leadership, Reflections & Questions, tips

5 Ways You Can Foster a Resilient Mindset

Photo by Ibadah Mimpi from Pexels

In my previous post, I shared why I think it’s important for leaders to cultivate resilience in the midst of these unprecedented times, and I started by focusing on the foundation for resilience: caring for our physical selves.

The next layer – and if I’m being honest, the one where I see a lot of us tanking! – is around cultivating a resilient mindset. Rather than go deep on the psychology of mindsets (you can learn more about that here if you’d like), I’m instead going to focus on what I think is easier for us to manage on a daily basis: nurturing healthy thought habits.

Five Things You Can Do (Right Now!) to Cultivate Resilience:

1. Manage your news consumption. Yes, you want to be informed. Just recognize that there is a difference between staying informed and obsessing over every detail. How frequently are you checking the news or social media feeds? If you’re constantly filling your head with details about an emerging crisis, it’s only natural that your brain will become singularly focused. Consider setting some limits on your news/social media consumption. Trust me: if something truly urgent emerges that we need to take action on, our cell phones will let us know.

2. Reduce the drama. Yes, we’re living in wild times. And we all want to talk about it. It’s good to check on each other and honestly hear how people are dealing with all of this – in fact, as leaders, I think it’s important to give our teams a chance to express how they’re feeling rather than press on like it’s business as usual (when it clearly is NOT). But there is usually a point at which the conversation shifts from a caring check-in to some form of mutual fire-fanning. Like watching a horror film, this kind of talk has a certain thrill to it – but it’s not productive. Pay attention to when your conversations cross that line, and have a redirection strategy for getting them back on the rails. My go to:

  • Acknowledge what the person is feeling and ask if there’s anything you can do to help provide them with support or relief. Often this alone is enough to move the conversation to a place of productive action. 
  • If I notice that we’re descending back into the drama, I’ll use a more overt segue: “I could spend all afternoon talking about the craziness of what we’re living through, but I’m trying to dial down how much space I let this take up in my brain…” then change the topic.

3. Maintain perspective. Yes, things are noticeably weird. And yet, if you look around, you’ll find a lot that is still relatively normal. You might not be able to go to a restaurant, but you still have fresh veggies in your fridge to make dinner with. You might not be able to go to a Lizzo concert, but music is still playing on the radio. You might not be able to go to the gym, but you can still get out and take a walk. Instead of focusing on all that we are losing in this, focus on what is still normal in your life.

4. Practice gratitude. It can really help balance the scales if each day you write a list of what you’re grateful for. Include the biggies (health, family, shelter, income!), but also look for the small nugget that is unique to each day. And when people show up on your gratitude list – TELL THEM! Especially now, when we’re practicing “social distancing,” we still each have the ability to bring sunshine into each others’ days by sharing our gratitude.

5. Focus on what you can impact. Yes, there’s currently a lot that’s out of our control. But there’s still so much we can impact, even in the midst of this. In fact, one of the inspiring things about this has been watching individuals and organizations find ways they can bring their unique skills or talents to help others. Like this guy, an artist and illustrator who is live-streaming free art classes for kids stuck at home every day at 2pm ET. Or DC’s Medium Rare steakhouse, which is using its kitchens (and a network of volunteer drivers) to deliver meals to senior citizens who can’t leave home. Take a minute to brainstorm: What can you, your family, your team or your organization do to contribute positively to this situation? What do you still have the ability to impact? Focus on that.

How do these five simple tactics help foster resiliency? Consider the actual definition of resilient: to be able to recoil or spring back into shape after bending, stretching, or being compressed. Everything that is going on around us right now is forcing us to bend, stretch or compress. If we want to “spring back” we need to building mental muscles (aka thought habits) that keep those pathways open to us. Otherwise, we may remain compressed – which rhymes with depressed.

SUGGESTION: Assess how you’re doing with each of these right now.  Which ones are you already regularly practicing? Where’s your greatest opportunity? Make a plan: what is ONE thing you are committed to practicing every day? When and how will you do it? How will you keep yourself honest? 

Stay well. Do good. Be kind. 


1 thought on “5 Ways You Can Foster a Resilient Mindset”

  1. I think I’m about a 3 (out of 5) on all of these except the last one -where I’m a solid 1. Feels so difficult just to make a day “normal” that figuring out enough balance to know what/how to have an impact is a real struggle. Thanks for another thought-provoking post!

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