growth. As an attendee, you will envision the next 10 years of your personal and business growth, and leave with the tools, skills and support to ensure your success.

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