Date posted: 17/02/2023 5 min read

Five ways to build your resilience

Resilience is a skill anyone can develop – if they choose to. Dr Denise Quinlan shares five ways you can improve your own resilience.

In Brief

  • Resilience is a skill you can learn and improve, and it starts with understanding your own strengths and weaknesses
  • You don’t have to go it alone to be resilient, but you do have to police what you devote time and energy to achieving
  • Appreciating the good things in your life will develop a positive mindset that will help you when things get tough.

Being able to cope with ups and downs and manage challenges as they arise is a critical skill to develop. In a workplace setting, this might mean having the ability to manage a heavy workload or ensure your frustration with colleagues doesn’t derail your day. One thing is for certain: the greater your resilience, the better you are able to manage stressful situations.

Dr Denise Quinlan is co-founder and director of the New Zealand Institute of Wellbeing and Resilience. She says there are some simple steps you can take to build your capacity to cope with life’s challenges and opportunities.

“Resilience is about the ability to put one foot in front of the other and get through in the way that you can, drawing on the resources you have, which include your own personal strengths and the people around you,” Quinlan says.

Dr Denise QuinlanPictured: Dr Denise Quinlan

1. Know your strengths, weaknesses and triggers

At the heart of resilience is a healthy dose of self-awareness, self-belief and self-control, Quinlan says.

“If you don’t understand what you’re doing and how you’re contributing, you can’t change things. The ability to reflect, take action and adjust your path is a core resilience skill.”

Keeping a journal, or finding a mentor or trusted colleague to discuss challenging work situations with can help you spot patterns of behaviour and work through your feelings and responses to develop your self-knowledge.

2. Lean on your connections

Good social relationships are tied to greater psychological and physical wellbeing. So, it’s not surprising that social relationships also matter when it comes to resilience, particularly when you need to call on someone to help you through a stressful experience.

“Your ability to be resilient is hugely influenced by the quality of the groups you’re part of,” says Quinlan. “The old version of resilience was defined by being indomitably tough but the truth is, when you are lying awake at 3am and you’ve got someone you can phone, you are more resilient.”

3. Be ruthless about what you can and can’t take on

Being able to determine what actually matters can be tricky in the face of competing demands. Resilient people tend to focus their attention on the important stuff they can control, says Quinlan.

“We encourage people to ruthlessly prioritise their to-do lists – to make short lists and work out what you can say no to. Ruthless prioritisation is an essential skill we want in our leaders.

“When you are able to practice ruthless prioritisation as a team, it’s even more powerful. It provides clarity and can be used to help reduce workload.”

4. Accept nobody’s perfect

Accepting that life isn’t perfect is also a resilience skill that can help when you’re experiencing challenging workplace situations.

“Excessive perfectionism and the self-criticism that so often goes with it is a counterproductive self-indulgence. You are focused on beating yourself up, rather than fixing the problem.”

The answer is to replace perfectionism with compassion, Quinlan says.

‘Perfectionists are very self-critical, which is associated with anxiety, depression, shame, procrastination and reduced motivation. If you can be a little bit self-compassionate and see the benefit of learning from failure, you’ll be less likely to give up and you’ll cope better with challenges.”

5. Put problems in perspective

Finally, being able to laugh at a tough or ridiculous situation with your colleagues is a skill worth cultivating. Says Quinlan: “If you think about workplaces you’ve been in, when the chips are down and people can have a laugh, they generally cope much better.”

Another piece of advice is to remind yourself of the good things around you, she says.

“If you start looking for what’s good on a daily basis, after a while your brain starts scanning for it automatically. It will help you deal with the things that are not so good.”

Attend the virtual Women in Business Conference

Dr Denise Quinlan is just one of the speakers at the CA ANZ Women in Business Conference, taking place online on 8–9 March 2023. Register today to hear from Dr Quinlan and other inspiring women leaders, and earn up to 10 CPD hours.

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