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Submitted by H Cleall on


Hi all, I am going through professional coaching and one of the points identified is my personal resilience is not a strength. The recommendation is to use this strength less. I'm not comfortable with a weakness I haven't even tried to address and improve. 

I agree I am not always resilient in work and I do dwell on criticism and tend to believe the worse of myself when criticised (unconstructively). I'm interested in writing myself a personal development plan on resilience with the objective of improving it. So far I've thought about changing out words. For example instead of criticism, thinking about what is said in more positive language e.g. as collaborative. (As one of the feedback podcasts says - and I'm paraphrasing heavily - why would you let some one drive off the road?)I'm thinking this is a first step towards changing my default  response of being upset, disappointed in myself and in turn demotivated; then dwelling on it unnecessarily even when I've tried to make a change.

Does anyone have any thoughts about how to further develop my personal resilience development plan? I've looked for a podcast and other forum notes and I'm struggling to find material relevant to this. Although I did come across some interesting stories!

Thank You in advance for your support. Kind regards Helen

ses's picture
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BLUF:  Stoicism, and Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy are two subject areas where you'll find tons of material about improving your own resilience.

Nice to meet you, Helen.

I'm generally a fan of the advice that one should play to one's strengths rather than spending too much energy on trying to remediate any weakness. However, I see resilience as an exception. I could hire a crack project manager to compensate for my not being a details person (thank you, Kelli!), I cannot delegate away my need for personal resilience, or choose a role that won't require it.  It is a thread that runs through all of our lives whether we like it or not.

In elementary school, I was one of the most insecure kids you could imagine. Now, I'm very much the opposite. The journey was a long one, but I'll throw out a few lessons and "aha" moments along the way.

  • I realized that criticism or failure didn't mean that a huge, big, terrible thing was happening to me.  At best, it was a request for a change which would ultimately benefit me in some way. At worst, it was insight into how someone else sees the world.  I trained myself to stop and ask what the real consequences were, and what I could learn here, when I was receiviing criticism.
  • I realized 



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Darn, that sent prematurely... here are a couple of other lessons:

  • I realized that my internal dialogue wasn't a way I'd ever think it was okay to talk to someone else.  I slowly learned to catch myself at it, and bring that internal dialogue up to the standard I use when talking to other people.
  • I had some experiences where perfect wasn't an option, and inaction would have had dire consequences...I came to re-examine my perfectionism and ask myself "what is good enough in this situation?" or "what is least bad, or more good?" instead of measuring myself against an unrealistic ideal.
  • I came into contact with Stoic philosophy, and started to see myself as an unending project.  I focused less on performance (ironically) and more on acting with virtue and responsibility, and ended up performing better.
  • Stress inoculation is real.  The more we practice doing things that are outside our comfort zones, or that we may feel we suck at, the less doing so is uncomfortable.  One of the best decisions I made was to start picking up hobbies that specifically don't play to my strengths.  It's great for neuroplasticity, and it keeps me from the illusion that I'll be good at everything or should be.  Doing things you expect to be bad at is extremely powerful for developing resilience.

I don't know if those are helpful in isolation, but I'm happy to chat if you like and I hope you find your path.


H Cleall's picture
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Hi Susan, Thank you for taking the time to respond and for your very useful guidance. I have spent some time thinking about it and how I turn it into action for me. In case this is useful for you or anyone else following the post, I have articulated the 'gremlin' that sits on my shoulder and tells me 'see I told you so'. I've really visualised what it looks like, the words it uses, its characteristics and I've named it. When I receive what I perceive to be criticism, it pokes its head out and reinforces the negative. Your approch to criticsm and failure is a good one - what I'm hearing is criticism happens when you do or say something someone else doesn't like, so in fact it is a form of feedback. And what we do is look for the real feedback and turn it into something we can choose to do something about.; or acknowledge and choose not to. This is the part about knowing what you can control, can't control and the middle ground we can partially control aspects of. The 'gremlin' has to shut up because we've dealt with it.

