There is a quiet epidemic of stress, alienation and burn out at work. The pandemic and WFH made the mental health problem even worse and has led to the Great Resignation as people reflect on why and where they work. Resilience is about building strength in the good times to help you through the tough times. It is about living and working better.
1. Look on the bright side: the power of optimism.
Optimists live longer and do better than pessimists. And optimism can be learned. Two simple exercises:
a) Would you rather live today or as a prince or princess 300 years ago? If we are better off than royalty used to be, then life can not be all bad.
b) Count your blessings. Think of three good things that happened in the day and write them down at the end of the day. You soon start to notice what is good, not bad, about life even in tough times.
2. Learn to be your own best friend, not your own worst critic.
We can be cruel to ourselves with our own internal chatter. When we beat ourselves up, we undermine ourselves. So when you find yourself falling into that trap, just ask yourself what your best friend would be saying to you now, and have that conversations. It will be a kinder and more productive conversation.
3. Acquire the courage to chase your dreams
To my surprise, I found courage can be learned. I found the same method with the army, firefighters and mountaineers. The keys are:
- Start with small and simple steps
- Get help so that you can learn to do things the right way
- Slowly make the challenges harder and more stretching
- Keep practicing
Eventually, the courageous act becomes a routine act for you.
4. Manage your energy
WFH has brought about more stress and burnout than working from the office. When you work from home, you never leave work. You will find the solution in breaks and boundaries:
Breaks: set yourself a goal for the next 20/30 minutes and go for it. Complete the task and give yourself a tea break or social media break. Think of the day as a series of short sprints. You will achieve far more than slogging away non-stop for 8 hours, and you will feel better at the end.
Create boundaries between work and home. When you end work, end it. Put it away and stop worrying about it. When you work, work; when you relax, relax. Don’t mix the two.
5. Enjoy what you do.
Resilience can be a management con trick where you are “taught” resilience: that is then used as an excuse to make you suffer poor management and poor conditions. Resilience is not an excuse for rubbish management.If you want to stay the course, find a context where you enjoy what you do with good work, good colleagues and good management.
Enjoyment is not optional, because you only excel at what you enjoy. Excellence takes sustained effort over many years; you can only sustain that level of effort if you enjoy what you do.
Whatever your journey is, enjoy it.
About the author
Jo Owen is the founder of 8 NGOs with a combined turnover of £100 million, and include Teach First which is the UK’s largest graduate recruiter. He has also started a bank, built a business in Japan, been sued for $12 billion and he put the blue speckle in Daz.
His books have been published in over 100 editions around the world. He is the only person to win the CMI Gold Medal four times for his books, which include How to Lead, Global Teams and Resilience.
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