Buzz Word: ‘Resilience’ and its Misconceptions

August 28, 2017 Author: Noelle Menendez, M.A.

There are 6,377 book search results found on Amazon for ‘resilience’. The word is now everyday jargon, making appearances in mission statements and agenda titles. Society has caught the buzz, but there’s still a misconception regarding the endurance versus recovery components of resilience.

Resiliency is the capacity to capitalize on opportunity, embrace challenges, and bounce back in the face of adversity. We tend to perceive resilience as an individual’s ability to tough it out and endure for the long haul resulting in success. This perception is scientifically inaccurate because it overlooks the importance of recovery in our wellbeing and our brain’s optimal cognitive functioning.

“[The] lack of recovery… is costing our companies $62 billion a year in lost productivity."1

The effect of inadequate recovery involves not only money loss for businesses, but also an increase in employers’ health care and turnover costs. Employees are experiencing high mental demands and attempting to tough it out - burning the candle from both ends. On a personal level, an employee without recovery strategies will begin to encounter impairments in other aspects of their life.

Our perceived notion of resilience’s “endurance” more than likely is the primary contribution to our lack of recovery methods. A lack of recovery is evident when we aren’t able to “stop” working. Work can completely consume our thought processes even after leaving the office for the day. Thinking about work can interfere with dinner, family time, leisure and even sleep. In addition, cell phones and tablets provide interfere with recovery as they provide easy access to work emails and tasks, thus again bypassing the “stop” sign representing the need to recover.

Another misconception involves our belief that resting equates recovery. High performing athletes know the difference between rest and recovery. Just because you physically rested your body for an adequate amount of time does not mean you’ve recovered cognitively or emotionally. Swapping work emails and tasks for television or internet surfing may not lead to adequate recovery.

A resilient individual is willing to grow and learn from failure, take calculated risks and is self-aware of when there’s a need to recover to be at their best. Self-care is a term coined to represent this ideology, caring for your mind, relationships, environment, resources, emotions, and time. It’s up to you to determine the “right” way to switch “off”. Here are some recommendations that our clients have found useful.

Unplug by spending time with friends, not talking about work. Plan walking meetings or a lunch away, out of the office. Self-care can seem daunting because you have enough already on your plate, but integrating “me time” into your daily schedule can negate that additional-task-like feeling. One suggestion is to write down the three most important things you must accomplish that day in the morning. As requests and tasks pile up and demand your attention you can prioritize your time to first serve your priorities. You can also “batch like tasks” such as emails, spreadsheets, scheduling, and training. Put those things together so you are in the similar mindset you need for those different demands. Doing so allows you to value your time, resources, and money. Another suggestion might be to debrief with yourself and your team what went well this past month. We often times complete and deliver a task, quickly moving on to the next thing. Deliberately selecting the pause button to recap what was professionally satisfying can be energizing and help the team stay connected.

To be a resilient individual one must be self-aware of where our physiological and mental state is in terms of performance. Recovery is crucial to cognitive functioning and knowing how to do that for ourselves. If we can incorporate self-care during stressful spells and operationalize it at work during our day-to-day, we are putting our most productive, authentic self forward.

If you’re interested in learning more about recovery and work-life balance feel free to reach out to HigherEchelon for more specific ideas.


  1. “Resilience is About How You Recharge, Not How you Endure”: available Harvard Business Review, Shawn Achor & Michelle Gielan, June 24, 2016

  2. “6 Ways to Weave Self-Care into Your Workday”: available Harvard Business Review, Amy Jen Su, June 19, 2017

  3. “4 Ways to Practice Work-Life Balance in Your Small Business”: available U.S. Small Business Administration Blogs – Industry Word, Bridget Weston Pollack, February 7, 2017