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3 May 2023

When confronted with failures, hardship, challenges, and even personal pain, we have two choices.

What is resilience?

Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, resilience has become one of the most important concepts for teams and businesses to focus on. Consequently, it is difficult to find a team or business that doesn’t have the word ‘resilience’ as part of its core value set. This is not surprising considering that Covid-19, and the results thereof, were superimposed on the already destructive effects of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and looming civil unrest, flooding throughout the country, the war in the Ukraine and the local energy crisis, creating a new set of socio-economic conditions the likes of which we have never seen.
It is as if the country we live in and share has become scorched, not by drought or through the compounded effects of decades of global warming, but by negative human emotions of fear, uncertainty and panic.

Our historic understanding of resilience has been largely centred around grit, greater resolve, more persistence, the ability to ‘pivot’ and unwavering determination in every and all endeavours, regardless of personal cost. While these are powerful psychosocial traits and are key contributors to performance and success on both a business or personal level, they are limited within the context of the promotion of long-term resilience and therefore sustained success. This is because a new set of socio-economic conditions emerged seemingly overnight and it continues to rapidly and exponentially evolve, morph and recalibrate. Fixed behaviours, no matter how powerful, cannot protect us against the changes that we as a nation are experiencing and are likely to go through in the future. Instead, we should see resilience in a more fluid context, one where we need to be able to rapidly and successfully adapt to challenge, adversity, change and stress on an emotional, mental and material or physical level.


When confronted with failures, hardship, challenges, and even personal pain, we have two choices. The first is that we live and experience the situation as an object that has little power or authority over the events that are unfolding. For example, the Covid-19 pandemic brought with it significant financial challenges, loneliness and social isolation, loss, personal grief and an immense degree of uncertainty about the future in all areas of our lives. This means that it can feel like we are being acted upon by uncontrollable forces far greater than ourselves, and the associated helplessness manifests in strong negative emotions that include anger, bitterness, resentment, limitation and blame. Any goals or aspirations we may have had, both on a personal or professional level, are often replaced with the desire to simply survive the event itself.
The second option is to choose an alternative mindset that takes the focus away from ‘Why did this happen?’ ‘Why me?’ ‘Why us?’ and ‘Why now?’ to a more resilient dialogue of ‘What shall I/we do?’ As soon as we look ahead to the future, we choose to become a subject (as opposed to an object), giving us more authority over our life path and ultimately our future destination.

However, making the decision to think and act in a future-orientated manner isn’t easy; it is anything but! This can sometimes explain why many businesses and their people remain locked in a place of blame, anger and bitterness – a reality that at best culminates in stagnation and at worst, disappointment in its many forms.
The choice to actively contribute to our future reality demands that we face our challenges directly, as opposed to withdrawing, the courage to change, the bravery to repeatedly fail, the strength to get up time and time again after being knocked down and the self-control to stay on the journey no matter how challenging the circumstances may be. Logic dictates that this is the only option. Yet human nature is hardwired to take the path of least resistance, making it
easier to attribute shortcomings to external factors (past or present) rather than
to be the change we desire.

As difficult as the choice may appear, the reality is that the world has undergone, and is still undergoing, profound changes on political, social and economic fronts and will continue to do so in the foreseeable future. If we wish to realise our dreams and aspirations amid these exponential changes, we simply have to look forward and train ourselves to continue doing so.

To be resilient means the ability to adapt quicker, to consider different perspectives and to apply focused effort in any given challenge. At the same time while resilience allows for the greatest expression of success in any endeavour, the road is laden with effort, self-awareness and tremendous self-control.

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