How resilient are you?

[quality] resilience. [persona] journeyman.

  1. being able to push through setbacks and come back stronger than ever. viewing failure and hardship as growth opportunities.

At work, as a consulting organization, we recognize that our people – our collective set of talent, skills, and character – forms the bedrock for who we are and what we’re able to offer to our clients. Because we value our people, people growth is a core component of our culture. Our consultants are expected to set career goals that grow their skills, and they are also expected to share their knowledge with others to help others grow. We value this culture of continuous learning and knowledge sharing, and it’s part of our performance measurement system.

Stretching Yourself

When we help our consultants set goals for themselves, we talk about finding ways to “stretch yourself.” For me, this means taking on work and getting into situations that makes you feel a bit uncomfortable. When you feel uncomfortable, you’re entering territory that likely feels risky to you – maybe you’ve been asked to write a report on a topic that you don’t feel you completely understand, maybe you’re about to give a presentation to a large audience for the first time, or maybe you’ve been asked to voice your opinion during a tension-filled meeting with people you don’t know that well.

Stretching yourself means putting yourself into situations where you’re dealing with a challenge and there is a chance of failure. In these situations, mistakes are inevitable and going to happen. Whether you succeed or fail is not what really matters – what matters is how you deal with the outcome of the experience. Are you going to dwell on the failure and let that affect your attitude toward future efforts? Or are you going to learn from the failure and use it as a stepping stone in your journey to reach your goal? Being resilient is about having the audacity (courage, grit, resolve) to learn from your mistakes, accept constructive criticism, and ultimately march forward as a stronger individual.

In The Road to Character, author David Brooks tells a story about Frances Perkins. Perkins was the first woman appointed to the U.S. Cabinet serving as U.S. Secretary of Labor from 1933 to 1945. In college, one of her teachers encouraged her to major in her weakest subject – chemistry. Her teacher encouraged her to take the toughest courses even if it meant she would earn mediocre grades. Essentially, the thinking was that if she could get through that, she’d be able to handle anything life throws at her. Perkins was up for the challenge. Only a resilient person can accept and get through a challenge such as that.

Overcoming Struggle Shapes Us

Later in the book, Brooks discusses struggle. He reminds us that when people often think about the events in their life that shaped who they are, they don’t talk about the happy times, they talk about the struggles and ordeals that they overcame. This is at the core of what it means to be resilient. Resilient people accept the fact that even though hardship is going to happen, it won’t define them.

Here’s a good article for some tips on handling and overcoming failure and becoming more resilient.


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