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Building a Capacity for Resilience

C.J. Kirkland
Monday, Feb 26, 2018

Rome wasn’t built in a day. Neither was the Great Pyramid of Giza nor our capacity to withstand hardships and recover from the harshest of losses. As Ronan Tynan states in his latest keynote, “resilience is not a trait we are all born with.” It is the repeated action of getting up after we’ve been knocked down, reassessing methods after ours have fallen short, and permitting others to guide us when we’ve lost our way that builds a capacity for resilience which will permeate all areas of our life. Nothing and no one with the ability to withstand devastating circumstances is built overnight: the journey to establishing resilience, in both life and work, requires patience- lots of it- and when, not if, you fall along the way there are numerous factors already at work to help you stand to your feet and continue onward.

Find Your Tribe

Not everyone needs to, or will, believe in the goals you have laid out so find those who do and allow them to be the load-bearing part of your vision when your hands and heart grow tired. Failures and tragedies are taxing yet without either, resilience cannot be built. Tynan repeatedly experienced both throughout his life, growing stronger with each setback. For him this tenacity was manifested at an early age by two people who truly believed: his parents. He shares, “it is well known that my parents instilled in me a tremendous belief that enabled me to reach heights far beyond what I could ever have dreamed of doing.” But what happens when we believe yet the failures persist? How do we keep our head above water when the rip currents of life have completely exhausted us? We must reach out to others for help.

Rely on Your Team

Building resilience sometimes means admitting we are approaching our threshold and cannot proceed without the help of our team. “Resilient people don’t do it alone; life is not a solo flight,” we learn from Tynan, who has had to lean on others at crucial points along his journey. It can be difficult to let go when a history of successes, due in large part because we held on, dictates this as faulty logic. However, if we can learn to let go and allow our team members to take on tasks they are fully capable of completing, our reserves are strengthened so that when we are once again faced with difficulties there is a sufficient resilience for us to address them all. Letting go also means discarding preconceived notions about how things should have turned out and accepting that there now must be another way.

Changing Your Perspective

“I made up my mind if I could not change the scene I could change the way I acted in it,” writes Tynan. Self pity and strength cannot coexist: there is always a battle between the two and we must consciously choose the winner. Making that choice is part of building resilience. Rarely does anything, in our personal lives or business endeavors, go exactly as planned. Sometimes the resulting implosion can knock us so far off route that we are tempted to sit on the sidelines indefinitely. Don’t. Or if you must rest to regain balance, get up as quickly as possible. The more you fight self pity, the stronger you become; the stronger you become, the more resilience you’ll have stored away for next time. When scenarios appear unlikely to change in our favor, changing our perspective can open up channels of creativity to help us somehow make it work. As a character said recently on one of television’s most critically acclaimed shows, This Is Us, “…you took the sourest lemon that life has to offer and turned it into something resembling lemonade.”

Take Your Eyes Off of You

An increased capacity for resilience is tied to the speed of recovery: how quickly that which is broken can be fixed. Sometimes this process is aided when we take our eyes off the problems beleaguering us and focus instead on the positive achievements of those around us. It is similar to the notion that a child’s scraped knee appears to heal much slower when he becomes preoccupied with the wound as opposed to diverting his energies elsewhere and nearly forgetting it even exists. In challenging situations when you have done all you can do, sometimes the only thing left to do is walk away for a while to expedite the healing. Tynan encourages us to “show people how proud you are of what they have done or achieved in their work environment or home. Even through adversity, project the magical power you see in people.” When we give there is so much more we receive in return, beyond the tangible. Offering a compliment, words of encouragement, or manpower in the completion of someone else’s project, builds up our reservoirs of kindness and compassion. Giving, even when we feel our storehouse of goodwill has been depleted, expands our hearts and creates the necessary room for resilience to grow.

Find The Laughter

New York Times article titled “In Downturn, Americans Flock to the Movies” states that though research on the subject is “scant,” the reality is when the economy tanks, attendance at entertainment venues rises. “It’s not rocket science,” explains Martin Kaplan, the Norman Lear Professor of Entertainment, Media and Society at University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. He asserts, “People want to forget their troubles, and they want to be with other people.” ‘Want to build up your resilience? Place yourself in the company of other people, preferably other people who can make you laugh. Yes, your problems will still be there after the laughter has faded but your spirit will be strengthened and your mind most certainly will have the clarity needed to continue facing your adversity. In his speech Tynan expresses gratitude for the laughter his best friend brought into his life, teaching us through his own anecdotes: “A shared sense of humor is one thing that will allow continual victory when faced with the biggest challenges in life.”

Keep Taking Risks

If you don’t push the boundaries you will never discover your true strength, which most of us grossly underestimate, especially in times of hardship. When one idea fails, try another. If a proposal is rejected, go back to the drawing board. Risk most certainly entails rejection yet resilience is made stronger with each rejection faced head-on. Tynan references the many risks he’s taken throughout his life, despite the odds against him, lending to a continually-strengthened resilience of the Summer Paralympics gold medalist and world record holder, physician, and classical singer who has performed at several United States presidential events. Imploring that we never give up, Tynan most appropriately quotes Sir Winston Churchill: “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”  And your capacity for resilience will most certainly be built.

To learn more about resilience keynote speaker Ronan Tynan, contact Executive Speakers Bureau at (901) 754-9404 or visit www.executivespeakers.com.


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