"...significant, lasting change begins inside individuals and emanates outward, not the other way around. Systems change when groups of people together tap their resilience and change from the insideout." - Kathy Marshall, National Resilience Resource Center, University of Minnesota
In the days since March 11, 2011, the world has witnessed the Japanese people struggle with unimaginable devastation caused by circumstances beyond mankind’s ability to foresee or control. The after effects of the earthquake and tsunami that devastated so much of that country and which continue to compound, have far reaching consequences and offer lessons in resilience that are worth studying.
What new technologies will be born out of necessity? What new relationships will flourish in the aftermath and reconstruction? What leaders will rise and fall based on their ability to adapt and to accept the circumstances of the day, while focusing on solutions for tomorrow? These are the kinds of questions we will look back and reflect upon as the people of Japan demonstrate for us lessons in resilience.
The First Step
The first step to being resilient comes when we . . . Accept What Is.
What is, is. What isn’t, isn’t.
Resilience starts by accepting the reality of a given situation. Through acceptance we are freed to move beyond adversity and focus on building a future. Resilient people, countries, companies and teams do not allow their circumstances to define who or what they are. They accept the circumstance of the moment as it is then move forward from there to focus on building the future.
We All Need Resilience
In order to get our teams and organizations to function at their peak, and to address the issues we’re facing right now, it’s up to all of us to take a look at our own ability to bounce back from adversity, to overcome and work through challenges, and to use those times to learn, grow, and break through to better ways of being.
We’ve All Got It in Us
Our mythology says that some people have the ability to thrive under stress, and others don’t, that we’re either born tough or weak, and our circumstances dictate how we turn out. I am a firm believer that this is not the case. We all have it in us to be resilient, we just have to activate it effectively.
My lifelong obsession with resilience started as an abused kid reading stories of how some people escaped their circumstances and became successful in their lives, and how others succumbed to drugs, depression, and death. What I’ve found time and time again is that the greatest differences in individual resilience come from not from what happens to us, but how we react to what happens to us. It’s true that some people are born with a set of attributes that moves them forward despite setbacks, but it’s also true that we can develop resilience through life experience, a shift in attitude and through conscious practice.
To accept what is and allow the measure of our being to be determined not by circumstance but by how we handle ourselves in the moment. Accept what is and focus on the future.
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Karlin Sloan is the founder and CEO of Karlin Sloan & Company, Ms. Sloan provides organization development consulting, training and executive coaching to clients the U.S., Europe, South America and Asia. She is the author of Smarter, Faster, Better; Strategies for Effective, Enduring, and Fulfilled Leadership (Jossey-Bass, 2006) and Unfear (January 2011).
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