THE BLOG
10/14/2014 11:16 am ET Updated Dec 14, 2014

Missteps in Resiliency (And Why They Might Be Good for You)

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I recently attended a leadership class on strategic management and resiliency. We walked through an exercise in polarity management to understand opposing and dynamic tensions. The general idea of this exercise is to list two polar concepts and identify the pros, cons, and warning signs. Resilience was one of the poles and as I started the exercise, I couldn't imagine any "cons" to resilience. Because resiliency is a good thing that we all strive for, right? That perfect (often elusive) work/life/spiritual/everything balance that we gain from it? The ability to bounce back from adversity quickly, with grace, agility and courage? You know, that thing that can be really, really hard?

So imagine my surprise as I worked through the exercise and discovered that one of the "cons" in resiliency is that often we try the same mechanisms to stay resilient, even if the situation calls for a different approach. It was an aha moment when I realized that sometimes the downside of our tried-and-true resilient behavior is that we get less creative and utilize the same channels to bounce back. And once in awhile the "pro" of being less resilient is it opens up doors to new recovery mechanisms, maybe ones that are better than what we are used to.

Faculty at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Business discussed this concept in an article posted in August 2014. The article highlights that resilient people forgive themselves from missteps, learn different ways of bouncing back, and "roll with the punches." The following quote from that article furthered my aha moment:

When resilient people fail, they forgive themselves. People with greater resiliency don't experience fewer life stressors. However, they tend to recover after crises faster, true both for when they feel they managed the crisis successfully and for when they feel they blew it. This suggests that part of resiliency may be forgiving yourself for the times when you don't shine as brightly as you'd like. In fact, other research suggests that self-compassion may be very important in developing resilience. So, if something gets you down and you make some mistakes en route to bouncing back, that's OK. You'll learn from it, and next time, your path back may be easier.

Missteps give us new perspective and new coping mechanisms. The new fits where we are now. Missteps help us develop grit. A recent HuffPost blog discusses grit and how this is so important to success. Grit and resiliency are close relatives -- they keep us moving towards our goals, despite setbacks.

I'm starting to realize this is in iterative process -- there is no finish line or end game. I'm adjusting my resiliency journey to be more focused on awareness and forgiveness of missteps, because that is where the true resiliency shows up. I aim to be a trailblazer of new resiliency paths to make me my best self. I can have certain stand-by resilient behaviors but the art of bouncing back and regrouping is really the most important. And I'm also realizing that resilient behaviors that worked in one phase of my life, or a certain scenario, don't necessarily work in another. The behaviors may not have the same prominence or effect as they once have. New experiences, perspectives, and exposures give different ways forward. So I now strive not only for resilience, but the flexibility and forgiveness of missteps along the way.