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Resilience is just a buzzword

Resilience is not pushing through challenges or living in survival mode – so what is it?


‘Resilience’ is a buzzword. Employees want to have it, employers want their teams to have it, and leaders are desperate to infuse it into their cultures.

But our definition of resilience has become skewed. Too often, it relies on a societal pressure to keep pushing forward, keep going even when exhaustion sets in, and get back up instantly whenever you get knocked down.

Does that sound healthy? Does it sound enjoyable even? Not to us. Contrary to what society wants you to think, resilience is not a relentless pursuit of pushing through challenge after challenge, without hitting burnout.

There are many mis-definitions of resilience out there, so we thought it was time to do some myth-busting.

Resilience is not: living in survival mode

‘Survival mode’ describes the state your brain goes into when it perceives threat, or stress. It is our brain’s way of keeping us alive but it can make everything else more difficult, including thinking. It can be hard to know when you are living in ‘survival mode’, but here are some of the signs: lack of focus, worsened memory, fatigue, extreme emotional reactions or forgetting to care for your basic needs. One thing is for sure: survival mode does not equate to good wellbeing, nor is it a good substitute for resilience.

Resilience is not: suppressing emotions

This is an important one. So many people see resilience as the ability to ignore emotional reactions and keep a straight face, even in times of severe overwhelm. This is not the case. Resilience does not mean fighting against hard emotions, in fact it is the direct opposite. True resilience is the ability to safely welcome, and move through, hard emotions. At Ivy House we say that emotion is simply energy (e), in motion: e-motion. In order for us to healthily process emotions, letting them move through us, without clutching onto them, is key. The alternative (suppressing emotion), will lead to a build-up of unprocessed feeling, that will negatively impact your body and your mind over time.

Resilience is not: speed

Many think of resilience as immediacy of response — knowing the plan and being able to act on it quickly in difficult circumstances. However, when working in an ecosystem where change is regular and external factors can be unexpected, adaptability and persistence become more important factors. Being able to creatively and strategically come up with solutions that actually make sense in the circumstance can be far more beneficial in the long term.

Resilience is not: hyper-independence

Resilience is often misconstrued as hyper-independence — the notion that one must navigate challenges alone, without seeking support or collaboration. This misconception stems from a cultural glorification of the ‘self-made’ individual. Sadly, in many cultures, we see the common rhetoric of ‘don’t trust anyone’, or ‘if you want something done right, do it yourself’. However, truly resilient people acknowledge the strength in reaching out, building connections, and fostering a supportive community. Embracing interdependence (depending on others as well as yourself) also allows individuals to draw upon a diverse range of perspectives and resources, creating a more robust foundation for overcoming obstacles.

Resilience is not: perfectionism

Another misperception is that to be resilient, you mustn’t show any cracks. The belief that one must flawlessly handle every situation and display unwavering strength can lead to immense pressure and anxiety. In reality, resilience embraces imperfection. It recognises that setbacks and failures are part of the human experience and views them as opportunities for growth. Accepting imperfections fosters a healthier mindset, enabling individuals to bounce back stronger from challenges.

Resilience is not: neglecting wellbeing

For some, resilience suggests sacrifice and they may mistakenly equate it with sacrificing personal wellbeing. However, neglecting your wellbeing massively reduces your capacity to face and overcome adversity. Resilience is about integrating wellbeing into the fabric of your life. A truly resilient individual recognises the importance of maintaining physical, mental, and emotional health. Prioritising activities that keep you in a well state, whether it’s exercise, mindfulness, or rest, is the only way to make sure that your resilience is sustainable.

Resilience as a product of wellbeing

In the pursuit of resilience, it is important to dispel the myths surrounding it. Resilience is not a solitary, perfection-driven state of mind. It is not about living in survival mode or acting with intense speed. And it certainly does not come from neglecting wellbeing; rather, it is a product of nurturing wellbeing.

By redefining resilience, individuals and organisations can begin to foster a culture that encourages people to truly thrive, in a way that keeps them well, and allows them to perform at their best.

On an individual level, this means being able to tune back into oneself amid the inevitable chaos of life, work and change. It means being reflective and honest about the way you are living; something that isn’t easy to do, but is essential for growth.

Resilience in organisations

At Ivy House, everything we do stems from our belief that we can all lead extraordinary lives, if we know how. Learning how to be truly resilient, in a healthy and joyful way, allows this to happen. But it is also a skill that takes serious self-awareness and the ability to make personal changes. When individuals are able to do that, the impact that is has on an organisation is immeasurable. Individuals turn up to work in a whole new way, positively impacting their teams, and inspiring younger talent to do the same – creating a ripple effect of positive habits and a healthy workforce.

People are your organisation’s biggest resource. Empowering individuals and teams to work in the best way possible is the biggest investment an organisation can make towards reaching their business goals.

If you want to learn more about how you can instil resilience into your organisation or team – in a way that will have a genuine impact – then come along to our event on January 25th. Register for your place today.

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