What’s Your ‘Recovery Time’ After a Setback?
Missteps and failures are a given, so you know you need to build resilience for the long haul. But being able to reset quickly in the moment is helpful too. Among elite athletes, that’s called “recovery time,” but it applies just as much to corporate leaders and businesses owners.
How quickly you are able to re-center yourself mentally can mean the difference between a small gaff or minor setback and a downward spiral where things go from bad to worse.
Learn to bounce
Resilience is the process you go through to adapt to challenging life experiences. Many psychologists refer to “harnessing resources” when talking about resilience because you need to tap into a broad range of supports to weather a difficult situation and even grow from it. Some traits that help you cultivate resilience (you can develop and build resilience like other competencies) include realistic optimism, problem-solving skills and the ability to identify when you need outside help and then to ask for it.
Another key element of resilience is speed. That is, how quickly you rebound, especially in fast-paced work environments. Being able to manage your emotions, control impulses and think clearly in real time, especially when faced with an unexpected challenge, can empower you to deftly handle an obstacle rather than let it throw you off course.
While resilience in the face of major life traumas may require long periods of recovery and will rely more on your ability to persevere, reinvent yourself, or find meaning within loss, everyday setbacks require fast reactions.
This can easily be seen in the world of sports. If a basketball player misses her shot, she must summon the mental and emotional bandwidth to reset immediately or the next shot won’t be any better. Some of the most successful athletes of all time are those who have mastered the ability to recover rapidly. How quickly do you recover?
Imagine your boss says your performance on the sales call missed the mark. A client rejects your proposal. You run into tech issues in the middle of a major presentation. Or your teenager gets suspended from school. If you can reset and re-center yourself mentally and emotionally while the situation is still unfolding, you stand a better chance of mitigating the damage.
Plan for the worst
One of the most effective ways to accelerate your recovery time is to plan for failure. That’s not being negative; it’s being realistic and well-prepared. When you’ve already thought about how things might go off the rails, you can rise to a challenging occasion with a degree of clarity and grace that might even turn a difficult or embarrassing situation into one where you shine. Consider these tips for putting yourself in the right frame of mind for rapid recovery.
- Expect discomfort. If you’re growing and stretching in your job, then almost by definition you have not already mastered everything you need to know to do it perfectly. Accept that you won’t always have the right answer, make the best choice or perform as flawlessly as you’d like. Understanding that can free you to meet setbacks with greater humility and lessen the temptation to blame others, make lame excuses or become defensive and difficult to coach.
- Learn by observing. Work environments are rich with opportunities to see how others handle failure and how quickly they recover. Be on the lookout for how leaders you admire deal with unexpected glitches and learn from their example.
- Get curious. If you feel things beginning to unravel, think about whether getting more information or taking the pulse of the room would help. Imagine having just said something thoughtless or inappropriate in front of others. Or perhaps seeing your great idea land like a lead balloon. You don’t have to wonder what others are thinking. You can stop and ask for honest feedback and even help to reset. That will give you the opportunity to make amends, change course or seek ideas from others with genuine curiosity.
- Take a breath and think. Even a brief pause to inhale and exhale slowly can work wonders for your frazzled nervous system and bring your thinking brain back online. One of the biggest secrets to rapid recovery is reconnecting your body and mind. Returning to the idea of athletics, picture a professional tennis player in a major tournament who just dumped an easy backhand into the net. At most, he has a few seconds to ruminate on that problem. What will serve him best is a rapid reset that gets him physically and mentally back in the game.
While resilience is something you will cultivate over a lifetime, and by necessity through enduring challenging situations, your recovery time in everyday circumstances is something you can improve right now. With the right mindset and specific techniques that you can deploy anywhere and anytime, you can shrink your recovery time and grow your ability to manage challenging situations with more grace and intention.