#9: Agility with Resilience is the New Skill for Handling Your Emotions

Resilience, Agility, and Emotional Agility Help Us “Bounce Back,” Stay Competitive, and Live Intentionally.

Welcome to the Mindset for Life podcast. Let’s talk a little about adaptive abilities in life. There are two terms I’d like to introduce to you today. One is resilience; the other is agility.

Resilience and Agility are Beneficial, Learned Skills

There’s a business called Mequilibrium that conducted a study in 2019 about resilience and agility in the workplace. One of their goals was to determine how these two factors contributed to happy employees that were producing really well or burn out.

So, as you might imagine, they did find some interesting results.

Benefits of Learning Resilience and Agility Together

Together, these skills make people more engaged at work. In the study they conducted, the researchers found that they see much more meaning at work and purpose in their work when people have both resilience and agility.

They are more hardy, basically. That means you don’t burn out as quickly or burn out as much.

In fact, in this study they were 71% better off on the burnout scale, meaning that they were less prone to burnout when they had high resilience and agility together. And, people with high resilience and agility also had much less depression and anxiety.

What If We Focus on Only One of These Skills?

Now, if you were to just take away resilience (this “bounce-back” factor) and you only focused on agility (the whole strategy part) adapting quickly but not really the bounce-back part, that doesn’t really save you. Because, people with just the focus on agility and not resilience in this study, they found that those people actually had more depression, more anxiety, and were more likely to be absent from work.

So what is this mean about us in our personal lives? And, why do we care about these workplace terms in our every day, day-to-day living?

You Can Learn Resilience

One of the results of this study was that resilience was found to be the ability to rebound productively in challenging situations. Of course, that’s the definition of resilience.  But here, it’s something that we can actually learn.

It’s a skill, not just a personality trait only a few people have.

That may surprise you. It used to be that we thought resilience was sort of this natural trait you were born with.

This skill can actually be learned and can be taught to people in the workplace.

But it can also be learned in everyday life.

What Does Resilience Really Mean?

The skill of resilience requires emotional control, optimism, self-efficacy, and problem-solving.

Emotional control is the part of resilience that we’re most interested in today.

Because, a lot of what we experience in life that frustrates us or holds us back really has to do with our emotions.  It’s either our emotional response to something that’s going on, the emotions we feel in relationship to other people, our relationships with them, or the emotions we just feel about ourselves or our situation just how we are right now.

So, emotional control is big. And, it can go miles in helping us to be resilient and rebound to challenging situations.

Image of skier upside down after crashing

You Can Use Agility as a Strategy

The term I mentioned, agility, this is the ability to adapt to changes. It means that you can react appropriately and adapt to changes quickly. So, you can take advantage of new opportunities.

Agility helps you keep learning. It helps you to want to try something new. And, agility means that you use strategy to do this.

Agility Keeps You Competitive

So, if you’re in business, agility makes you competitive. You compete with other businesses and in the marketplace.

In your own life, you compete but not necessarily against other people. Against yourself. Your own past abilities. The you of yesterday. However you were last week, last year, or 10 years ago.

Agility means you’re competing to become your better self now and in the future.

You need both resilience and agility in business to succeed. But these can work together in our personal lives too.

How Can Resilience and Agility Work for You?

We need to be able to recover or rebound from the challenges that we face. So, we need to have that emotional control, optimism, self-efficacy, and problem-solving from resiliency. But, we also need to be able to react appropriately by adapting quickly, using strategies, competing against our previous performance, and continuing to learn.

All of these things are going to help us both recover from hardships and challenges in life, but also move forward quickly and be able to grow.

Developing These Skills Creates Emotional Agility

The idea of emotional agility means you can actually step outside yourself in a moment of need and scrutinize your ability. To think about what you’re feeling in the moment. And, you give yourself a little bit of space to really analyze and think about what you’re feeling, what you’re experiencing, and how you’d like things to go.

Basically, it means that you’re going to feel your emotions a little more intentionally. Think your thoughts more intentionally. And, stop that spin cycle that we all get into–when we have these ready-made thoughts that were kind of just stuck in that that come back again and again.

What are Some Tools to Create Emotional Agility?

Today, I share with you a few ideas from the new book Emotional Agility by Dr. Susan David. I highly recommend checking it out.

She has an excellent website that I’ll link to in the notes from the podcast today. I will also provide a link to her quiz.

You can take the quiz about emotional agility in your own life. It’s a real quick questionnaire, maybe five minutes long. On it, you’ll talk about your emotions, click the links, and you’ll have the opportunity to select your top three values.

Identifying Your Values is Part of Emotional Agility

This is really important because in your life, all of the decisions you make and the things you do–if they aligned to the values that you care most about—you are going to have a lot more satisfaction and meaning in your life.

If they don’t align very well, you are going to find yourself frustrated a lot. Maybe feeling unpleasant emotions that you want to push aside. And, really not going through your life in a way that makes you feel good most of the time.

So, knowing what your values are and living in alignment with your values is why we really care about emotional agility. It’s this whole idea of pausing to think about things in the present moment. And, then a little bit more intentionally making the choice on how to react to something. That gives you the space to live your values. So that’s the critical element here.

