We’ve all heard people described as resilient, tenacious, undeterred, unwavering. But I expect I’m not alone in questioning what those attributes really mean. Are people born with resilience or does a challenge force them to respond this way? When faced with a crisis, does everyone have what it takes to roll with the punches?
Right now, as we deal with unprecedented uncertainty—plus isolation and disruption—due to COVID-19, questions about what resilience is and who has it, seem more relevant than ever. Each day, as I look out my window at the changed world around me and wonder if we will ever resume some sort of normality, I know I have to draw on my reserves to persevere both mentally and physically. But do I have enough? Do the people around me?
Coincidentally, this past week I started reading a Harvard Business Review article, “How Resilience Works” by Diane Coutu. The author draws some intriguing conclusions about what constitutes resilience. The good news: There definitely are those who are born to be resilient through tough times, but if you are not lucky enough to be one of them, you can learn it. That’s a huge relief at the moment. It’s reassuring to know that, even without the innate ability to be resilient, anyone can figure out how to rise to the occasion. It’s a matter of understanding the basics of how resilience works and applying them.
Even better news: It’s likely those who purposely pursue resilience can respond with even greater strength than those who came by it naturally. Being hyperaware helps them react more deliberately. Resilience becomes intentional, actionable, and a conscious act versus an act of the subconscious.
So, how does resilience work? According to the HBR article, resilience is a three-step process:
- Accept reality. No rose-colored glasses here!
- Create meaning. Give yourself and those around you purpose.
- Be inventive. Evaluate your resources and put them to work even if it is in a new or unfamiliar way.
The first step may be the toughest right now—not thinking with your heart. The world is going through an ordeal the likes of which it has never seen before. We do not know how long this will last, which makes us extremely anxious. But this is the reality. Once we accept it, everything becomes a bit simpler and less complicated. No wishful thinking. Just clarity. Acceptance creates a new foundation upon which the next two steps can be built.
With a simplified view of reality, there are no distractions when it comes to creating your purpose. This is the time to think with your heart and figure out the role you want to play as the current reality unfolds.
We have seen many people doing just that—personally and professionally—during the COVID19 crisis. You would recognize them as the ones who have created charities to fund unemployed workers within their industries, provided resources for those who are unable to secure some of the basic daily necessities, lifted our spirits with humor and levity, and more. Your meaning or purpose might not be readily apparent, but after some reflection you should be able to realize what it is.
The third step is really the culmination of steps one and two, using both the mind and the heart to build upon the foundation and purpose you’ve created. It requires gathering resources, getting creative, and opening up to new possibilities. We’ve seen what this kind of resilience looks like right in our own backyard.
When forced to close the doors at 28 Mile Distilling Company in Highwood due to the state-wide bar and restaurant shutdown, owners Eric Falberg and Mark Greif quickly pivoted the business to manufacture hand sanitizer and provide it free of charge to first responders. And Mark Finch, owner of one of Street Level Studio’s longtime print service providers, Chicago-based Sunrise Hitek, has converted the company’s equipment to produce clear face shields—critical PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) for healthcare workers. Hundreds of other companies, locally and globally, are doing the same—reinventing their organizations and pushing the boundaries to meet the challenge.
So, if ever throughout your day you pause and wonder if you can make it through the COVID-19 crisis, just remember you can be resilient, too. Accept reality, find your purpose, and be creative. Because it’s what we do.
Lexie Markarian is Street Level Studio’s Director of New Business Development