Ever felt beaten down inside and out? Yeah, that’s what I thought. We all have. So what’s with the whining? No, no whining here. But we will think more deeply about why, after a tussle, it’s important to get back up and try again.
Word for the day: resilience. According to Wikipedia, resilience is “an individual’s tendency to cope with stress and adversity.” In a blog post a month ago, Jenica Rogers asked why building resilience is important. I had long though it was significant to living a satisfying and purposeful life, though I couldn’t exactly and succinctly articulate why I held this opinion. Certainly, I thought this because it was a perspective I so wanted to instill in my daughters. I had often told them, loosely quoting Mary Pickford, “it’s not the falling down, but the staying down that matters more.” In dealing with the adversities and tragedies one will surely encounter in life, resilience is indeed a virtue.
But what about in the workplace? I don’t need to do scholarly research to know that resilience matters. Since I already accept that organizations, institutions, and workplaces are made up of individual people, I can therefore accept that individual psychological resilience can only benefit organizations. Exactly how that is, is a different matter. That’s that part I need to look up. How does resilience figure into an individual’s worklife and an organization’s makeup? What implications does psychological resilience hold for organizational management and leadership? What does scholarly research and scientific studies tell us about individual human psychological resilience and group dynamics in a work setting?
I’m still rooting through these questions during my (very limited) spare time. Many have written of resilience in various professions. Foremost in my mind is Karen Munro’s 2011 post at In the Library With the Lead Pipe. I’m a librarian, so the ideas in the post took root and will be budding at any moment. In it, Munro provides us with a basic tenet of resilience theory: change is going to happen no matter what. It is inevitable (so deal with it). But we know that change can be difficult, down-right uncomfortable, and a reason for freak-outs here and there.
Back to individual psychological resilience. There’s nothing like getting an abysmal performance review or report card to make you feel stressed, under fire, and, well, adversely affected. It’s a big signal that says “something has to change!” After getting such a report, Sir John Gurdon switched his scholastic pursuits. I know I’d lose my taste for what I had considered my passion. In fact, I know I have. We can only speculate on what sort of intellectual contributions he would have made had he stayed on the path of studying classics after receiving such devastating feedback. However, we do know that human knowledge of medicine and physiology is all the better because of Sir John Gurdon’s return to science.
What lesson do we take away from this story? There are lots. But for me, at this moment, I’m settling on the importance of making one’s ability to work, develop, and exceed be a matter of perseverance (what others call grit). This takes courage, heart, and, yes, resilience. Getting back up after being knocked down is important because the alternative is to accept something that may not be as valuable, wanted, or needed. Giving up is safer, so much easier, more restful, and inviting.