I've also considered what my strengths are and how they make me feel when I use them. Usually energised, enthused, happy - all the anabolic responses to a 'job well done'. So if I apply these strengths to understanding criticism and dealing with it then I increase my anabolic response. I've also decided to stop usng the word criticism and use the word feedback instead. Whether its good, bad, true or untrue it's still only someone elses opinion. And no matter how unkindly given or kindly meant there is a potential opportunity to help myself.

The questions you ask yourself are really great and help put things into perspective. I've added to them by asking myself 'Am I making an assumption? What is the evidence? Is this is thought/opinion or a fact? Am I blaming myself for something that isn't my fault? Am I jumping to conclusions? How would someone else view this situation?' 

So in summary my plan is:

1. Stop and replay the words I hear or the event that took place

2. Think about my reaction and why it is how it is. Are my core values breached (these are honesty, safety of myself and others, health, privacy, challencge and co-operation) and why?

3. Ask. myself the questions you and I have identified and be curious about what has happened rather than judgemental.

4. If I choose to take action, involve my strengths to make the change. And if I don't, tell the 'gremlin' the discussion is over.

Thank you so much for your support. I will continue to research and start putting this into a habit forming action. I am so pleased that you managed to build your confidence and become such a compassionate, confident and thoughtful person. Your strengths are helping me put my own to even better use.

Kind regards, Helen

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I'm glad it helped.  I wish you the best.  If you can, let us know how things work out along the way.  That would leave more material here to help the next person in your current position.



H Cleall's picture
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It's almost 6 months since my initial cry for help and I thought it might be nice to let folks know how I've been getting on.

I started a diary and the morning entry contained the following:

1. Something I was looking forward to that day

2. Something I wasn't looking forward to. 

3. Three committments I would make that day

4. My biggest challenge, how my values might be tested and the strengths I could use to overcome it

No1 gives me a highlight in my day - anything from a coffee to occasionally dinner with friends. It doesn't have to big.

No2 makes me question why I am not looking forward to it, do I have to do it and what happens if I don't do it. If I have to do it then it might become No4. If it isn't a challenge I think about the worst outcome it could have, then the likely outcome. Then I think about the outcome I want and how I can use my strengths, and knowledge of others or things to try an achieve it. Often this point isn't as bad as I think it is. Usually the worst outcome is someone saying no.

No3 gives me focus and if I can achieve 3 things I set out to do then that's progress which equals more motivation which means I'm happier and more open to challenges and better able to deal with them.

No4 gives me a plan or strategy using my strengths and knowledge to influence the outcome I would like while understanding what a comprmise for me would look like. My default is always look for the win/win - sometimes it doesn't quite work out that way and that's ok. And by knowing what values might be affronted I can prepare myself to acknowledge and accept it, make my position clear and move on. I guess in old parlance its agree to differ. My take away is I often learn something about someone I didn't know before and this is potentially relatable to DISC, thus helping me develop a better relationships.

I still have that Gremlin and I told it only yesterday to get lost! And it did. 

In summary I'm reducing my default reaction to taking things personnally when often they are not. I believe my resilience is growing out of not being reactive, looking at things more objectively, removing the emotion from words and they way they are said, evaluating whether I want to do something differently next time and if so what. And the recent podcast I listened to 'The Effective Manager Has a Playbook - Part 1' I believe is going to be a part of my resilience too - thanks MT.

I hope others may find support for themselves my journey.

Kind regards


LEmerson's picture

I appreciate reading about your process. The power of putting ones thoughts in writing is amazing.

One suggestion I've found helpful over the years in dealing with uncomfortable situations is role playing. If you can find a friend or family member who can take it seriously, role playing can give you a sense that you've dealt with this before if something is said or done that you find unnerving. Tell the person the kinds of things you're concerned with, set up a scenario, and see what happens.

Since you're actively seeking sources of information about these issues, you're probably familiar with the aspect that you are responsible for your reaction to a situation. I saw a great presentation one time where the presenter singled out an audience member and said they were going to hurl a string of insults at this person and  to not take it personally, just a demonstration. The presenter hurled this and that, and it was funny, and the audience member laughed along. The presenter rattled off one insult after another, until he said something about how this audience member should just shut up and go get him a cup of coffee. The audience member's face dropped. They got a little aggravated. It was a great example that people have different triggers, and recognizing yours is half the battle.