Entrepreneurs: Controllable thoughts are key to resiliency

Entrepreneurs:  The data say they are great at starting companies that fail.  That takes resilience.  For those who love the thrill , there are few other ways to work that are as satisfying.  If they are not already resilient, entrepreneurs do well do bulk up on it. Thanks to Eleanor Chin, who recently talked to WEST members, I have some recommendations for leaders who would be resilient.

What it is and what it does

Resilience is the ability to grow and thrive in the face of challenges and to come back from adversity.

Resilience makes it possible to step back from the situation with a growing degree of equanimity.  I use equanimity to mean acceptance of a realistic view of my responsibility in the success and failure.  It includes an equally realistic view of forces beyond my control.  Some of the things outside any one person’s control are people, circumstance, big-picture dynamics like the economy and markets, and large scale systems like public policy and infrastructure.

The chopstick fly-catch

If you remember your Karate Kid, the student no longer needed the teacher when he could snatch the fly out of the air. Sure, it’s a cliche.  But one path to greater resilience, Daniel-san, is grasping thoughts out of thin air.  It’s how you can take control of them and create a different outcome.

When we look back at situations, we wonder why we did that.  Often it was counter-productive.  Maybe we’re ashamed. Why yell when I could have asked a question?  Why fire someone when I knew that the problem was more complicated?  That reaction can be traced backward to the event.  Take a look at the illustration below.

What Albert Ellis has shown is that if you identify the thought triggered by the activating event (his term), it’s also possible to address that thought with others that can dramatically affect the emotion that it produces.  And since emotion often evokes the bodily fight-or-flight response, it’s a way of breaking the grip of bodily survival response that, be honest, don’t serve us at work.ABC from BIG IDEA

To come back from adversity, we need to have some distance from the thoughts that automatically trigger unbalanced judgments about ourselves.  It can be tough to do in the heat of the moment.  It takes practice.  But when it begins to change reactions, it is also making you more resilient: less likely to be knocked off your feet by those reactions and more likely to get back up when you are.

If you’re working with coach, she can help you apply this method to day-to-day “activating events.”  If you’re not already working with a coach, I’d be glad to introduce you to the practice.

In the meantime, here’s a worksheet to help you think it through:  ABC worksheet

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