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A Member of the Table Group CAPA Pro Network

One way to build your resilience

Jul 19, 2020 | Effective leaders, Strategic clarity & alignment

In this blog Liz shares a very helpful tool for leaders to use that can help them maintain a positive but realistic outlook.

Resilience is the ability to see failure as a temporary setback that can be recovered from quickly. It’s the ability to maintain a positive and solution-focussed attitude during periods of instability.

A resilient leader is one who is able to find ways to move forward during times of uncertainty and avoid getting stuck.

Our resilience can fluctuate depending on our situation at any point in time. For example, it may erode slowly over time if we don’t bounce back from normal stress and pressure. Or, it can drop quickly after experiencing a significant emotional event or a particularly stressful period.

Leadership resilience has never been more important than it is right now. And it is something we can all cultivate in our own lives if we are deliberate about it.

One essential part of resilience is maintaining a positive but realistic outlook, i.e. having realistic optimism. In this blog post, I’d like to share one tool that can help you do this. It is applying the traffic light system to your thinking:


We have about 60 000 – 80 000 thoughts a day. And most of these are repetitive. Repeated thoughts lead to beliefs. In other words, when we think the same thought often enough, we begin accepting it as truth… we begin BELIEVING it. But it’s important to remember that our beliefs drive our behavior and actions, and our behavior and actions determine the results we get.

At a time like this, you may find yourself thinking more unhelpful thoughts than helpful ones. To build your resilience, when you find yourself thinking unhelpful thoughts like ‘this is never going to end’, ‘I can’t take much more of this’ or ‘I have no idea what to do’, you need to STOP.


Evaluate your unhelpful thoughts using the acronym THINK:

Is it True? Entirely true? Is this a fact or a feeling?
Is it Helpful? Is it helping or hindering you?
Is it Inspiring? Inspiring you to be solution-focussed or problem foccussed?
Is it Necessary? Necessary for being able to move forward?
Is it Kind? Are you practicing self-care by thinking that thought? What would you say to someone you cared about who shared a thought like that with you?

If it fails one of the criteria, then the thought must move on to the green traffic light. And that is, it must be re-framed.


Is there another way of looking at the situation? Can you change your perspective, zoom out a little and see the issue from a different angle?

Positive reframing:
Gets your mind thinking creatively for solutions instead of simply giving up.
Builds your confidence and determination to persevere.
Enables you to take personal responsibility for those things within your control.

So, for example, instead of thinking thoughts like:

This is never going to end. How about…This too shall pass. Every adversity presents opportunity. Let me find the opportunity.

I can’t take much more than this. How about…I have what it takes to get through this.

I have no idea what to do. How about…I may not have the answers to all the questions, but there are some things I do know. I know …

So, to summarise, one crucial part of building your resilience is by maintaining a positive but realistic outlook. You can do this by applying the traffic light system to your thinking. RED for STOP, AMBER for EVALUATE your thoughts using the THINK acronym and GREEN for RE-FRAME

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