Learning to Develop a Resilient Outlook
We’ve all had those days where it seems like absolutely nothing is going right. During these moments of misfortune it is so easy to think “Why me? I am so unlucky!” But the truth is, thinking this way can actually increase the likelihood that your “bad luck” will continue or worsen.
According to a Wall Street Journal article, “A belief that you are unlucky has been linked to deficits in decision-making skills, self-control and shifting from one task to another, according to a 2013 study led by John Maltby, a senior lecturer in psychology at the University of Leicester in England.”
According to the article, “Participants who believed they were unlucky saw themselves as lacking in executive-function skills. They performed poorly on timed task-switching tests, which required them to classify letters, digits or symbols in a random stream of characters, as well as on a test of their ability to control impulsive responses and a gambling task that tested their ability to learn from mistakes and make wise decisions. It wasn’t clear which condition–feeling unlucky or lacking mental skills–caused the other, but researchers wrote the relationship might go both ways.”
Emotions Are Contagious
Last summer I was diagnosed with c. diff, a superbug caused by taking antibiotics that were unnecessarily prescribed to me. The severity of this illness is certainly the worst I have ever had, and every time I had to go back into the doctor for relapsing, the look on the doctors’ faces as they became uncertain how to help me was absolutely terrifying. The nurses and other staff would make comments like “this is very bad, this is very hard to treat”, “I will pray for you”, and “this round of treatment needs to work or else…” I thought to myself, “or else what?” “Am I going to die!?”
Of course, as humans it’s natural to resort to the most extreme outcome. This is called catastrophizing. But after relapsing four times, my “negativity bias” was taking hold of my thoughts. I was finally allowed to see a gastrointestinal specialist. The GI specialist looked at me and said “you are young, you are incredibly healthy, and there is no reason why you cannot beat this without having surgery –let’s not resort to that. Keep taking your probiotics and I will see you in a couple of weeks if I need to.”
That was the last time I went to the doctor for c. diff.
Our Thoughts Are Incredibly Powerful
So maybe the uncertainty the doctors were exhibiting was actually causing me more stress and making me sicker… or maybe the optimism of the GI specialist allowed me to be more resilient in my mindset, allowing me to heal. It is absolutely incredible what the mind is capable of.
Sometimes it is hard to achieve a resilient outlook on our own. We need proper training, a set of tools and to be surrounded by people who are also optimistic and resilient. The same is true at work. When things go wrong in the workplace, it is especially easy to become negative in our mindset. We might think “why does my manager always pick on me?” “This merger is going to be the death of us”, or “Since my teammates always shoot down my ideas I am not going to contribute anymore.”
It can become easy to blame external factors for unfavorable outcomes instead of looking internally and thinking, how can I improve? How can we improve? What can we do different that we haven’t thought to try?
Controlling the Outcome Using Resilience
Training in Resiliency allows us to not only bounce back from challenges, but bounce forward. We are able to see challenges as opportunities and capitalize on misfortunes.
Instead of thinking “why does the responsibility always fall on my shoulders?” we can alter our thinking to achieve a resilient outlook, and instead tell ourselves “It’s pretty awesome that my managers trust me with all of the responsibility, they must see a lot of potential in me.”
Resiliency training allows your staff to be more productive, efficient and collaborative. By seeing the glass as half full, they are able to respond to the difficulties and are more likely to be loyal to your company. Negative thoughts are contagious, as demonstrated by the first half of my c. diff story, but positive thoughts are also contagious (as demonstrated by the second half). If you want a positive work environment, you must equip your staff with the tools to create a positive work atmosphere.