“A good half of the art of living is resilience.”
― Alain de Botton
It’s tempting to think that resilience is a fixed personality trait, maybe even something that we are born with. But be reassured, the ability to bounce back from failure and to cope with everyday difficulties is something that can be learned and developed by anyone.
Here are five top tips that can help you build your resilience.
The activity ran smoothly and the participants raced back to their chairs to make notes. ‘What were those questions we just asked?’, they demanded. ‘What do you remember them to be?’, I parried - still in facilitator mode.
It so happened that my questions were all flavoured with a solutions focus. That’s because SF is the way that I think, even though in terms of the format we were learning the wording of the questions was irrelevant...
Something I learned while facilitating a three-day event for a 30-member team from various continents was that the impacts of a change programme can be slow to manifest. In itself that’s not an issue - unless your objectives include instant results.
Still, there’s plenty you can do in the meantime to ensure that the results turn out favourably. You can do a great deal to re-assure yourself, your clients, your funders, that you are on the right tracks. It’s called 'positioning for impact'.
Pointing out people’s mistakes is supposed to be conducive to learning, and is a mainstay of traditional education systems.
Instead, we can treat the errors lightly or gently; as an opportunity to have another go, to find a more accurate way of getting the problem solved, the phrase translated, or the facts right.
The danger of these myths is that they encourage mistakes in the wrong contexts. And they blind us to the infinitely greater learning from getting things right. So let's learn to learn from success and getting things right.
1. Keep things in proportion, appropriate to the stakes. If the mistakes don’t much matter, then don’t give them excessive psychological weight. It’s a good idea to reduce needless perfectionism.
2. In a learning environment, treat mistakes lightly as a signal to have another go at succeeding or progressing. It's why we invest in simulators.
3. If you make mistakes in your organisation, it's worth saying sorry, as that builds trust and reduces excessive fear of making mistakes. It's most unfortunate, for example, that politicians cannot admit to making mistakes.
4. Value feedback - your own and other's useful stories. That sets you up to make use of feedback for fast adaptation. It’s a great improvisational and learning skill to notice how we are doing in relation to what we are aiming to do. Correct your course by spotting and quickly dealing with errors.
5. Learn from other people's mistakes - generally a list of tempting moves to avoid saves time and pain, and gets you more quickly to the ‘Success Stack’, so you can learn from what your mentor ultimately got right.
Mistakes are events you would rather have not happened (at least at the time), because the intention was to do something different, and the immediate consequence is most often unfavourable.
I like this story of a crisis handled by Hans Zeinhofer, who I met at a conference where delegates were discussing the application of solutions-focused ideas in organisations.
People keep telling me that we learn most from our mistakes. I think it’s a cliché and misleadingly wrong. The only good stuff I've seen from mistakes is an appreciation not to make that same mistake again, and sometimes a sense of personal resilience - though that occurs only if the mistake is followed by a subsequent success. All the rest of the 'good stuff' - if we mean learning and creativity - comes from success, from finding out what the thing to do actually is (as distinct from what it is not, the mistake).
‘How do systems learn?’ was the topic at a recent London gathering of the International Bateson Institute. Nora Bateson led us in an exploration of the ideas of her father, Gregory Bateson, about learning to learn.
It’s tempting to see learning as the acquisition of knowledge. So it would be possible to accumulate a pile of learning – for example, a stack of books is a pile of learning; the facts you can recall to answer questions during a quiz are components of learning seen in this way.
How do we learn? What’s happening when we learn from experience? And what does the comedian Emo Phillips have to say about it?
One of my favourite comedians, Emo Phillips, tells his audiences that he learned about women the hard way - from books.
In a recent conference session about learning, we split into small groups of three and were asked to each share a story of a time we had recently learned something, preferably as a consultant and preferably from a project with a client.
After we told our stories, which definitely came from direct experience, not from books, we then discussed what constituted the learning. Were there elements in common that might suggest a definition?