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Resilience (Episode 30)

    Resilience (Episode 30) | Sarah offers a framework for thinking about and building resilience

    Research Adjacent Episode 30 Resilience

    For this episode Sarah is flying solo to talk about what it turns out is one of her pet subjects – resilience. Sparked by a comment from past guest Lorna Wilson on the Nature Careers podcast, Sarah explores why resilience is one of the most important skills for anyone working in the world of research.

    Change is inevitable

    Much as we often try to resist it, like death and taxes, change is inevitable. But like a tree in storm, if we are too rigid that wind of change can break us when we need to bend. Like a game of snakes and ladders, if you want to keep playing the game you have to keep rolling the dice, even when you hit a snake.

    “I think of resilience is a deep-rooted belief that no matter what happens you will be OK, no matter what happens, fundamentally you, as a human being, are OK. It’s not a Pollyanna everything is fabulous kind of thing – bad stuff happens, but resilience is about how you pick yourself up and keep going.”

    Why resilience is so important in research

    Research can be a pretty brutal world. Funding applications are rejected, experiments fail, the job market can be intensely comptitive. Rejection and disappointment are often the norm. But those who work in research are often the people who got top grades at school, who followed the rules and were promised success if they just worked hard enough.

    On top of this, research culture is often an toxic brew of overwork, bullying and competition. Research culture needs to change. To make that change happen we need resilient people who have the energy to push for change. That is only possible when people are taking care of themselves. As the saying goes ‘you can’t pour from an empty cup’.

    Resilience can be learned and strengthened

    For Sarah resilience is fundamentally about managing our mindset, built on a foundation of personal skills and practical tools. It’s about accepting what we can’t control and pouring our energy into the things we can control. To use the analogy of driving a car – sklls are knowing how to drive, knowing what all the buttons do and making sure you are safe to drive (i.e. not drunk). Then practical tools are making sure your car is safe, you have an MOT and petrol in the engine, and a trusted mechanic on standby if you breakdown. Finally, and crucially, is mindset. Think of this as who is in the car with you – would you rather have a screaming toddler or a critical back seat driver, or an encouraging friend who brings good snacks and an excellent mix tape?

    Skills, tools, mindset

    In the podcast Sarah talks about these three aspects of resilience. For skills she talks about self care, boundaries and asking for help. Under the tools category she focuses on back-up plans, finances, lifelong learning and support. Then turning to mindset she considers what Brene Brown calls FFTs (F*@ing First Times), self forgiveness and kindness, imposter phenomena, shifting focus and gratitude.

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