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Resilience at Work: Taking Responsibility

Resilience at Work: Taking Responsibility

Taking responsibility for the choices you make is a key area of resilience.

If you have too much work, it's really your responsibility to let your boss know you have too much work, or to let your manager know. If you don't and you miss your deadlines, it's going to affect the way they perceive you, and that is really your responsibility.

If you are not setting the boundaries around workload and taking responsibility for setting those boundaries, it will absolutely influence your resilience because it will increase your stress.

Stress, resilience, taking responsibility, there's a relationship between each of them. The moment you take responsibility for something that's not working in your life, be it at work or at home, it increases your choices.

If something is not working, there's generally two choices: change it, or get rid of it. Changing it may mean you change yourself. It absolutely increases your ability to respond to a situation the moment you take responsibility.

So, how do you take responsibility? On my training courses, very often people become really resentful about the idea of taking responsibility for something that's not theirs. Absolutely, why would you want to take responsibility if it's not yours? You're responsible for the way you react to it. Not for what's happening, but for how you react to it. The moment you get that concept, it's not about the situation, it's your reaction to it.

Accepting a Situation

That's where taking responsibility comes into its own. It increases your ability to make choices, though there is a difference between accepting a situation that's completely out of your control to being resigned to that situation.

Acceptance is much more active. Resignation, being resigned, is a very passive form of living day in and day out. So, for the purposes of resilience it's always about more of an acceptance than a resignation.

Managing Emotions

Managing emotions are the glue of resilience.  The way you manage emotions is key.  Emotions are never the problem. The way you react and respond to those emotions, that can be where the problem lies.  For example, the moment you get angry, you begin to distort the view of reality. A little bit like the moment you put the sunglasses on. Your reality changes, you see things differently.  This can be any negative emotion, for example, anger, anxiety, upset, sadness. The emotions that make you feel negatively.

One of the key things to remember is that the emotions are not the problem.  It is the way you respond to them.

So, what can you start to do? If you get angry at work, if you get angry at home, if you're upset, if you're anxious?

A great tip for managing difficult emotions, whatever is difficult for you, some people find sadness difficult, some people find anger and anxiety, so whichever emotion is difficult for you, is to step back from that emotion and have a picture of a TV remote in your head. So, you press pause, in other words, step back, take a three minute breathing space. So, start to breathe in through your nose, out through your mouth, in through your nose, out through your mouth.

So, after around three minutes you'll start to feel differently. Now there's no point in going over and over and over why you're angry, why you're upset. It simply increases the intensity of that emotion. So, replace it with a different thought. You can't have two different thoughts at the same time. You can't think about why you're angry or upset and think of a different word. So, I usually suggest using the word calm or stop.  Instead of thinking about why you're angry, just keep saying, "Stop, stop, stop," or "Calm, calm, calm," until you start to feel different.

Now rewind. How did it get to that point?  Ask yourself "Do I need to take responsibility?"

What do I need to do? Fast forward. Ask yourself, "If I did this what would happen?"

"If I did that what would happen?" "If I did this?"

You become more solution focused. You have acknowledged your emotion, you step back from it, and you haven't allowed that emotion to take over.

Realistic Optimism

Part of resilience is being optimistic. I think optimism, personally, is really overrated because most people who I know who are overly optimistic or optimistic, per say, in my experience, they're not addressing any negatives. Pragmatic optimism means that you focus on the positive but you manage the negatives. So, when you start to do that, you're managing the negatives, you increase your resilience and you have a hopeful approach to a situation. So, even within optimism it's really quite pragmatic, it's not fantastical optimism or optimism. For resilience, pragmatic optimism works best because you're able to manage the negatives and focus on the positives.

For example, let's say you're going through a difficult change at work.  There is nothing you can do, for example possible restructuring. There's nothing you could do about the restructuring. Instead of waiting and hoping that everything is going to be okay, which would be optimism, pragmatic optimism would be hoping everything would be okay and focusing on that as well as considering, "What if it's not? What do I need to do?" So, update your CV, get the word out, do whatever it is you need to do. You see, that is pragmatic optimism rather than optimism, per say.

How can you increase your pragmatic optimism? Simply focusing on the positive, whatever the situation is, you focus on the positive. Then, you go to a worst case scenario. What could happen if this happened? Then, come up with the proper solution. That solution needs to be one thing you will do within the next three days toward that solution. Don't leave it past three days. Most people, if they're just optimistic, they then don't do it.  So, three days.

Secondly, the best case scenario. Great, maybe it won't happen, focus on that. However, also look at the worst case scenario and do something about it. There's no point in just thinking about it; you need to actually do something, as well.

So, small things don't consistently make a difference for resilience.  When you start to manage your emotions every day, when you start to take responsibility every day, you start to manage your stress every day.

Incidentally, one thing you can do to manage stress, a small thing, is to take a lunch break. Even if it's only ten minutes. If you do that every day, you start to manage the stress at work. So, these small things make a big difference every day. Become more pragmatically optimistic. Every day makes a difference.

Part 1: Resilience at Work: Stress and Resilience 

Part 2: Resilience at Work: Setting Boundaries

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