Flexing Your Appreciative Resilience Muscle

Dr. Jeanie Cockell and Dr. Joan McArthur-Blair are co-presidents of Cockell McArthur-Blair Consulting and co-authors of Building Resilience with Appreciative Inquiry, published by Berrett-Koehler this year.


It will be well into 2019 by the time you read this. Resolutions have stuck or come and gone. Work is demanding excellence, there is a change agenda, a call for new innovations, and you are being asked to resolve office conflicts. And, it is a particularly demanding time in history for those who work in government in the service of citizens.

All of this takes a daily practice of resilience. Resilience is about withstanding big challenges but it is also about practising the resilient self in the everyday of workplace leadership. So the invitation to you in this article, is to integrate these simple and powerful daily practices and to flex your resilience muscle to make it stronger. This process is called ‘appreciative resilience.’ Appreciative because it builds on the strengths you already have and resilience because it is about being stronger in the day to day so you are better prepared to face the big challenges.

In flexing the resilience muscle you can begin to strengthen in small ways the skill needed to find a path forward in more complex challenges.


Practice One: On your morning commute whether by cycle, bus, train, car or foot, begin your day by thinking about two or three things you are grateful for. They might be tiny or large, it doesn’t matter. Starting each day with gratitude pulls into the forefront what is good in your life. Being present with these things offers strength to face the day and what it will ask of you – it flexes your appreciative resilience muscle.

Practice Two: Every day in your work, people come to you with problems, issues, situations you need to solve. Reframing is a powerful tool to help you remove some of the stress in these situations and find a way forward. Reframing asks you to think through what you are paying attention to. The classic example is the glass half full or half empty. In work situations, reframing can assist in helping one to focus on what is possible, what might be solved, where is the opportunity in this situation. In your day to day work, think about what you are choosing to focus on and how the situation might shift if you changed your focus. Over the next few days practice appreciative resilience by asking as you think through issues and challenges: How might I perceive this situation differently? Is there an opportunity here? What are the strengths the team is exhibiting as they manage this crisis? How would focusing on our strengths help us in this time of crisis?

Practice Three: On your evening commute, hone your appreciative resilience by asking yourself what you have done today to foster resilience for yourself and others. Ask yourself where in your day you asked questions that uplifted those around you. Ask how you used your strengths to uplift someone else. Ask yourself if you were willing to see that other people’s perspectives were of value to them. Ask yourself if you were willing to forgive when someone else made a misstep.

Each of these three basic appreciative resilience practices will begin to hone your ability to flex your resilience muscle. In flexing the resilience muscle you can begin to strengthen in small ways the skill needed to find a path forward in more complex challenges. Appreciative Resilience is a daily journey of building one’s ability to foster hope, to focus on strengths in challenging times; and to forgive even when it is very complex to do so. Resilience is about sustaining and sustaining is a practice honed from the day to day practice of being a resilient self.

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