There’s nothing more rewarding in the workplace than knowing the time, energy and personal sacrifices you make are having a positive impact on others. Being a professional in healthcare offers meaningful work, especially for those who are a part of an organization where they feel engaged and truly committed to the mission, vision and values of that organization. It can also be intensive, exhausting work that takes a toll on emotional and physical well-being. For that reason, it is important to be aware of what keeps you resilient as work demands continue to rise.
RESILIENCE is the quality of character that allows a person (or group of people) to experience and grow from disappointment or adversity. It’s about being flexible and innovative when things go wrong, leveraging your strengths, accepting where you have opportunities to be better, proactively seeking out help from others and believing that you have value to self and others.
STUBBORNNESS as a characteristic is often a barrier to growth because it makes a person (or group of people) inflexible. Its focus is on being right instead of doing the right thing, and stubbornness rarely allows for reaching out or accepting help because the primary goal is about proving help isn’t needed.
I have experienced several seemingly insurmountable challenges that I thought I might never be able to overcome in both my personal and professional life, but I did. From a permanent spinal cord injury at the age of 12 to eliminating preconceived ideas about what a quadriplegic could bring to the workplace, my life journey offers four tips you can use to develop and sustain resilience. I’ve also included a checklist of suggested actions that I recommend to make resilience a habit.
1. Cultivate a Positive Mindset
Make the choice to develop a positive mindset by choosing to embrace a positive attitude as routinely as you select something to wear to work every day. You’ll be surprised how resilient you can be when you stop obsessing about what you can’t do, start focusing on what you can do and commit 100 percent to what you will do. Not only will focusing on the positives in your life help you find the positives in others, you will discover a more profound feeling of mental, spiritual and physical well-being.
- Begin every morning with gratitude for what/who brings joy to your life.
- Before going to bed, revisit one positive thing you accomplished that day.
- Establish a “resilience reservoir” journal to record your thoughts around the first two actions for a collection of positive reminders to revisit when you feel your resilience is being stretched to its limits. It will connect you back to why you do what you do.
- Empower yourself and others by focusing on strengths instead of weaknesses, so you can replicate behaviors that delivered positive outcomes in the past.
2. Make Personal Health a Priority
Burning the candle at both ends is common among high-performing people, but failing to take care of your personal well-being ultimately negatively impacts the great work you want to accomplish. Resilient people take care of themselves because they understand to do their best they need to feel their best.
- Get enough rest and eat well; both improve your brain and body’s output.
- Make exercise a part of your daily routine; it can be as simple as stretching.
- Disconnect from email during vacations to decompress from work-related stress, and be genuinely present during these experiences with friends and family.
- Talk about what you are feeling and experiencing with others who will help you focus on solutions instead of contribute to or validate negative thoughts.
3. Align Your Personal Values to Organizational Values
With an average of 40 hours per week spent working (more than 2000 hours annually), it’s important to choose a place to work that brings mutual value to you and your employer. If what’s important to your organization is important to you, you will struggle less to maintain your resilience through difficulties and feel happier with day-to-day role responsibilities.
I have found the most engaged leaders and employees are those whose personal values mirror the organizational mission, vision and values they are expected to uphold. That connection creates a personal and direct link to the heart. Because they believe passionately in what they are doing, leaders and employees will meet work-related challenges with solutions and adversity with courage. In turn, employers can screen job candidates carefully during the selection process for the right cultural fit prior to hiring.
People who love what they do rarely call it “work.” They call it “my passion” or “my calling.” These are the individuals who willingly provide discretionary effort that differentiates employees who are fully engaged in efforts they find meaningful from employees who are simply satisfied with a paycheck. Understanding that difference is a critical factor for sustainable cultural transformation within your organization and the new core competency in healthcare. To find out more on the topic of engagement in healthcare, I highly recommend the book: "The E Factor: How Engaged Patients, Clinicians, Leaders, and Employees Will Transform Healthcare" authored by Craig Deao, MHA.
- Make sure the organization you sign on with believes in values you believe in, so you can be resilient through change and challenges together.
- Assess how closely aligned your personal values are with your organization’s values at least once annually to determine if where you work is still the right place for you.
4. Pursue What Work-Life Blend Means to You
Prioritizing between "work" (ambition) and "lifestyle" (health, leisure, family, socialization, spirituality) is your greatest responsibility to self. Take ownership for your choices. Only you can decide where you should invest time and effort on both personal and professional levels. You may not always like the consequences of your choices, but the power of choice is always yours.
- If ambition to move up the career ladder is a high priority for you, take ownership for the choice to invest more time at work to achieve your goals.
- If spending time with family is more valuable at this stage in your life, communicate that clearly to your supervisor. A good leader who is invested in your engagement will understand and be responsive to what drives you.
- Invest in your professional development by taking leadership courses in areas you struggle with to reduce anxiety and increase productivity, self-esteem and confidence.
- Engage in diverse interests outside of work with others to inspire personal growth, nourish a sense of belonging and experience new perspectives.
There is no doubt that most professionals in healthcare possess several characteristics of resilience that allow them to bounce back from hardship, but being truly resilient means doing more than temporarily “bouncing back.” It’s about taking ownership for developing sustainable behaviors around positive actions, so you can nurture the things that replenish your resilience through current and future challenges.
Kris Ann Piazza is a Studer Group coach and national speaker with more than 25 years of experience in healthcare communications.
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