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How to Evaluate, Manage, and Strengthen Your Resilience
Think back to your last off-site meeting. You and the rest of your team likely poured over reports and spreadsheets, facts and figures. Strewn about the table were probably the tools of your trade: reams of data, balance sheets and P&Ls. Managers understand that clear-eyed analysis — both quantitative and qualitative — is the key to building a resilient business. And yet when it comes to measuring and strengthening our own ability to adapt, grow, and prosper, rarely do we apply the same methodical approach.
But we should. Based on my own experience starting, building, and growing companies, as well as upon decades of research showing the underlying components of personal resilience, I’ve discovered a few fundamental things you can do to actually evaluate, manage, and strengthen your own resilience in the same way as you increase the resiliency of your company:
Build up your positivity currency. We can’t just print resilience the way countries print money. Instead, individuals must use what I call a “positivity currency”
approach that is grounded in actual positive interactions, events, and memories — the things known to boost resilience. This currency is only “printed” and stored as assets when we focus on positive things and express gratitude for them. Why? Because maintaining a positive outlook and regularly expressing gratitude are the bullion bars that have real value in backstopping and building resilience.
Research by Robert Emmons, of UC Davis, Michael McCullough, of the University of Miami, and others clearly shows that they are among the most reliable methods for increasing personal happiness and life satisfaction. Creating such “positivity currency” can decrease anxiety, reduce symptoms of illness, and improve the quality of your sleep. All of which, of course, lead to greater personal resilience.
Keep records. None of the tools we use to evaluate companies work very well without good record keeping. That’s also true when it comes to building individual resilience. When you commit positive interactions, events, and memories to the written word, they register higher value than other non-written forms of positivity currency-based activity, according to research by the founding father of Positive Psychology, Dr. Martin Seligman of the University of Pennsylvania. Record your positive currency transactions (jotting them down in a leather bound journal or a digital equivalent). The data points you record could be as simple as keeping a written tally by “category” (e.g. Family, Friends, Work, etc.) in a paper notebook, entering the information into a spreadsheet, or assigning hashtags to items in a digital gratitude journal.
Create a bull market. Financial markets boom when increasing numbers of investors want in. Likewise, our own resilience grows when we encourage positivity buyers to enter the market. It’s not a difficult task; positivity is socially contagious. In the research behind their book Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives, Harvard’s Nicholas Christakis and the University of California, San Diego’s James Fowler detail how happiness depends not just on our own choices and actions, but also on those of people who are two or even three degrees removed from us. What this means is by being more positive ourselves, we encourage others to do the same, and this in turn creates a virtuous “reverse run on the bank” positive feedback loop, and our own resilience is increased and strengthened by the actions of others.
Take a portfolio approach. Resilient businesses diversify risk. Accordingly, resilient individuals diversify their positivity currency. They look to increase their overall resilience by evaluating what it is that provides the highest returns across their entire “life portfolio” and then investing more in those areas. Most frequently, these high-return assets come from our lives outside of the office. Indeed, while we may spend the majority of waking hours at work, our job should not be central to our overall positive outlook. In a 2015 report entitled “The Happiness Study” from Blackhawk Engagement Solutions, respondents ranked their jobs eighth out of a list of 12 contributors to overall happiness. Ranking in the top spots were their family, friends, health, hobbies and community. It follows that by generating more positivity currency in those areas, you will increase the ability to bring your best self to work.
Report regularly. Finally, just as regular review of a company’s financials is important to building a resilient business, building individual resilience requires regular review of positivity currency data. This review not only enables you to glean insights and take corrective actions, but also to boost your resilience by simply increasing your exposure to positive interactions and expressions of gratitude. As the famous 2014 experiment conducted by Facebook’s data scientists, and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, if your “news feed” skews positive, so will you.
Even if you don’t analyze your positivity currency data deeply like a Wall Street quant, just exposing yourself to it on a regular basis will make you more resilient.
So find a regular time to celebrate and reflect on your positivity currency — I do it while I wait for my morning coffee. Make it a habit to simply scan your positivity data and your level of resilience — that of your friends, family, and co-workers — will rise.
David Kopans is the founder and CEO of PF Loop, Inc., a company with a mission to make more positive change in the world through software applications and digital services grounded in positive psychology research.
Source Credit: The Harvard Review