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In many spheres of the modern world, ‘marginal gains’ has become something of a buzz phrase.

If you make relatively small improvements to one or more aspects of your role, it might, just might, be the difference between success and failure.

Now if you applied this to business, with all its demands and pressures, for instance by being more resilient to stress, it surely follows that you might not only feel better, but could also be more successful?

It’s a stressful world

In business, to say that stress comes with the territory might well be an unwelcome statement of the obvious. The latest UK figures from the Labour Force Survey (LFS) in 2014/2015 indicate that work-related stress has a very significant effect:

  • Total number of working days lost due to this condition - 9.9m days.
  • Stress accounted for 43% of all working days lost due to ill health.
So we’re dealing with something which has a huge effect on business – but can we do anything about it?

A new approach

If you’re stressed or under pressure, you’re unlikely to perform at your best – correct?

Well, not necessarily.......but we need to look at stress differently, and tackle the thinking that has got us into the place of feeling stressed and non-resilient.

Traditional stress management programmes have been based on the assumption that ‘stress is bad’ and that some wellbeing intervention might possibly soften its impact. What it fails to do is tackle our thinking and the mindset that gets us feeling non-resilient – if we invest in helping people think differently to change their mindset, they become more self-aware and more resilient – if we understand our self better - why we are as we are - we are able to make more resilient choices.

So what is resilience?

Resilience could be described as an individual’s response and the methods utilised by them to successfully deal with a situation or event they perceive to be to be stressful.

You might think resilience is like charisma - you simply have it or you don't? Disempowering if you aren’t one of the lucky ones, especially in business at times of real challenge, adversity or growth when the company’s rallying call for resilience goes up.

But maybe that’s wrong - it’s not the situation that stresses us, it’s our response to it. We’re not talking about an impervious steely mindset – too brittle - but being flexible, self-aware and authentic. This creates energy, focus and enhances performance, all of which are key elements in being successful in business.


Recent studies show that a more positive mindset approach to stress, rather than traditional ‘stress management’ tools, can improve resilience and personal effectiveness, and also wellbeing. A US study of 30,000 adults over 8 years found that those reporting high stress levels and who believed stress was harmful were 43% more likely to have died – in contrast, those reporting high stress levels but didn’t believe it was bad for their health had lowest risk of death, even less than those reporting low stress levels.

Choose to be resilient

So it’s a mindset, and we have the choice - a resilient mindset is confident and authentic, reacts positively to challenge, and enhances performance by creating energy rather than letting stress drain it away.

How much you could achieve if you and your team made the choice to be more resilient, and embraced pressure in a more positive way? Here’s 10 transformative habits of resilient people grounded in psychotherapy to help rewire a resilient mindset so that you can be more flexible, focused and perform better.

  1. Practise grey thinking – it’s not all black or white, and seeing a spectrum helps you scan for options. Move from extremes – a child-like ‘all or nothing’ - towards more adult solution-orientated grey thinking, scanning for options.
  2. Embrace stress – sweaty palms, heart pounding? Resilient people don’t feel out of control if this happens, but embrace it, knowing that these feelings arise because it's something they care about. Their response is their bodies getting ready to perform well, much in the same way as athletes.
  3. Accept what you can control – it’s liberating to accept you can only control yourself – don’t exhaust yourself trying to control what you can’t.
  4. Look forward not back – don’t rake over the past, but visualise what you want to happen as your unconscious mind is future-focused and moves you towards your outcome.
  5. Connect with others – stress can make isolation tempting, to feel our pain alone. Resilient people offer help, accept help and are not afraid to ask for it.
  6. You’re not perfect – and you never will be, you’re an authentic product of your experience. So embrace it and others will see you’re a work in progress like them.
  7. Don’t blame yourself – resilient people have a mindset which sees setbacks as temporary. They don’t own bad situations as permanent reflections of themselves, but as learning opportunities.
  8. Embrace failure as learning – Thomas Edison said he had not failed, but had discovered 1000 ways that didn't work. Resilient people see failure as an opportunity to learn and improve, not a defeat.
  9. Practise self-compassion- accept that emotions are human, and allow us to connect to others. Denying our emotions wastes valuable energy which inevitably makes us feel out of control.
  10. Have choice – resilient people always believe they have choice - they always look for options in every situation and so keep the locus of control within themselves.

By Rebecca Howard, Neuro Linguistic Psychotherapist and CEO of ShinyMind