How leaders embrace challenges and build resilience

A raft of problems beset Marie. Her new boss had thrown the pieces of the organisation jigsaw puzzle into the air. Her position was now in question. Some of her colleagues had their knives out, competing with her for resources and attention. She was worried and questioned whether she had what it takes to do the job. When she stepped back, she realised she was taking things personally. This was a minor setback. Instead of doubting if she could cope, she asked herself, “How do I embrace the challenges I face?”

It was a subtle mindset shift, but it allowed her to respond in a more optimistic way. The question prompted her to focus on her vision and aligning her team on their purpose. She was no longer troubled by the politics of envy swirling around her, knowing that her results spoke volumes. 

Her team produced outstanding results, and her boss acknowledged just how important she was for the business. He offered her a great new role, and she renegotiated her salary package.

Martin Seligman is often called the father of positive psychology, but he admits he came to the field the long, hard way, through many years of research on failure and helplessness. He found about a third of the people in his research who experience inescapable shocks never become helpless. He wondered what is it about them that makes this so? Over 15 years of study, he and his colleagues discovered the answer is optimism.

Seligman says, “We discovered that people who don’t give up have a habit of interpreting setbacks as temporary, local, and changeable. (‘It’s going away quickly; it’s just this one situation, and I can do something about it.’) That suggested how we might immunize people against learned helplessness, against depression and anxiety, and against giving up after failure: by teaching them to think like optimists.”

🙋 What is the key to dealing with challenges in your experience? 🙋‍♀️

Best regards, Brian