February 28, 2019

Resiliency and Relationships: How the Grit Grows Into the Pearl

Last week, a dear friend who leads women’s coaching groups, sent me a photo of her web conference set-up. I laughed so hard I was crying.

Renovations were going on outside her apartment windows and the only place to avoid the construction and jack hammers was, well, the bathroom.

She was poised on the rim of her tub, wedged next to the sink and toilet, with wires crisscrossed everywhere.

But of course, none of this was visible to the camera. All her clients could see was a well-dressed, smiling and professional woman framed by the burgundy (bathtub) curtain backdrop.

We all know this place. Call it: Necessity is the mother of invention. Or fake it ‘till you make it. Or fake it after you make it. When we’re grinning widely at the absurdity of a situation, we’re in a good place.

Sometimes, though, faking it isn’t fun at all. A client, we’ll call him, Pete, shared a story of a colleague, also a high-level professional, who found herself in the bathroom almost daily to hide her tears. Given her work place challenges, her reaction was understandable – even appropriate. The emotional and intellectual strain had stretched her to the limit.

People often equate grit as the core ingredient to develop resiliency. In other words, how well do we shoulder-up to life’s irritants, over and over again? How well do we muscle through our challenges for character development?

Pete well understood the stressors of his colleague. Both their jobs are packed with grit and required the ability to remain calm and controlled in emotionally charged situations. However, when this work is done in a vacuum, without a safety net of rewarding relationships to balance the stressors, burnout is a constant threat.

It’s true that with well-developed resiliency, we have a healthy drive toward self-improvement. We are motivated and find joy and satisfaction through meaningful work and play. It looks to the world like we’re in charge and in control of our lives.

But we don’t get there alone. There’s no resiliency without relationships.

Resilient people have a network of mutually rewarding relationships – at home and at work. They give and receive trust, compassion, and warmth and are comfortable being authentic and vulnerable with others. In this rich reciprocity of relationships, they further grow in self-regard, motivation and optimism – all essential to success.

And that’s how Pete made his personal shift. Last year, life provided him with so much grit that it wore him nearly to the bone. And while his professional life was rewarding, it was also lonely. He lacked people with whom he could openly and honestly share deeply his hopes, dreams and frustrations.

Today, he’ll tell you there’s a remarkable transformation in his life. He began, slowly, to open up, be a little vulnerable and share his own learning and growth challenges with his peers, direct reports – even his front line staff.

To his surprise and delight, people seemed hungry for his insights. He’s receiving more positive and constructive feedback, more ideas, information and problem solving than he thought possible. With all this support, he even has more time for his personal life now.

And his colleague who was in tears? She’s finding her resiliency once again. She and Pete meet regularly now for coffee. She’s feeling safer sharing her vulnerability and as a result, they’re learning more about their shared challenges – and possible solutions.

Resiliency requires meaningful relationships. If all you’ve got is grit – if faking it is no fun at all – consider that your best, next step isn’t to solider forward but rather to take a risk and talk to someone.

Because it’s through the reciprocity of rewarding relationships that we polish the grit into shared pearls of wisdom, opportunity, growth and success.

Educators, Leadership Development, Mission & Vision, Stress Management , , , , , , , ,
Deene Morris
About Deene Morris
I’m a lifelong learner and student of leadership – servant-leadership to be specific. As much as I teach and facilitate, I spend equal time in my own learning and development. I’m passionate about people and the potential to work better together. I’m naturally empathetic – and like all our gifts, it’s a blessing and a curse. However, it serves me well with clients. Because I’ve been there – in the good, the bad, the ugly, and the transformational. I don’t take my clients anywhere that I haven’t been myself. I’m a lifelong fan of Swiss psychologist, Carl Jung – and grew up in a family of origin where we used Psychological Type to navigate our (many) family challenges. As a result, I learned to value holistic learning systems and assessments, exactly because they don’t put me or anyone else in a box or with a label. Because life is about learning, stretching and growing – not rigid, cookie-cutter molds. I thrive on curiosity, possibility and opportunity.

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