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Two different executives lose their jobs. One sends out thousands of resumes, receives little response, and is angry and bitter. The other returns to school, changes careers and creates a new professional life. Why is one executive stuck in an unhealthy pattern, while the other is able to adapt?

The difference has to do with resilience. Resilience is the ability to bounce back from adversity. It’s what allows us to recover from change or hardship. Resilient people demonstrate flexibility, durability, an attitude of optimism, and a mindset that’s open to learning. A lack of resilience is signaled by burnout, fatigue, malaise, depression, defensiveness, and cynicism.

Resiliency can be developed by modifying both our thoughts and actions. By modifying our thoughts, we broaden our outlook and become less narrowly focused — and better able to adapt to change.

Try to become more resilient by developing in the following areas:

  • Become a continuous learner. Learn new skills, gain new understanding, and apply them during times of change. Many managers resist learning new approaches and hold onto old behaviors and skills even when it’s obvious that they don’t work anymore.
  • Find your sense of purpose. Develop a “personal why” that gives your work meaning or helps you put it into a larger context. Take charge of your own development, both on and off the job. To achieve some degree of resilience, separate who you are from what you do.
  • Cultivate relationships. Develop and nurture a broad network of personal and professional relationships. Personal relationships also create a strong base of support — a critical element in achieving goals, dealing with hardships, and developing perspective.
  • Question (and even change) how you define yourself or your career. Reframe how you see your skills, talents, and interests. By casting your skills in a new light, you can see how they might shift into new patterns of work and behavior.
  • Learn to re-think money. What does money mean to you? While money is important for meeting basic needs, resiliency isn’t tied to net worth. But living beyond your means, or even to the very limit, undermines your flexibility in the face of change.

Learn more about how to handle uncertainty and setbacks

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