During the height of the pandemic, tech giant, Alphabet, started to notice that its employees were displaying signs of acute stress. Productivity fell and Alphabet swiftly responded by appointing a ‘wellness manager and resilience lead’. The company filmed a series of videos composed by psychologists and coaches, covering topics like sleep, rest, and breathing techniques, in an attempt to lower anxiety and bolster resilience.
Alphabet also created a new language to help employees measure stress levels. The acronym, TEA, (thoughts, energy and actions) became a self-assessment mantra: am I thinking clearly, do I feel motivated, am I being productive?
Adaptability: find a way to keep going, no matter what
COVID-19’s devastating effects have proven that resilience is integral to continued success. The unforeseen, ‘black swan’ nature of the crisis meant that firms had to quickly respond and adapt. McKinsey defines resilience as “the ability of a business to withstand, adapt, and thrive in the face of shocks…known and unanticipated.” The essence of resilience is finding a way to get the job done, in spite of the difficulties. While most of us would prefer advance warning, the reality is life often throws us curveballs.
Blair Kaplan Venables, communications expert and author of Pulsing Through My Veins: Raw And Real Stories From An Entrepreneur, decided to create a space for ordinary people to share their stories of loss after her own struggle to recover from a series of tragic life events. The result was the ‘I Am Resilient Project’. Writing was a refuge after she discovered her estranged father was terminally ill, having just rebuilt their shattered relationship. She then lost her mum to cancer, and her husband, Shayne, lost his father in a similar fashion. Kaplan Venables was lucky to walk away with her life after a nasty car accident, and her husband was also fortunate to survive a heart attack, followed by quadruple bypass surgery. The sheer number of events, in a compressed time frame, left her reeling, searching for a way to make sense of it all. Committing her thoughts to paper helped ease her pain.
Find meaning and purpose in events
But, Kaplan Venables’ interest in resilience is part of a wider discussion that has endured for decades. One notable contributor has been the esteemed author, and concentration camp survivor, Viktor E. Frankl. Frankel theorized that resilience was formed by finding meaning in the events, no matter how unpleasant. During his time in a concentration camp, Frankel came to the realization that his life had become degrading and meaningless. In order to elevate his mind, he began to compose lectures and imagined himself instructing future generations on the horrors of war and the cruelty of the camps. This imagined future assumed that he would survive, something he couldn’t foresee. Nevertheless, he did survive and became the unwitting creator of a therapy technique called ‘meaning therapy’.
The danger of rose-tinted spectacles
Jim Collins, author of ‘Great to Good’, warned about the danger of over-optimism. He observed that it can obscure your ability to see what’s really happening, delaying your ability to take decisive action. Also, if you construct a rosy picture of the future, and it never materializes, you may be crushed by hopelessness. A healthy dose of realism is much more useful as a means of protection—a case of, ‘Planning for the worst whilst hoping for the best.’
The good news, according to professionals, is that resilience is a skill that can be cultivated over time. Even if you don’t naturally possess the aforementioned skills, you can start to build them into your life in anticipation of the next, inevitable crisis.