How to increase resilience and adaptability for the months ahead
By Sarah Lewis, C.Psychol., Appreciating Change
As lockdown eases it is tempting to think that we are getting back to normal. However, as we will be continuing to live with the reality of covid-19, we need to think instead about moving forward in to a new normal. Many experts in virology are warning that coronavirus wasn’t the first and it won’t be the last virus against which we have no defence. Living and working in the new normal will take resilience and adaptability.
Resilience and Adaptability
Resilience is about having the resources to cope with unexpected, difficult or adverse situations. To be able to use these resources we, of course, need to know we have them before we can deliberately use them to help us. These three things, having resources, being aware of them, and being able to deploy them, are what feed our resilience, and our ability to bounce-back from adversity.
Being adaptable means being able to quickly and appropriately change our behaviour when circumstances change. For example, at present people are having to find different ways to manage their work, possibly while also having to manage their children’s education. Or maybe having to manage their shopping and finances differently.
The old strategies may not be appropriate now. For instance, adhering to the strict school timetable is not necessarily the best strategy for education, rather families need to find ways to help their children learn, whilst working and managing family tensions. Similarly being ‘always on’ for work might not be good for our mental health just now. And we’re all going to have to adapt again as more workplaces open.
For both resilience and adaptability, being resourceful is key.
Recognising our resourcefulness and boosting our resilience and adaptability
Broadly speaking we have personal resources and social resources that we can call on.
One of our biggest sources of personal resources is our own unique strengths. Strengths are the attributes that are at the heart of our best self. They are the things that are natural for us to do and that seem easy to us. We each have our own set of strengths. For instance, some people are naturally empathetic, others inherently strategically minded. Some of us are good at logical analysis, others of us are great at developing others.
It’s important to know our own strengths as using them boosts our confidence and gives us energy, allowing us to recover more quickly from setbacks. We are likely to solve a problem better if the solution uses our strengths. To learn more about your unique strengths you can take the VIA free strengths test or buy a pack of strengths cards so you can self-identify your strengths. Once you have done that, you can get some feedback from others on what they think your strengths are, and when they’ve seen you use them in a difficult situation.
Our previous experiences
Sometimes, when we are stressed or anxious it is hard to believe that we can cope, we feel so helpless right now. In this situation, it can be really helpful to remember other times when we did cope, when we got through a tricky situation or when we turned a situation around. Being in the grip of the present can prevent us from accessing resources from the past: our knowledge, our skills, our experience.
We can discover these hidden resources by remembering our best experiences, when we weren’t just coping but really flourishing and excelling. Once we’ve brought these experiences to mind, we can mine them for tactics, strategies, ideas, conversations, that really made a difference then and that might be useful now. Appreciative Inquiry is a change process that is built on the understanding that resources from the past can help us in the present and in the future. There are there are some books about how to apply it to your personal life, or your professional life to tell you more. If you want to try it for yourself, there is a pack of Appreciative Inquiry Cards with questions designed to help you through the resource discovery process.
Boosting our resilience by building our HERO abilities
Our HERO ability made up of our states of hopefulness, optimism, resilience and confidence (efficacy). Add these four things together and the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. In other words, although resilience is part of our HERO abilities, it is also boosted if we can boost our sense of hope, optimism and confidence.
You can discover more in the Psychological Capital and Beyond, a book by the people who discovered this, or, invest in a HERO card pack that contains questions and quotes as well as explanations, to help you boost your own HERO abilities.
Our social networks extend our resourcefulness. Think of it as ‘I know a (wo)man who can’. Our network contains people who find easy what we find hard. They can be a source of inspiration, uplift, practical advice, useful contacts and many other resources that help us cope. Exchange your strengths across your network. For instance, you might find it easy to use Zoom, Team and other online resources, while your friend, who is hopeless at that sort of logical rational technical stuff, might be able to reel off a whole list of fun ways to teach times tables!
What happens when we get back to work?
Organisational resilience is about all of the above, and, about social capital. The social capital of an organization reflects its connectedness. It’s about how easily information flows around the organization and how much trust there is. Both of these, quick information flow and trust, make it much easier for organizations to be resilient and to adapt quickly. As we tentatively ease lockdown, the enthusiasm of people to return to previous places of work will depend, to some extent, on the extent to which they trust the organization to look after them. Do they believe the organization is telling them what they need to know? Do they trust the plans to keep them safe? These positive organization development cards have lots of information about the features of the best organisations
A few quick tips for boosting your resilience and adaptability in the new normal
If you are interested in learning more about resilience and adaptability, we are running 4 two-hour live virtual development workshops. You can also access a video interview of two psychologists talking about resilienceboth generally and at work.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sarah Lewis C.Psychol., is the principal psychologist at Appreciating Change, a strengths-based psychological consultancy that is committed to applying well-researched positive psychology ideas and interventions to workplace challenges and opportunities at an individual, team or whole organization level.
Sarah is an associated fellow of the British Psychological Society, a principal member of the Association of Business Psychologists, and a member of the International Positive Psychology Association.
Sarah is an acknowledged Appreciative Inquiry and Positive Psychology expert, a regular conference presenter and author of ‘Positive Psychology at Work’ (Wiley), Positive Psychology and Change (Wiley), ‘Appreciative Inquiry for Change Management’ (KoganPage) and Positive Psychology in Business (Pavilion).
She also collects great positive psychology resources to support consultants, trainers and coaches in their work which are sold through the Positive Psychology online shop. https://www.thepositivepsychologyshop.com/