Taryn Stejskal, ‘01, is the founder of Resilience Leadership, an executive coaching company teaching leadership development skills based on her research into resiliency. Stejskal, who holds a doctorate, previously served as head of executive leadership development at Nike and global head of leadership development at Cigna. Now an expert in what behaviors support and sustain this area of leadership, Stejskal is often highlighted in the media. She recently shared tips with Michigan Alumnus on how one can develop resiliency and use it as an advantage during the pandemic.
Understand that mindset is critical.
Challenge is an inevitable part of life, and the current global health landscape has presented us with a time of challenge, change, and complexity. We are all affected by COVID-19. Many are facing personal and professional hurdles due to the quarantine and economic changes. Be aware that practicing certain behaviors can create more resilient outcomes. Resilience is now, more than ever, a critical skill as our lives are affected not just by what happens to us but how we choose to respond to those events.
Know the common myths of resiliency.
The first and most commonly held myth is that we “bounce back” after a challenge. The truth is we will never go back. In small and large ways, we all will be changed by this experience. In response to our external experience, neuroplasticity allows our brains to rewire. Resilience provides the ability for us to “bounce forward” and change in positive ways.
The second myth is that resilience is passive. Again, commonly used language supports this notion, like the phrase “time heals all wounds.” If we ignore, deny, or numb ourselves, it doesn’t allow us to effectively address the challenge. To cultivate resilience, we have to actively engage with the challenge at hand.
The third myth is that resilience is static. On the contrary, resilience is dynamic. It’s like building a muscle. We can train ourselves to think in a more resilient way and therefore exhibit behavior that is more resilient.
Employ the Five Practices of Particularly Resilient People.
Based on my research, I created the Five Practices of Particularly Resilient People. It provides a road map to enhance resilience in challenging situations like the one we currently face.
The first is “vulnerability,” allowing one’s inner self to match the outer self so you are not navigating two personas. It means living congruently with your internal experience so people know what support, resources, information, and knowledge you need.
The second is “productive perseverance,” which is the intelligent pursuit of a goal. Staying the course works well when the landscape doesn’t change, but in times such as these it’s worth taking stock and possibly reassessing both outcomes and processes.
Third is “connection” to oneself and to friends, family, colleagues, and neighbors. Connection even with just one person can be an incredible lifeline always, but particularly during this time.
Fourth is “grati-osity,” a combination of gratitude and generosity, finding the good in a challenging experience and generously sharing the lessons we learn with others.
Finally, there is “possibility.” The Chinese character for the word “crisis” is a compilation of the characters of “danger” and “opportunity.” Possibility is the capability to see both the danger and the opportunity in a challenging circumstance.
Find purpose and positivity in the pause.
It’s important to note that having a positive attitude doesn’t mean we are happy all the time, but it does mean we believe that good things can, and will, happen. When dealing with the ambiguity of this quarantine, it is important to remember to balance optimism with realism. We can respond from a place of positivity and possibility without being overly optimistic. This unprecedented time of change is an opportunity to look at all aspects of life, personally and professionally, and reorient, rejuvenate, and pivot if need be.
Monica Fedrigo, ’01, is a writer (mountainmonica.com) and ski coach living in Denver.