Resilience : Self-Actualization or the Wages of Fear?

“I want to have at least some control over what I do and where I do it!” “How in the world do I fit into the big picture?” “I don’t even have the freedom to do what I’m supposed to do!”

Isn’t this what the people in our organizations are demanding from their companies today in a world of change, complexity, uncertainty and sometimes bullying?

We’ve seen what happens in those cases: fatigue, lack of initiative, skepticism and weariness. People might still fill in the yearly engagement survey with a sarcastic smile. But maybe they’ll just sit there, stifling their rage.

Our clients, who’ve noted these phenomena, have started asking us to work with them on this. The initial request is a straightforward and classical one: how can we improve the morale and individual effectiveness of our people in a working world that keeps going faster and faster, with greater and greater constraints, and stakeholders who are more and more numerous and demanding.

But the times have changed:

We’re in a world where individuals feel they’re drowning in a maelstrom of conflicting priorities.

We all know the traditional response: could you please just figure out how to manage your stress and emotions, and get on with it!

You’ve heard that in your companies, haven’t you? But we are convinced that the classical responses that are all about “increasing effectiveness at work”, “learning how to manage your time” and “improving your interpersonal skills” are not relevant here. All of this might provide a short-term band aid but it’ll rapidly turn out to be useless. Individuals and teams need to be able to unlock sustainable solutions, and these come from inside themselves, not from any tools or superficial techniques.

And so we take a totally different tack. For us, it’s about developing Resilience and reinforcing the four internal sources of Energy this entails.

The Energy of Clarity

Often individuals and teams feel overwhelmed by what they define as all-encompassing, insoluble problems. We begin by asking people to note down specifically how they affect them. We’re working with the catharsis of crisis here: acknowledge the emotional state; free up emotions; become fully mindful of the situation; take a step back. That’s how people get to the point where they can see a situation differently—where they can clarify their own goals and re-capture their decision-making energy. You know the old proverb: “if you get the problem right, you’re half-way to the solution”.

You might ask, why go through such a process? Why take this risk? Isn’t it less risky to ignore those painful situations? Why not just develop a few techniques and tools so people feel less “hurt”? OK, but not sustainable. You want to master your destiny during really tough times? Get back in touch with your own self-empowering energy. This is the first basic component of Resilience.

The Energy of Options

Once you’ve got the problem figured out and chunked down into manageable bits, you can start thinking about different options and answering the kinds of questions we hear during our working meetings: “OK, so now I see what’s getting in the way with my boss / my colleague / my client. But what can I do about it?”

And so we work on another series of challenges that help people figure out how to express personal needs and positions firmly and constructively; negotiate acceptable terms for working together; and respond in a deliberate and measured way to excessive pressure from those who represent “authority” and “power”. In other words, deal successfully with an ever-growing list of priorities, pressures and urgent tasks.

We gear up each of the participants and teams so they can confront these difficulties and free up their potential. The idea is for each one to anchor the conviction, within themselves, that there is always a solution and it is neither impossible nor forbidden to improvise! This is a second key element of Resilience.

The Energy of Sabotaging the Saboteurs

But what do we do about that little voice we all have inside ourselves that whispers “it isn’t good enough”; “I’ll never be able to do it—I just can’t”, “it’s impossible”? That’s the next thing that comes up. Let’s face it: no externally-driven tools and techniques have a chance against our internal saboteurs that drag us down in front of hurdles we could actually overcome.

There’s a classical approach here too: rote implementation of “best practice.” But that is driven by the outside and so will only get you so far. Once again, the most powerful weapon comes from inside ourselves: our personal energy and ability to recognize and value who we are and what we bring to a given situation.

So how do we access that? We explore various ways to do this by encouraging participants to work on, for example: What can I learn from my own mistakes and failures and also successes in difficult situations? How can I truly acknowledge and develop what makes me unique? How can I get more and more pleasure out of what I do in my working life?

The “sabotaging the saboteurs” energy is a third component of Resilience. It gets us beyond our “limiting beliefs” and we can no longer be crushed in the same way.

The Energy of Allies

“Petites mains” (low-level workers, in French) is a documentary by Thomas Roussillon about Lejaby, a lingerie company that was about to shut down, leaving all workers out of a job. In the film the workers describe the solidarity among the seamstresses as one of the major components of the Resilience that allowed them to hold out.

People need to identify and then call upon those who can help them get out of a hole that they might think is protecting them but that is in reality just keeping them down. It’s not easy to ask for help in our “Be tough and get on with it” world. A word of caution, however: turning to allies isn’t about complaining together and rehashing common problems. We’re talking about the solidarity that is built up on the first three energies so that each individual or team can take control of their difficult situation. The Energy of Allies is the fourth energy of Resilience.

So you see, developing Resilience isn’t about a tool box. It’s a journey where people get to free up energies inside themselves, develop mindfulness and overcome limiting beliefs so they actually shift how they position themselves in their world.

That’s what people work on in our “RESILIENT©” program. The Resilience of individuals and teams is the key to confronting our global, complex and unpredictable world. At ICM we hope that engaging on this path will go beyond reacting to a tough situation and turn into a real learning process. Resilience is about going beyond fear and resignation to agility, control and self-actualization.

Translation and adaptation Irene Rodgers




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