The importance of emotional resilience

In the past few years of my career, I’ve added a key requirement to my list of “must haves” when I choose the people around me – emotional resilience. While emotional resilience has always been something that’s been on my radar, I now use it as a barometer to determine who I employ. The fact is, I simply refuse to employ someone who can’t demonstrate a high level of emotional resilience!

That might sound harsh, but the reality of it is, in a start-up environment, we have no room for people who dwell on every single mistake or can’t cope with high levels of stress. The reason for that is because we make mistakes and live under constant pressure. Therefore, we need people who are adaptable, positive, take accountability and are forward thinking. Simply put: We need resilient people.

But what does that really mean?

Well, when looking for emotionally resilient people, we look for people who have a strong sense of inner strength, a level of hardiness and fortitude. These qualities translate to the person being able to respond positively to challenging situations, both inside and outside of work. More often than not, emotionally resilient people bounce back quickly against what sometimes feel as insurmountable odds.

It concerns me the level of people being “burned out” from work, or feeling as if they aren’t coping with the level of stress in their life. I’m not sure if we’re really equipping our children with the tools to deal with life, and all it entails. It seems to me that, at times, we aren’t placing enough value on creating emotionally resilient young people. If there was one thing that I’d hope to instil in our son, that’s what it’d be. I believe that learning how to be emotional resilient (i.e. by learning to be in control of how we respond to things) is the key to coping with life’s up and downs.

Interestingly, the term “resilience” was first used by American Psychologist, Emmy Werner, in the 70s while studying children from Kauai, an impoverished region of Hawaii. Werner found that of the children who grew up in difficult circumstances, every 2 in 3 exhibited destructive behaviours in adulthood, whereas 1 in 3 behaved ‘normally’. She labelled the latter group “resilient”, saying they had genetic traits that were different to the others.

But is emotional resilience really as simple as just DNA? So, if you don’t have it – you never will? Really? Well, luckily, recent research shows us emotional resilience can, indeed, be taught. And that’s good news (!) because the reality is that everyone faces tough times – the only question worth asking is how we choose to deal with those tough times.

So how do we teach children to embody the phrase, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going”? Here are some practical steps to remember when building your emotional resilience:

1. Practise optimism:
It’s pretty basic, but seeing the glass as half full makes a huge difference. Entrepreneurial people always have a glass half full approach.

2. Keep things in perspective:
While a problem might feel major at one point and time – the reality is that more often than not it will quickly become a distant memory.

3. Take accountability:
If you’ve made a mistake, own up to it! First rule of good governance is transparency.

4. Scrap the victim mentality:
You and ONLY you are the master of your own destiny. Don’t blame others for your shortcomings or failures. When the going gets tough – the tough get going!

5. Be decisive and take control:
Understand the problem and then take responsibility for resolving it. Through taking control you will demonstrate the ability to lead and resolve difficult situations.

6. Embrace change:
Change isn’t always something that you need to overcome. Embrace change as the only constant part of life and challenge yourself to truly enjoy and embrace a changing climate.

7. Be self aware:
Have a really clear understanding of who you are and what your strengths and weaknesses are. This will also enable you to better understand what you can and what you can’t cope doing.

8. Be authentic:
Say what you mean and mean what you say. People often say things to trigger another person’s emotion or to pass blame. This is not how you build healthy relationships – put on your big girl/boy pants and be authentic in your communication.

9. Care for yourself, get enough sleep, eat and exercise
It’s pretty simple – a car can’t run on empty. You need to treat your body right. Make sure that you get a minimum of 8 hours sleep per/night and that you maintain a healthy, balanced diet alongside a realistic exercise routine… Put down the phone!

10. Have a strong support network
Surround yourself with people who make you a better person. People who you can lean on but also those who will challenge you to be a better person, who hold you accountable and make you put on your big girl/boy pants.