Original publication in BusinessWorld on January 15th 2020

The year 2020 started with a bang. From the wildfires that have been ravaging Australia, to the floods in the Indonesia capital, and to the political strife between the United States of America and Iran, the world has been in a constant state of flux. Here at home, we were treated to a spectacular volcanic plume that is causing dread and despair in Batangas, Laguna, and Cavite. This eruption reminds us of how nature’s wrath and fury should teach us to become more resilient.

In her Harvard Business Review article on how resilience works, Diane Coutu states that “more than education, more than experience, more than training, a person’s lever of resilience will determine who succeeds and who fails. That’s true in the cancer ward, it’s true in the Olympics, and it’s true in the boardroom.” We need resilience in our volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous world. According to Coutu, resilient people possess the following: “a staunch acceptance of reality; a deep belief, often buttressed by strongly held values, that life is meaningful; and an uncanny ability to improvise.” Thus, we must develop resilience so that we can face the challenges within and outside our offices and homes in this new decade.

How do we develop resilience? There have been numerous studies on the development of individual-level resilience and organizational resilience specifically in the field of positive psychology and organizational behavior. Shawn Anchor and Michelle Gielan, in their Harvard Business Review article entitled “Resilience Is about How You Recharge, Not How You Endure,” assert that a resilient person is well-rested. This means that a person who is overworked and exhausted will not be resilient. Rather, “The key to resilience is trying really hard, then stopping, recovering, and then trying again.” Thus, working on a task for a prolonged period can be beneficial only if high-endurance performance is coupled with recovery.

But what is recovery? Zijlstra, Cropley, and Rydstedt, in their article “From Recovery to Regulation: An Attempt to Reconceptualize Recovery from Work,” differentiate between internal and external recovery. Internal recovery refers to “shorter periods of relaxation that take place within the frames of the workday or the work setting in the form of short scheduled or unscheduled breaks, by shifting attention or changing to other work tasks when the mental or physical resources required for the initial task are temporarily depleted or exhausted.” External recovery pertains to “actions that take place outside of work-in the free time between the workdays, and during weekends, holidays or vacations.”

The importance of maintaining appropriate levels of energy has been theorized by Stevan Hobfall in his conservation of resources theory, which “describes the motivation that drives humans to both maintain their current resources and to pursue new resources.” To become more resilient, we must be aware of our energies and find ways to conserve, maintain, and build our resources.

Another way to become more resilient is by developing an entrepreneurial mindset. Such a mindset does not mean that people must start their own businesses. Rather, it means thinking like an entrepreneur and applying this mindset to one’s personal and professional lives.

I gave a talk last November on “Developing an Entrepreneurial Mindset for Climate and Disaster Resilience,” hosted by the Resilience Institute of the University of the Philippines. I focused on how individuals and organizations must have an entrepreneurial mindset similar to the growth mindset espoused by Carol Dweck in her groundbreaking bestseller entitled, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, in order for people to become more resilient. To become more resilient, one must have the following tools for life advocated by the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship: “flexibility and adaptability; communication and collaboration; creativity and innovation; future orientation; opportunity recognition; and comfort with risk.” Entrepreneurs or not, we can apply all of these traits to become more resilient.

The year and decade have just begun, and we are already faced with external upheavals. Given these issues and concerns that we will continuously face, having a resilient mindset will make us future-ready.

Written by Brian C. Gozun

Brian C. Gozun is professor of the Decision Sciences and Innovation Department of the Ramon V. Del Rosario College of Business, De La Salle University Manila. He is doing research on resilience both on individual and organizational levels.

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