Remember these? To me Snowdrops always signify resilience and perseverance. These small and beautiful flowers bloom in tough winter months, they don’t wait until it is warmer, they show up and bring the promise of spring.
During these strange times we have all had to draw on a huge pool of self-resilience. So, what is resilience? And how do we become more resilient?
What is resilience?
Firstly, for me it’s that inner voice acknowledging ‘this thing’ has happened and I cannot change it, so the voice then says, ‘what can I do to improve the situation?’.
Here are some tips for finding and retaining resilience:
- Keep optimistic
- Draw on your own and others past challenging experiences
- Maintain a positive attitude throughout the situation
- Keep focused on resolving the issue, don’t get distracted
- Be confident in your own capabilities to manage difficult situations
- Look beyond for innovative ideas
- Change behaviours for new ways of thinking, remember; if you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you always got. Consider engaging a Coach for Behavioural Change
- Ask for help and accept support when it’s offered
- Be pragmatic. Formulate and imagine the changes required for your new plans
- Be proactive – take control – don’t let it control you
Above all ensure that you remain flexible to adapt to variations on route.
Early years resilience
I have never considered myself to be any different to other young women brought up in the North West although, I always wanted to have a career that was not typically for girls.
When challenges present themselves to me people say ‘Oh! You’ll be fine - you’re so resilient and always so positive!’ So, I have been reflecting on what is resilience? How do you know you have it? The presentation I gave to GIA to celebrate International Women’s Day 2019 is one way to explain where resilience comes from. I was asked to describe my experiences of the property and construction industry through my 30 years as a Chartered Architect. One of the main personal observations I noticed was my resilience to challenging events and the positive outcomes they created.
At the age of nine I was determined to be a meteorologist. I told my head teacher of my intensions she immediately bought a meteorological station for the school, so instead of heading off to assembly each morning, I went onto the playing fields to take daily weather readings. Thinking back, Miss McNally was an inspirational head teacher; she didn’t say ‘don’t be ridiculous girls aren’t weather forecasters’ instead she wholly encouraged my aspirations by allowing me to practice as a meteorologist at junior school.
Aged eleven I failed my 11+. This was totally unexpected, however the same head mistress informed me that if I had been a boy I would have passed. It appeared that gender balance was not being practiced in education in 1971 as there were more grammar school places for boys than girls. At the time I accepted this and although disappointed, undeterred I continued to work hard at the ‘other’ school and progressed to sixth form college: my first test of resilience.
Disappointing Results - resilience
My passion for weather forecasting continued unabated until I opened the envelope containing my A level results. The rest of my life changed direction in a moment. I did not get the grades I needed to go to Reading University, the home of academic meteorology. I was devastated as I hadn’t thought about any other career. My perception at this time was that I wasn’t sufficiently academic, and I had to accept I will not be the first in my family to go to university: my second test of resilience.
I needed to take a look at the different opportunity hidden behind the ‘doors’:
Door 1 - Re-sit my A levels;
Door 2 - Find another job;
Door 3 – Do nothing – not an option according to my Dad!
Gender Prejudice resilience
I saw an job advert in the local paper for a Trainee Architectural Technician, I didn’t know what it was a so I applied. The architect offered me the job, however, another 18-year-old male was taken on at the same time and we were told that one of us would lose our job in six months. Odd you might think: the rational was, being a girl, I was not a good investment and they didn’t think I would last the course! I stayed, he went. Training was done through night school and day release at a Further Education college. I was the first and only female to enrol on the course: my third test of resilience - I needed to survive in the male dominated classes.
This is the stage others began to see my capabilities clearer than I did and my tutors encouraged me to apply to Schools of Architecture, to qualify as an architect. I didn’t think this was possible because I had an assumed a limiting belief that I wasn’t sufficiently academic to gain a degree (I now know that assumptions are not reality). I went to Leicester School of Architecture and became chartered in 1988. I now have a degree, two post-graduate diplomas and a Masters.
At the beginning of my career it appears that there was not the balance of opportunities available for girls as there are today. I had to discover and make things happen myself although at the time it did not seem unusual. I forged myself a career in a male dominated world with the encouragement and help from others, but I always maintained a positive outlook.
Global Economic resilience
Many years followed with more than one economic recession, all of which had their own unique challenges. I again needed to draw on my internal resilience. I have been made redundant three times during my career. I moved on each time until I finally did something different and in parallel to architecture; I enrolled on a MSc in Coaching and Behavioural Change and have developed a business to help working people achieve their full potential in the workplace, especially, but not exclusively, women in male dominated environments
Some things take longer to get over than others but it’s maintaining the belief that, and to quote from the film The Most Exotic Marigold Hotel, ‘It will be OK in the end, if it’s not OK then it’s not the end’.