“Gee, you need to be resiliant to work for a not-for-profit!”


So said an acquaintance who, having been on a roller-coaster ride for many years in a cause-based organisation, was finally retrenched as the organisation continued to struggle with marketplace and funding changes.

Knowing his case is not isolated and that workplace stresses and uncertainty is not confined to the not-for-profit sector, I decided to do some reading about resilience.

OK, what is resilience?  The textbooks tell us it is the ability to adapt and thrive in the face of multiple, ongoing changes and adversity. More literally it means “bouncing back” from difficult experiences.

Much has been written about resilience, but one of the more helpful publications I have come across is from the American Psychological Association. Following 10/11 the APA explored resiliency and published their findings on how people adapt in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or even significant sources of stress. It concluded there are 10 ways to build resilience:

Make connections. Good relationships are important. Accepting or giving help and support strengthens our capacity for resilience. For some, participating in groups provides social support and helps reclaim the experience of hope.

Avoid seeing crises as insurmountable problems. Highly stressful events happen – we can’t change this. However, we can change how we interpret and respond to these events. Practice looking beyond the present to how future circumstances may be better.

Accept change as part of living. Certain goals may now be dead and gone due to adverse situations. Accepting that some circumstances cannot be changed allows us to focus on circumstances that can be altered.

Move toward your goals. Establish realistic reachable goals. Daily, schedule the accomplishment of at least one thing that moves your goals closer their fulfilment. This works to sustain momentum, thus, enabling you to eventually attaining your goals.

Take decisive actions. Act on adverse situations as much as you can, rather than detaching and wishing problems would go away, take action.

Look for opportunities of self-discovery. Many people who have lived through tragedies and hardship have reported experiencing better relationships, a greater sense of strength and self-worth even while feeling vulnerable, a more developed spirituality, and heightened appreciation for life. Life teaches us things, if we are willing to learn.

Nurture a positive view of yourself. Give yourself a vote of confidence for your problem-solving ability and learn to trust your instincts. We humans can be amazing when we allow ourselves to BE ourselves.

Keep things in perspective. When facing very traumatic events, try to consider these stressful situations in a broader context, envisioning a longer-term perspective. Resist blowing the circumstances and their outcomes out of proportion. Avoid being upset.

Maintain a hopeful outlook. A glass half-full outlook on life enables you to generate enjoyable and satisfactory situations occurring around you. Try visualising what you want and how you will be not worrying about what you fear.

Take care of yourself. Pay attention to your own needs and feelings. Engage in enjoyable relaxing activities that regenerate and rejuvenate you. By taking care of your mind and body, you are more able to deal with situations requiring resilience.
Additional ways of strengthening resilience. For many, engaging in spiritual practices, meditating, or journaling our thoughts and feelings can strengthen our mind-body connections, thus restoring our sense of hope and possibility. We can de-stress from our stressful moments.

Most importantly….research has shown that resilience is ordinary, not extraordinary. It is not a trait that people either have or don’t have. It involves behaviours, thoughts and actions that can be learned and developed in anyone.

If you need help on building resilience we strongly recommend you seek professional assistance.

Author: Chris Gandy, Director, Cause and Effective providers of Coaching, Consulting, Facilitation and Interim Management services to cause-based organisations.

Reference: American Psychological Association, The Road to Resilience.

About B-Cause

B-Cause is published by Cause and Effective. We help good causes find and attract effective leaders.

Thats our take on things. Over to you, please add to the discussion.

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