How do you deal with and bounce back from life?

Posted 05.11.15 by prhcareers

By Claire Thomas, @OD_ClaireT

I said I’d be thinking about you. And I have.

Trying to navigate the world of work can be daunting and we need all the tricks and tips we can get our hands on.

And so I’d like to end my two days of guest tweeting and blogging by sharing with you what I’ve learnt today at The School of Life workshop ‘How To Be Resilient’ run by the inspiring Gaylene Gould (

It really feels quite fitting to do so because the two big positives that I’ve taken away from #cipd15 are:

  • People really do matter – let’s get them back centre stage and really understand how we can deliberately design and create organisational cultures that encourage and enable everyone to be their best selves at work.
  • The fundamental positive belief in the human – that we are all capable of changing, evolving and growing. That’s a great thing to know.

Clive Woodward talked yesterday about the DNA of a champion. One of the essential ingredients was acting like a warrior – can you handle the pressure?

Picking up the baton today, the resilience workshop explored how we might deal with and bounce back from life – because at some point, it will throw something difficult at us. You can’t dodge the bullet forever.

And when you go down, can you learn to grow from this adversity? Is it possible for something interesting or positive to come from it?

The answer is yes.

This is how.

Rule One: Deal with the inevitability of disappointment – it is part and parcel of life. 

Stuff happens. We are all going to be disappointed at some point. It comes with the job of being a human. And although no one will say it out aloud, perhaps we all like a bit of disappointment. What else would philosophers write about if it didn’t happen?

So, what’s your typical response when things go wrong? Chances are that you’ve got a pretty well established set of beliefs by now which will dictate how you respond to stress.

Rule Two: Understand what stops you from being resilient.

Our brains are tricky things. Which of the following are you guilty of under pressure?

Perhaps it’s spiralling thought patterns. OMG, my boss has called me into an unexpected meeting, what have I done wrong, what if I’m found out?  What if I’m sacked?  Oh, she just wanted to find out when I was taking my holiday.  That’s a bit of a let-down.

Perhaps you’re inclined to a bit of ‘if only’ thinking, or perhaps you’re partial to keeping calm and blaming someone else.

Or perhaps you become passive and think that you can’t change your situation. Read more by Seligman if you’re interested in this – it’s called learned helplessness.

Rule Three: Develop a growth mindset

This is really, really important if you want to change how you respond to situations.

Try and get yourself a ‘growth mindset’. If you do, you’re more likely to be open to learning, to stretching yourself and thinking that failure is ok. Really.

Want to know your default position?

Let’s see what you think about: Success. Failure. Effort. Criticism. Uncertainty.  Those are some big things.

  • Is success how you validate yourself or does it mean that you’ve been stretched?
  • Do you find failure catastrophic or do you find it something to learn from?
  • Do you think effort is a dirty word or do you feel good when your effort pays off?
  • Do you find criticism hard to take or is fair criticism useful?
  • Do you feel uncomfortable with uncertainty or comfortable?

If you answered yes to the first half of the question, chances are that you’ve a tendency towards a fixed mindset. If you answered yes to the second half of the question, you’re more likely to have a natural growth mindset.

If you want to know more, take a look at Dweck’s work – she’s the guru (take a look at her TED talk).

Be aware too if you are a natural pessimist or an optimist.

A pessimist is more likely to be pervasive in their thinking – ‘I’m hopeless’- and setbacks are more permanent – ‘I always mess up’.

Moving into the optimist’s world, things are a little, well, lighter. Setbacks are likely to be more temporary and specific.

Rule Four: Coping vs Thriving

Much has been learnt from people who have survived traumatic situations and who have gone on to achieve extraordinary things. They understood how they were likely to respond to adversity and knew how to reduce their anxieties. They also sought out people to share their difficulties with, thought about the story they were telling themselves and were able to articulate their overarching life principles (back to Seligman again)

Something to work on in the bath perhaps?

Rule Five: Understanding our resources

How can you raise your resilience levels if they are low?

Simple. Chris Johnstone ( has identified the following self-help tactics.

Understand the Strengths you draw upon, the Strategies you use, the Resources you turn to for inspiration, guidance or support and the Insights you find useful.

Rule Six: Understand the key aspects of resilience and move forward with confidence

If you remember nothing else, these are the things will get you through: acceptance; humour; perspective; mindset and company; confidence.

And that feels like a good place to end. Filled with confidence that we have it within ourselves to deal with whatever is thrown at us.

Claire Thomas, our Head of Organisational Development, aka the architect of The Scheme, has been our guest blogger whilst at the UK’s biggest annual get together of people interested in the world of work.

Her mission has been simple: to bring the inside scoop outside and share with you what’s on the minds of some of the biggest influencers in this field.

Follow Claire on Twitter @PRHCareersUK and @OD_ClaireT

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