Futurists’ predictions for 2017 include a continuing impact of major political votes, the evolution of artificial intelligence, robotic societies and more. How do we adapt with minimal stress to our ever-changing, pressurized environment? By developing a superpower: resilience.

“Resiliency in the Workforce” was the topic of a recent Center for Creative Leadership webinar, where Nick Petrie, a specialist in organizational behavior and leadership development, shared the research findings of Dr. Derek Roger of the University of York. Roger studied why some patients get stressed and overwhelmed in the face of disease, and others are resilient. The topic was especially pertinent to Petrie, who had cancer and experienced a recurrence. He learned first-hand that the most difficult aspect of dealing with cancer was the mental component.

Traditional approaches to managing stress are either symptoms-based—for example, treating heart palpitations, sleep issues, etc., instead of the root cause of the stress—or events-based—for example, identifying common stress-inducing occurrences like death or holidays.

The weakness with an events-based approach is certain circumstances are unavoidable, and two people can go through the same happening and experience different reactions—one stressed, one not. The conclusion: pressure does not always have to equal stress.

Day-to-day stress is caused by rumination—thinking over and over about an event in the past or future and attaching negative emotion to it. When people ruminate, they go into fight or flight mode, which puts a strain on their bodies, especially their hearts. Rumination is bad for health (causing plaque build-up and heart attacks), productivity (taking time away from other tasks) and wellbeing (making you feel miserable). People who are later in their career generally ruminate less, because they’ve learned to manage pressure.

Rumination happens in a state of waking sleep—the state in which people spend most of their time—where we dream about the past or future and virtually go to sleep for thirty seconds, then come back. We have a choice as we aren’t genetically programmed to ruminate. To decrease rumination and stress, and increase agility and resilience, maintain a balance in each of the following measures of resilience:

  • Frequency of rumination — churning over emotional upsets, prolonging misery.
  • Emotional inhibition — reluctance to express feelings.
  • Toxic achieving — a massive sense of urgency, type-A personality.
  • Avoidance coping — acting like an ostrich with its head in the sand.
  • Perfect control — can’t see the threshold of added value and anxious about not delivering the perfect outcome.
  • Detached coping — ability to keep things at an appropriate distance and perspective; not take things personally.
  • Sensitivity — great awareness of others’ feelings
  • Flexibility — adapt more quickly and easily to change.


How do you fare in each of these areas? How can you cultivate the super power of resilience in 2017? Send us a note, we’d love to hear about your strategies.

-Wendy Colbert

Wendy is a Sage Ways consultant and writer. Her personal essays have been featured in The Huffington Post, Salon, Jezebel, and other publications.