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Career Resilience in Action

Building Resilience: The 5 Stages of Deliberate Change

Building your career resilience is an intentional, deliberate process. Leaving it up to chance is a recipe for failure. But what's the process for making change happen? 

In The Joy of Appreciative Living (a book I can't recommend highly enough), Jacqueline Kelm lays out 5 stages for deliberative change that I think are instructive for those of us looking to become more resilient. 

1. Awareness

To make a change, you must first become aware that change is necessary. When it comes to resilience, you become aware that something has to change in your approach to your career. Maybe you find that you're on your 3rd layoff in as many years. Or you realize that you're in a constant state of anxiety over work. Somehow, the need for change pushes its way into your consciousness. It's the awareness phase that sets the stage. 

2. Commitment

After you become aware of a situation, the next phase is commitment. You must decide to make things happen. 

Often I find that people become aware that change is necessary, but instead of committing to making a change, they push the awareness out of their consciousness--they go into denial.  

Another response I've seen with people is that they assume that they have little control over their lives--that there are no actions to take, so commitment to change is not going to accomplish anything.

But awareness is not enough to make change happen. You must commit to change in order to move to the next phase. 

3. Action

Once you've committed to making a change, you must now take actions that support the change you want to see. 

This is another area where I see people having some problems. They know there's an issue, they are committed to making changes, but then they don't take action to make those changes a reality. 

Often this is because they aren't sure what actions to take. Fear or confusion holds them back.

But lack of action can also be a sign of the resistance that accompanies every act of creation.  Steven Pressfield, in Do the Work, argues that Resistance (with a capital "R") is the enemy of everything we do to create something new in the world. It is an external force that inevitably rises up to meet us when we strive to do something great. 

Without action, though, we cannot build resilience. It is through action that we start to see the shifts in ourselves that are nessary to meet the challenges of the workplace. 

4. Acclimation

Assuming that we've begun to act, things will start to change around us so we must acclimate to the new reality we are creating for ourselves. This means adjusting to the new and letting go of the old. 

This acclimation phase can be challenging, particularly in terms of releasing what no longer serves us. Often the changes we are pursuing will point out all of the old ways of being and doing that were unconscious before. 

During the acclimation phase, we become more aware of old patterns and beliefs that we must let go of and we begin to see what the new patterns are creating in our lives. These new patterns will require us to adapt again. 

I also find that during acclimation, we can struggle with feelings of uncertainty and doubt. Are we making good choices? Are we looking "stupid"? Are people judging us for the changes that we're making and how does that impact what we do? 

Acclimation is the uncertain phase when we're caught between the old and the new. If we keep up with the changes, then that leads us to the final phase--Realization. 

5. Realization

This is the final stage of intentional change, when we've succeeded in creating new patterns of behavior. It becomes easier for us to make the right choices and to live the new patterns without having to think all the time about what we're doing. 

This is also when we can more consistently reap the rewards of the changes we've made. Enough momentum has built up that we are in the flow of a new way of being in the world. 

To build the four patterns of resilience--Clarifying, Connecting, Creating and Coping--we must be intentional about the change proceess. These patterns don't happen by accident. We must coax them into being through a conscious process of development. 

What phase of resilience are you in? Are you stuck in a phase and need to move to the next level? How will you do that today? 

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