Are you having trouble letting go of how you think things are supposed to be? My physician leader clients and I currently have experienced that it has been particularly hard to accept reality. How do we build resilience?

I love the Thanksgiving holiday. In my family, this always had been a day to enjoy our favorite foods, be appreciative, and have fun together. But, a year ago I moved away from Oregon, so this was my first Thanksgiving living out of state. In the past, I would never have considered missing Thanksgiving with my family. This year, it was my reality.

The full emotional impact of not going home hit me late Thanksgiving day. Taking a walk around my neighborhood, I didn’t see the usual folks out walking, and extra cars were parked in front of the houses. I felt like an outsider, like I was moving against the grain of life. Then it struck me that many people routinely feel like they “live against the grain.” I suddenly did not feel so alone.

Walking back home, I thought about the women I work with. Physician leaders often make hard choices, some they never imagined considering. Letting go of how we think things are supposed to be in order to deal with a new reality is a critical leadership competency.

What may surprise you is that it’s not just the big events in life that impact our ability to handle adversity. Managing difficult relationships, the volume and hectic pace of your workday, and even being criticized are events that you need to bounce back from. An accumulation of what you deal with daily as a physician can leave you feeling overwhelmed and stuck.

Build Resilience

Adapting to change and having the ability to recover from setbacks is the very essence of resilience. You can do a lot to build up your levels of resiliency:

1) Be honest about the current reality.

Pay attention to the many small assaults you endure each day. You don’t have to like them. However, you do need to see the reality.

2) Notice what drains your energy.

This represents your personal criteria to know how and where to use your limited resources of time and energy.

3) Treat setbacks and success as positive learning experiences.

Your mindset and the stories you tell yourself have the largest impacts on your resilience.

The ability to build resilience is critical to your feeling energized and motivated, so you can manage the hard choices leaders make. For example, policy changes that you may face can impact hundreds of lives.

The key to resilience is trying hard, recovering, and then trying again. You can practice resilience dealing with a small challenge, such as missing your family. Make it easier on yourself, and practice on the small stuff in order to be more prepared for the big stuff.

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