Some people take life’s curveballs and crises in stride; they handle adversity remarkably well. Others take longer — or seem unable — to move on. They get stuck or fall apart.
“Nobody gets out of this life unscathed,” said Davia Temin, a global reputation strategist, crisis manager and executive coach.
At 1 p.m. today at the Chautauqua Women’s Club House, Temin will give a talk titled “Resilience: Bouncing Back from Life’s Slings and Arrows,” as part of the Chautauqua Professional Women’s Network series. It will include new research about what people can do to influence their reaction to fate.
What’s unique about this presentation, and the Q-and-A to follow, is that Temin plans to turn the materials into the next “Reputation Matters” column she writes for Forbes about crisis, leadership and strategy.
After earning a master’s in psychology from Columbia University and running marketing, strategy, external affairs and crisis management for several companies and Columbia Business School, she founded Temin and Company in 1997, a boutique management consultancy. She works day-to-day on crises encountered by college CEOs and corporate boards and CEOs.
“They have to be the most resilient people on the planet, because they have to get themselves and others through crises and lead them,” Temin said. “We create, enhance and save reputations. Resilience goes across all three. I coach eight to 10 big CEOs on how to plan, face and recover from everything from personal to professional to organizational crises.”
She said when she works with individuals and organizations, creating resilient organizations is a key topic.
Temin defines resilience as: “The innate or enhanced ability to bounce back from crises or problems that could otherwise destroy you.”
During her talk, she will share five to 10 actions that people can take right away to get through their next hurdle.
Resilience research has gone through phases and, until recently, there have been a number of different perspectives, Temin said. The nature versus nurture phase focused on whether resilience can be cultivated.
The “nature” camp attributed resilience, or the lack of it, to an individual’s innate qualities. Based on heredity, a person either is or is not resilient. The “nurture” camp attributed it to an individual’s personal experiences. Newer research indicates, however, that it’s not an either/or, heredity versus environment situation.
There is some nature in resilience, Temin said; hence the reference to “innate or enhanced ability” in her definition. Fortunately, resilience can be cultivated in individuals and organizations.
Happiness in and of itself does not foster resilience. According to Temin, the “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” research phase was too reductionist.
“I understand the importance of positivity and framing things in a positive way,” she said. “Thinking about five or 10 things you’re grateful for before you fall asleep does put you in a positive frame of mind. But you can take it too far. Think of someone whose leg has been taken off by a landmine. Are you going to tell them to be grateful? You have to be realistically positive.”
She likened resilience to a muscle that strengthens when used and weakens when overused.
“If you face too much bad stuff, you wear down your resilience and can’t take on more. People have different levels of resilience,” she said.
She has combined her experience with that of others in a timeline of resilience covering who makes it and why.
Temin said in resilience research today there are trajectories. One such trajectory is towards a spirit of grit, which in psychology refers to a stable personality trait based on an individual’s passion for a long-term goal combined with a strong motivation to achieve it. Perseverance, hardiness and stamina help people endure and overcome challenging obstacles, including failure and adversity. Immediate positive feedback is not necessary.
Another trajectory is toward mindfulness — concentrating one’s attention non-judgmentally on the present moment. Temin said mindfulness meditation enhances the ability to focus and to distance oneself, and it is a way of building one’s resilience muscle.
“In a sense, crisis is becoming the new normal today,” she said. “To deal with them, individuals needs to build muscle, and colleges and organizations need to get help before they happen.”