The Skill of Resilience: When Life Doesn’t Go as Planned

I remember the day so clearly—a beautiful Saturday in June. The summer morning started off quite unremarkably simply because it was completely ordinary. Little did I know by the evening my entire life would never look the same. I’ve been asked many times over the past two years what I learned from the experience of a house fire. The lessons are so profound and life altering. Quite honestly, as another year passes, I’m reminded that I’m still learning.

Life AFTER the fire taught me lessons that cross the professional, emotional, spiritual, financial, and even the physical. The most important lesson was this: I can learn something from everything. Life is a series of “how-to’s” moving forward, despite seemingly insurmountable obstacles: facing the ugliness of the aftermath; being kind and patient with others, recognizing you have no idea what they are dealing with; the unexpected and overwhelming kindness of others; confronting your worst fears; dealing with guilt; grieving lost “things” and a way of life; and marveling in the beauty of what is now—a new reality filled with possibilities; recognizing that life is truly a gift; how temporary everything really is; being thankful; being present; expressing gratitude; having a plan; and making sure your business is always handled.

I learned to apply these lessons to my professional life. As leaders, we’re often faced and dealing with, the aftermath of what happens when things don’t go as planned. It’s never a matter of if, but more about when, because inevitably, setbacks, failures, missteps, and crises happen. Leaders know that you can’t always control what happens, only how you respond. What actions you take? How will you build a solution and keep your team focused on their mission when everything is crumbling or looks quite bleak. You learn how to step up and step in. You realize that you must create a safe space where each person feels he or she can be vulnerable. You’re responsible for creating a vision for the future that your teams will buy into because they know they can trust you.

My day on the fateful Saturday in June didn’t end at all as I imagined. And I wouldn’t change a thing. I emerged stronger and with clarity of purpose. I learned what resilience is.

7 Skills of Resilience (by Katherine King, PsyD):

  1. Cultivate a belief in your ability to cope
  2. Stay connected with sources of support
  3. Talk about what you’re going through
  4. Be helpful to others
  5. Activate positive emotion
  6. Cultivate an attitude of survivorship
  7. Seek meaning