Over the course of a year, an organization will ebb and flow, just as our earthly days flow between night and day and back to night again. Over the course of many years, there can be wide swings in this ebb and flow. Resilience provides a steady center from which organizations (and the individuals who lead them) can observe and participate in this flow. They can hold more loosely to expectations and outcomes and more aptly respond to shifting needs from both outside and also within the organization. From this steady center, organizations can find lessons and opportunities in both the “setbacks” and the “successes”. Both the highs and lows become less likely to hijack excessive energy, attention or money when they are recognized as part of a flow rather than as end points. Resilience becomes a metronome, establishing a steadying pace for organizational momentum that honors the ebb and flow with both flexibility and integrity.

I recently completed a two-year Interfaith Ministry program. In the first few weeks of the program, my cohort was tasked with creating a class covenant, a community vow to guide our work together. I don’t think I was the only one who was skeptical of the idea of wordsmithing a communal vision with 9 people who I had just met, all of whom had come to the program with different backgrounds, goals and needs. However, we took a collective deep breath and settled into our task with clear commitment to our shared work. Our covenant quickly and surely emerged.

Aligned in Spirit, we hold ourselves, each other and the world with resilience and compassion.

As we reviewed and confirmed the intention that we were setting, a classmate advocated clearly for including resilience. She described the strength and integrity of resilience, but also its flexibility. We discussed the importance of our cohort being strong but not rigid, flexible but not untethered. Resilience stuck — and proved to be an important guiding intention for the next two years.

Over the first year, the cohort grew close. Resilience and compassion provided a strong safety net for personal and communal growth and development as shared stories and experiences drew us closer and tighter together. During the second year, however, job and responsibility changes required a few individuals to switch to a cohort that met on a different day of the week. Another individual joined our cohort from another. I was a little nervous about what would happen to the tight and connected unit that was our cohort. It seemed inevitable that the closeness and inclusivity of the first year would need to dissolve to accommodate our shifting form.

Of course, nothing was inevitable. Instead of dissolving, our cohort became porous, releasing those who needed to depart and receiving those who were arriving with equal welcome. We remained close in our heart and deeply committed to one another and our common intention. Our covenant provided a steady center for us to lean into. We swung wide as we responded to emerging needs, discerned wants, and even, periodically, followed distractions. But the depth and pace of our experience continued uninterrupted; we always returned to the center, to our shared intention. Resilience was the metronome that pulled us there.

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  • Thank you Lisa for this beautiful essay. I am going to be giving a prsentation on resilience in long term care workers. This will be helpful. I,too, wondered about putting the word ‘resilience’ in our covenant. This turned out to be just the right word. It’s rejuvenation beyond flexibility.

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