As someone with a degree in Sociology, I've always had a fascination with people and the pulse of the zeitgeist in culture and society. With constant change the norm, the way we evaluate and adapt to different ways of thinking requires a resilient approach to handle this new reality.
When I think of resiliency, I most often imagine athletes. Picture an athlete in the midst of competition: there are several moments throughout the match or game that seem insurmountable, or even where losing seems like an inevitability. But athletes don’t let up - not for a minute. Instead, they focus on the specific task at hand never wavering in their confidence. Their singular focus on performance and winning requires an incredible amount of resiliency to enable them to push through not only the setbacks encountered during a game or match, but those that come as a result like heartbreaking loss and physical injury that must be overcome to come back the following day and do it all over again.
In this often chaotic world, more and more people are looking to learn how to adjust to and overcome the increasing complexity faced in our personal and professional lives. It’s not always easy to draw on the strength gained through experience to handle these challenges when curveballs are thrown our way.
It is no surprise then, that there has been such a recent focus on the critical importance of resilience and with it grit.
Two recent books, and a third upcoming, focus on these subjects albeit with different perspectives. The first, Robin Koval and Linda Kaplan Thaler's "Grit to Great: How Perseverance, Passion and Pluck Take You From Ordinary to Extraordinary". Here, G.R.I.T. is also used as an acronym for guts, resilience, initiative, and tenacity. The book shares ways to strengthen one's grit and examines how sheer determination and focus in these areas can lead to greater success.
Another from Angela Duckworth published early this year, "Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance" furthers the studies done to assess grit in individuals. The author notes that it is character and perseverance that set apart the successful. She emphasizes that leveraging tenacity in tough situations propels you forward.
Finally, there is the upcoming book announced from Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant called "Option B" about grief and resilience. The book will focus on building resilience and finding meaning in the face of adversity and bounce back stronger.
So why is there now so much more public information and discussion about grit and resilience? The increasing stress and challenges we face every day along with the rapid shifts in communication happening as a result of technological change can create intense pressure and anxiety. Expectations increase and how we deal with those tough situations becomes even more important.
I haven't intentionally sought out tough and challenging situations. But let's face it, life happens and you have to react and make a choice about how you plan to deal with those moments: stay down or get up...and start moving.
So here are my three ways to call upon your own grit and be more resilient in professional situations to work smarter and get better results:
1) Do not be emotional: Strip emotion from the conversation (not easy to do sometimes) and focus on passion and confidence. Calling on resilience in tense moments communicates strength and the ability to remain focused on the situation to think about the challenge in a rational way.
2) Focus: The opportunity to focus on the immediate moment and opportunity and not be distracted by the barriers. Communicating a sense of "I got this!" exudes confidence and reassurance to yourself and others in the way you approach the situation. Try not to think about the "what ifs" through a negative lens and more about the possibilities of the opportunity at hand.
3) Remain optimistic: Leadership requires a relentless focus on the positive. I believe that leadership is defined by three characteristics: a) curiosity, b) generosity of spirit, and c) a belief that anything is possible. This last one links to grit- that optimistic approach and tenacity requiring pure conviction. It doesn't mean there won't be bumps and challenges along the way, but you will persevere and move forward regardless of the circumstances. Don't focus on the negative, lean toward creating the best options. Everyone suffers setbacks but it's how you deal with them that can push you forward.
So as we all adjust to the increasing pace of our lives with change incredibly more prevalent, it requires increased resilience, and grit, to handle the intense pressure created as a result. And remember, resiliency is something that we develop over time. It is our experiences that help build our resiliency muscle and create that strength from which to draw. So flex that muscle!