Take the punches and keep coming back

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All of us need to begin to think in terms of our own inner strengths, our resilience and resourcefulness, out capacity to adapt and to rely upon ourselves and our families. Steven Pressfield.

Increasing resilience. For many school leaders that's a matter of just gritting one's teeth, getting through, grinning and bearing it. Yet resilience can be developed in school leadership, in just the same way that we aim to teach the young people in our care.

Here are three steps to becoming more resilient as a school leader.

Step One: ask three simple questions.

Write these down somewhere that you can get access to them quickly when you hit a challenge.

1. Is this problem personal?

2. Is this problem pervasive?

3. Is this problem permanent?

Can you think of a single problem that would result in every question being answered with a Yes? I can't, but if you can, how likely are you to encounter that situation? These three questions immediately give perspective, a fundamental feature of resilience. It may be a significant issue but its professional, not a personal attack. Or is may be really challenging but it comes with a time limit and will pass.

Step Two: When you want to receive, try giving instead.

I had the pleasure of working with an outstanding headteacher who had developed a simple and effective strategy that made her enormously resilient. After a deeply trying, challenging or complex situation, when everything would make a school leader want to get some sympathy from a colleague, eat a double portion of chips at lunch or fixate on the glass of wine waiting that evening, she would get out and give instead. That meant finding a student or colleague in need, listening to their woes, empathising, reassuring and celebrating their successes. She gave more of herself at the very point when most people would have sought to receive.

Step Three: laugh.

As the song goes, Always look on the bright side of life. This is, apparently, the UK's most popular non-religious funeral song! Ultimately there is a truth in that. When resilience is demanded, laughter should be its natural companion.

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