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Resilience drives the recovery journey

June 23, 2015
by Lori Ashcraft
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My husband, Gene, and I recently weathered the most traumatic experience in our 40-plus years in behavioral health. By sharing, I hope to create an honest conversation about the steps beyond recovery to build resilience within each of us.

Gene and I spent night and day working in the organization Gene founded 20 years ago, which had grown from a tiny program to an annual budget of $60 million. Then suddenly, it was no longer our home. With one memo, Gene was no longer CEO.

During the next few months, we were able to use the pain and grief to bounce beyond where we once comfortably stood. Like recovery, the building of resilience for us was not a linear path but had many moments of sliding back into fear and resentment before moving further into new growth and strength. 

Mobilizing resilience was not an easy task.

1. Pause

During the pause we decide what we want to take with us on the next leg of our journey.

  • What strengths or ideas helped us bounce back in the past while doing our work?
  • What will give us satisfaction and a sense of purpose in our work?
  • What do we do for others that has meaning for us and value for them?
  • Are there things that cause us to feel overwhelmed or crush our spirit?
  • Do we have feelings of bitterness or resentment related to work?

2. Invite Change

If there’s anything all of us humans have in common it’s the fear of change, but change may help us dip our toe into fresh water.

  • What is the best thing that can happen if we open ourselves to change at work?
  • What is the worst thing that could happen if things changed at work? How could it be fixed?

3. Let Go

Letting go is about setting aside everything we think we are and think we know, if only for a few minutes.

  • If we let go of who we think we are, what will emerge?
  • If we let go of who we think our teammates are, what will emerge?
  • How will our work change if we go beyond our established identities?

4. Incubate

The temptation we must resist at this stage is to not plant the same old seeds. Remember, we still have our previous strengths, so think about what we still need to grow.

  • How can each of us add more depth and meaning to the work our team does?
  • What new things can we do to be more effective?
  • What will it take to grow these new fragile elements and sustain them?

5. Begin Again

We will walk the talk, and this will require discipline, since we now operate from a place of intention rather than reacting to circumstances.

  • Notice when we have fear of failure and make sure it doesn’t hold us back.
  • Notice when we have fear of success and make sure it doesn’t hold us back.
  • Take risks.

Remember, no one is coming. We are the ones we ourselves have been waiting for.

Lori Ashcraft is director of Resilience Inc., a training and consulting group with a mission of creating new ways to optimize organizational resilience and wellness.

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