Step Out to Observe Your Thoughts and Emotions

Alright, so one of the things she talks about, Dr. David in her book, is stepping out to observe and recognize your thoughts and emotions without letting them drive your reactions and choices.

Image of woman looking at thought bubbles

Just hitting the pause button, you can become aware and accept your emotions instead of hiding from what you might consider the more negative emotions. In fact, in her book, she talks about how labeling emotions like these as “good” or “bad” emotions actually creates a lot of baggage and problems for us in feeling what we normally would feel.

So, we can set aside the labels and stop saying these are bad emotions I don’t want to feel, running from emotions, and hiding from them or being ashamed of them.

Instead, if we can accept what we feel, that’s really going to be one step towards helping ourselves step out, observe, and recognize our thoughts and feelings, and really be able to slow things down.

Learn from More Difficult Emotions

Another thing that she recommends is learning from the most difficult emotions we might feel. So, if there are some feelings that come your way that you find super challenging and you try to either avoid or you aren’t really sure what to do with, learning from those is a really great idea.

Slowing down to think about what you’re feeling and why you’re feeling it, that’s really a priority.

And, when you create the space between the situation and your reaction to it, to stop the cycle of automatic thinking and responding, this is going to give you the opportunity to get beyond whatever might be your conditioned or pre-programmed thinking and emotional responses.

Identify Automatic Thoughts and “Stories”

Dr. David calls these your “hooks.” They are things that basically fly into your mind automatically, without really thinking them through. And, this happens to all of us. It happens to me, it happens to everyone I know. We all have a lot of stories that we tell ourselves.

An example of a “story” might be saying something like, “people are generally kind,” or “people are generally not kind if you come to ask them for something,” or something like that.

So, there are a lot of little stories we tell, which are basically like our mindset or our philosophy of the world; and, we create our own stories. Surprisingly, people around us all have different stories than we do. Even though we might have a certain understanding of things, somebody else might have a totally different understanding. And that’s their story.

Consider How Past Experiences Lead to Emotions

So, we all have these mental stories. Other things that are sort of automatic, conditioned, or preprogrammed thinking we have are things like our past experiences. So, if we experience things or people a certain way, we sort of developed this pattern of understanding life based on our past. If everyone we’ve ever known has always complimented us in a certain way or criticizes us about a certain thing, we might come to expect that from other people too.

If everyone we’ve ever known totally loves us and they love everything about us, we might grow up thinking everyone will love us all the time. And, in any of these black-and-white thinking ideas, of course it would be a little shocking over time to realize that maybe it’s not really that way, our past experiences do tend to dictate our thinking about a lot of things.

Woman looking thoughtful

Guard Against Self-Doubt

And a third thing that Dr. David mentions in her book about the preconditioned ideas we have is self-doubt. So we have our own inner dialogue that we may not share with everybody else about how we see ourselves, and a lot of that could be filled with self-doubt.

The idea of emotional agility means that you can understand and accept your emotions and feel them. But, just like in business, the concept of being agile and bouncing back with resilience, but also being able to be flexible, use strategy to change things and respond differently and learn, in business we can do that.

In our own lives and in our emotional world, we can actually start the new habit of living much more aware in the moment how we feel, what we’re thinking about things, see things a lot more clearly in the present, and take a different response to that. Find a new filter to put that through, find a new frame to put it in, and see it differently.

And what we can see things differently and feel something differently, or even just recognize what we feel right now, then we can slow down just enough to make a thoughtful decision to act the way we want to.

A Closing Thought and Example

So, for example, whatever is most valuable to you, what your key values are in life, you can act then in accordance with your values. And no matter what the outcome is, even if it doesn’t go well, or if it goes poorly, you can leave the experience, thought, or emotion feeling as though things have gone better. Because, they line up with your values.

I’ll give you an example:

When I took the quiz Dr. David’s, quiz I came up with the three values of challenge, autonomy, and confidence.

That’s probably no big surprise to my listeners out there, because I talk a lot about embracing challenge, trying hard things, and also being confident.

It takes a lot of autonomy to do those things, so that may make a lot of sense that I would come up with those three values when I took that quiz.

Now, if I make my decisions to pursue confidence, to seek out challenges, and not shrink in the face of difficulty, that’s can give me the satisfaction and fulfillment in life of living up to my values.

But, if something challenging comes along and some self-doubt or old story or past experience filters my thinking, I might just instinctively respond to those thoughts and turn away from a challenge.

Then later, I would have feelings that I don’t really want to have, because I didn’t live that value the way I wanted to.

Compass labeled “values”

So this week, I encourage you to think about your values, what’s most important to you, and how you’re feeling about your emotional agility.

Try out the link in the podcast notes–of Dr. David’s quiz–and consider a read of the book Emotional Agility. It’s a really interesting read that helps break open the mindsets we have that we take for granted and take another spin on handling our emotions.

Thanks for listening! All the best to you as you try out these things this week. And, let me know what you think. Stop by my website and drop me a comment, or stop by my Facebook page.

To complete the emotional agility quiz designed by Dr. Susan David, please visit: http://quiz.susandavid.com/s3/eai.

You can find more information about the book Emotional Agility here: https://www.susandavid.com/#ea-book.