Why do some people recover from setbacks faster than others? We discover the key ingredients to making a comeback in tough times. Whilst most twenty somethings dream of surviving entire pay cycles with more than $50 left in their hot little hands, Alison Price had financial goals of a different kind. In 2008 aged just 24, the ambitious Gen Y gal quit a high-paying corporate job to start her own food retailing empire – having raised more than $200,000 worth of funds from private investors.
A year later her ready-meals business was short listed for a National Retail Association Award. Her story would’ve read like any self made millionaire’s were it not for one small twist of fate – the Global Financial Crisis (GFC). “I realised I was digging a deeper and deeper hole, and we weren’t able to get the sales up quickly enough (for the business to stay afloat)” she recalls. Additional finds were needed to turn things around but investors had little cash to spare.
In the end Alison decided to fold the business while she could still pay her suppliers. “It was a difficult decision for me to make, as I’ve never ’failed’ at anything before,” she says. Though heartbroken at the time, she worked hard to pay off the $180,000 personally guaranteed debt shortly after the company collapsed, and now looks back at the short lived venture as one of the “best learning experiences” of her life.
The R Word So what made Alison keep it all together where others may have fallen apart? The answer lies in an important – but often underrated ingredient shared by many successful people – resilience. Psychology experts Dr John Nicholson and Jan Clarke have discovered that, like IQ and EQ (emotional intelligence), our ability to cope with stress and setbacks can be measured by an RQ – resilience quotient. In researching their book, Resilience: Bounce Back from Whatever Life Throws At You, Nicholson and Clarke uncovered five key factors that are central to resilience; optimism; freedom from stress and anxiety; the willingness to take personal responsibility; openness and adaptability; and a positive and active approach to problem solving.
In times of crisis it’s often hard not to brush off the people who tell us to “look on the bright side”. Ironically what comes across as impractical advice is actually the most helpful thing you can do to get through any catastrophe.
Meiron Lees, (InnerCents.com.au) executive coach and author of D-Stress Building Resilience in Challenging Times, agrees with Nicholson and Clarke’s findings, and believes the key to boosting our resilience in by simply “learning to view challenges in a positive way”. “We have around 60,000 thoughts every day – and the majority are negative. But we can reduce those numbers by dealing with them and looking at the issues constructively. Part of being resilient is choosing which thoughts to dwell upon and which to try to let go. Pessimism depletes energy, taking away from precious problem-solving time.”
Changing the Way you see Setbacks
While some people may be gifted with better copying mechanisms than others, the good news is we can all improve out resilience. Lyndal Hughes, director of performance consulting company Stiller Hughes Group, believes that like most things, the art of bouncing back requires finetuning in everyday life.
When you feel stuck, try changing the way you view a problem (psychologists call this “reframing” a situation). Is the issue only temporary? Do you blame yourself, even though there are factors outside your control?
When positive self talk alone falls short, Hughes suggests keeping a thought journal to identify the feelings around any negative thinking and challenging those thoughts.
“There’s not a lot you can do to bulletproof yourself for the major things that come along, but if you put good resilience techniques in place to deal with everyday situations, then when the big challenges or disappointments come, you will be able to deal with them better.
How Resilient Are You?
Read the behaviour descriptions below and rate how accurately each one describes you:
3 being Very Well
2 being Moderately Well
1 being A Little
0 being Not At All
- I can bounce back after feeling disappointed
- I can accomplish what I need to if I put my mind to it
- Obstacles in my life have resulted in unexpected changes for the better
- I find it easy to wait patiently when I need to
- There is always more than one right answer
- I know how to satisfy all parts of myself
- I am not one to procrastinate
- I am not afraid to try something again when I have failed at it before
- I know certain problems aren’t worth worrying about
- I relax myself when tension builds up
- I can see the humorous side of situations
- I often put things aside for a while to get a perspective on them
- When I face a problem I focus on the solution
- When something is not working I try to come up with an alternative plan
35-42 Optimal – You have a high level of resilience and are able to show strength, even under pressure
30-34 Balance – You mostly display stead balanced resilience
25-29 Strain – You show some resilient skills, but often run into difficulty bringing these skills into your day to day life. Your overall resilience performance is unsteady and may fluctuate from situation to situation.
0-24 Caution – Your resilience is compromised or needs work, and may prove difficult to use without concentrated attention.