Everybody’s career has ups and downs. Not everybody though deals with adversity the same way. Some manage to bounce back from disappointments, they re-frame the experience to get the benefits and learnings it brought and they move on. Whereas, others are caught in a downward spiral.
Resilient people are confident, adaptable and resourceful. They have a high level of self-esteem, they are problem-solvers and they have a deep faith that they will prevail in the end.
Resilience though should not be confused with optimism. This is the learning from reading what Jim Collins described in his book Good to Great (worth reading book) as the Stockdale Paradox.
Admiral Jim Stockdale was the highest-ranking US military office who was captured as prisoner-of-war during the Vietnam War. He remained imprisoned for eight years and was tortured many times during the period. After his release, he said that he never doubted that he would prevail in the end and that he would turn this experience into a defining event of his life.
When asked who didn’t make it, “The optimists” he said. They were the ones who said, ‘We’re going to be out by Christmas.’ And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then, they’d say, ‘We’re going to be out by Easter.’ And Easter would come, and Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart.”
Most of us will never face the adversity Admiral Stockdale had to go through. Nevertheless, we will all experience many challenges in both our personal and professional life. What really matters is how we deal with them.
The ability to bounce back is key to success. It is not only about tenacity but it also about adaptability.
We are trained to have plans (business plans, career plans, etc) with key milestones and associated timelines and make them happen. When we don’t meet the timelines, we get disappointed, self-doubt kicks in and we start questioning whether it is worth going on.
We need to be prepared that goals may not be achieved as fast as we wished or not in the exact way we had planned. To be able to bounce we need to believe in our end goal and at the same time face reality and adapt accordingly.
The bottom line: As Stockdale said, “we need to have faith that we will prevail in the end with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of our current reality”.
Korina Karampela is the founder of b4iapply, author of 2 books, consultant and speaker. She has worked in senior positions in the pharmaceutical industry for 12 years and has an MBA from MIT Sloan. Her b4iapply blog is recommended by The Guardian.