10 Ways to Be Resilient at Work

Our souls are not hungry for fame, comfort, wealth or power. Those rewards create almost as many problems as they solve. Our solves are hungry for meaning, for the sense that we have figured out how to live so that our lives matter, so that the world will be at least a little bit different for our having passed through it.

Harold Kushner


People come to me in pain. Often the pain is from not claiming a sense of meaning for their life because they are blinded or crippled with fear. Fear of change. Fear of failure. Fear of success.

They also come out of fear that the recent curve ball offered at work will so deform them that they will not recover. They are afraid of becoming useless and of dying from being useless.

Heavy. I know!

Recently I met with Adam (names changed) who was let go from work over two years ago. He’s extremely bright in a field that is analytically demanding – and relationship based. He also happens to be sixty years old.

As he told the story of his undoing, it appears he came up against a toxic boss and he had no game plan for protecting himself. He’s filed a lawsuit and has been laser-focused in seeking work. Yet, he’s still unemployed.

Adam feels angry, disillusioned, scared and outraged. In the words of the classic Network’s Howard Beale, he’s “mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!”

The one thing he’s not, though, is – resilient. Determined, yes. But being resilient is different from being determined.

While he is resolute in finding a job, he is struggling to be resilient, i.e. to be “able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions.” (Oxford Dictionary)

Being resilient is about being able to recover. But to recover what?

To recover the sure sense of who you are and who you want to be.

Adam shared that enjoys creating systems that help people in the health care field. Impressive – genuinely. And now that he’s not able to create systems, he doesn’t know who he is.

He’s fighting to find a place where he can return to being a solutions guy. Because he’s afraid he’ll never work again, he’s gripping his resume all the while forgetting the story of who he has become at this juncture in his life.


Adam came to me in pain and while he wants me to help him work through the pain in our last session he accused me of not knowing how hard his life is. And he’s right –  I don’t. I only know what was hard for me at a time in my life when I didn’t know what it was to be resilient.

In the early years of my life I had been a Jesuit priest. It was a deeply rewarding life but my own theology became more liberal than the Church’s and it became increasingly harder to reconcile the differences.

When I resigned ministry, I moved into my first apartment with a mattress and a few boxes of books – and no job prospects. Being a priest had been my “job” and after leaving I thought there was no “me” outside of me being priest.

I resigned ministry so as to go in search of who I wanted to be (not who others wanted me to be) – and I was overwhelmed. I felt numb. Soon I was scrambling to figure out what to do. I paid little thought to who I wanted to be.


I was way more determined than I was resilient – and so I needlessly complicated my life.

Adam reminds me of that me. . .

We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.

Joseph Campbell

Resiliency = strength grounded in confidence that allows you to proceed graciously, assertively while being true to who you are and who you want to be.

You cannot be resilient if you do not know who you want to be. Knowing your “who” let’s you choose your “how.”

To be resilient let’s you answer the question:

 What about this situation challenges me to be who I want to be?

And that is a qualitatively different question from:

What do I want to do?

Here’s what I now know ~

How To Be Resilient At Work

  1. Know who you want to be and be willing to do what is necessary to be who you want to be. Once you know who you want to be you will behave in a certain way.
  1. Do not hand power over you to those who do not have the right to power over you.
  1. Take care of your self – physically, emotionally, spiritually – so you avoid becoming a martyr.
  1. Give yourself the time to absorb any shock and then steady yourself with the words, “I’ll handle it.”
  1. No mistake defines you – no crisis derails you – as long as you are committed to being the hero of your own life.
  1. Reject being held captive by self-destructive thoughts including, and most especially, the thought, “I’m a fraud.”
  1. Have a life outside work that is populated with people who love and enjoy you.
  1. Create a strong professional network that you nurture and are nurtured by.
  1. Never allow yourself to be defined by your job, title or salary.
  1. Embrace that you can’t grow if you don’t know what you did wrong AND you can’t grow from what you did wrong until you know what you did right.

There will come a time when you believe everything is finished.

That will be the beginning.

Louis L’Amour

I help people find their voice, showing professionals how to communicate in smart, healthy ways so as to develop successful relationships. 

To explore how I can help you find the strategy

that will let you present you with enhanced confidence,

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