I’ve been calling this a challenging summer, but that doesn’t quite seem to capture it at this point. We’re dealing with the pandemic and all the medical concerns it raises. We’re facing an economic crisis of mammoth proportions. We’re revving up for a contentious election. We’re struggling with complex and painful racial justice issues. Here in Chicago we just had a wave of tornadoes pass through. The stress and anxiety just seem to keep on coming.

How do you make it through? Where do you find the reservoirs of strength and hope and determination that you need to keep going?

Building emotional endurance and resilience in beyond-challenging times

I recently had a conversation about two very different but equally important coping strategies. The first is emotional endurance. Sometimes you just have to suck it up and keep putting one foot in front of another. You’re exhausted, you’re demoralized, you can’t see the end of the tunnel … and you just keep on going. Many tales of heroism are about endurance, from Sisyphus forever pushing his boulder up the hill to Frodo Baggins trudging his way through Mordor. The will to keep going is a quality that has enabled many people to survive through tough times.

The other coping strategy is resilience. Resilience is the ability to bounce back — to rise above the challenges and live with energy and purpose. It means finding the little joys, having a vision for the future, and being creative in your coping strategies. If endurance is about surviving, resilience is about thriving.

Some people suggest that resilience is better than endurance, but I disagree. They are both essential in a prolonged period of difficulty like the one we are living through. Some challenges — say undergoing a painful medical procedure — just require endurance. At other times, resilience is the key to overcoming a difficult setback or disappointment .

The business leadership literature is full of articles about resilience right now. And indeed, it is resilient leaders who will lead their companies to success in the days ahead. But some days, endurance is the best we can do. It sure beats giving up.

At Gail Golden Consulting, we’re working with business leadership teams on how to use both endurance and resilience to succeed in uncertain times. If you’d like to know more, contact us at ggolden@gailgoldenconsulting.com.  

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