To be ingenious people, we have to respond to challenges and opportunities with resilience and engage change with flexibility.
Emotions are a source of great energy. Without emotion, action is flat and one-dimensional. Emotion infuses action with passion and intention. However, emotional energy can turn negative and even destructive. When emotions are corrosive, they not only affect the sender but the receiver as well. A negative emotion or attitude damages a tribe’s ingenuity because it eats away at desire and will. Further, a lack of emotional resilience and flexibility impairs our ability to adapt to external and internal change.
Here are three actions you can take to increase emotional resilience.
Own Your Emotional Condition and Development
Emotional resilience begins when we own our emotional condition and do what we can to create emotional health. This first means we cultivate emotional well-being. We’ll talk more about that in the third action-strategy. Beyond well-being, owning my emotional conditions means I recognize my triggers and emotional reactions and develop strategies to decrease my volatility. I discuss this idea at length in the last section of my book, Tribal Alchemy: Turning What you Have Into What You Need.
Situations affect us differently. For example, a situation that angers you may not anger your colleagues. The reverse is also true. Instead of viewing my emotional reactions as “just the way I am,” I must own my reactions by,
- Understanding the anatomy of my reactions (what happens and why),
- Naming my reactions (to make them real)
- Developing strategies that can mitigate the impact of negative reactions and more quickly move me back a place of calm where I can be more effect
Stay Longer in the Ambiguity of Change
Resilience increases when we remain in situations that are uncomfortable. This does not mean we should remain in dangerous situations. Neither does it mean that all discomfort is good. However, change can produce emotional discomfort. This discomfort reveals our lack of control over situations we once believed were stable. When emotional discomfort–due to change arrives–we may be tempted to prematurely end it by regaining a measure of control. We may leave the situation too soon. We may blame others in order to find a responsible party. We may grow apathetic or bitter. In all these situations we short-circuit the change process because the ambiguity seems overwhelming. Active waiting in times of change can increase resiliency. When we resist the temptation to bolt and embrace the potential for something better to come, our resilience increases.
A word of caution: I understand it takes great wisdom to know when to remain in discomfort versus remove yourself from it. Staying in a difficult situation as long as possible is not always the right strategy. Learning how, and how long, to stay in difficulty comes through trial and error, as well as life experience. However, if I am always removing myself from ambiguous or uncomfortable situations, it will be very difficult to increase resilience.
Overload, burn out and unhealthy stress make cowards of us all. When we don’t take time to cultivate our own well being, increased emotional resilience is unlikely. Though the “how” of our renewal is different–depending on our interests, personalities and backgrounds– the need for renewal is something we share in common. Taking care of yourself increases emotional resilience in general, but it also readies you to engage your tribe with flexibility.
When you have emotional reserves you are able to handle the ambiguity of change in a more gracious way. It doesn’t mean your challenges will disappear. It does mean that your ability to thrive in those challenges becomes more evident to you and those around you. Determining how you renew yourself, and sustain that practice, enlarges your emotional and psychological capacity.
As you consider your own well being, it’s always good to remember the basics that enhance well-being:
- Meaningful relationships
- Purpose in life
- Exercise and good nutrition
- Novel experiences
- What would you add to the list?
Psychiatrist Dan Siegel has a smart way of thinking about well being through his “mind platter.” You can check it out here.
Emotional resilience is not an esoteric or frivolous idea. It is a an important part of our make-up that directly influences our ingenuity and productivity in life. When we make the time to own our emotional condition, stay longer with ambiguous situations, and cultivate well-being, we take direct steps toward a more successful life.