A few pieces of advice for starters on psychological resilience

Resilience is not tenacity

If anyone asked me whether I would have picked auditing as a career if I’d known all the challenges I had to deal with, my answer would be a humongous “YES”. I believe all those experience and learning I acquired through the years of auditing, contributed to who I am today.

When starting your career as a fresh auditor, you must accept that you will face different challenges. Honing a resilience mindset to prepare yourself to deal with these, is crucial. Most people if not all, start a new job with an ambition to make a mark. Building resilience will help you to cope with the challenges and overcome adversity and deal with toxic situations. Resilience works against stress and anxiety while boosting your performance.

Then, what exactly is resilience? Maybe, we should start first by defining what resilience is not. Resiliency doesn’t mean that the individuals are not experiencing emotional stress. It is not tenacity. Resilient people are not some sort of ultra powered superheroes. Emotional pain and sadness are common for all people who experience major adversity.

Emma Seppälä defines resilience, in her book “The Happiness Track”, as the ability to quickly bounce back from the stressful situations you face every day. Let’s face it. The odds of bad things happening are similar to good things. There are times that we feel like we are sucked into a void, be that personal or professional experience which results in setbacks. Resilience is indeed the ability not to fold under pressure, even if you don’t feel calm and confident.

Auditing is one of the most demanding professions and requires a good level of mental, physical, and psychological health. It is awesome if you score high for all three aspects at the beginning. Keeping them constantly at the required level would be the challenge. The shore you need to build is your psychological resilience. Are you interested in hearing a few pieces of advice to make your first months bearable?

Accept what you don’t have control over

There are some important qualities that resiliency requires. Probably the most important one is to know exactly when you need to accept what you don’t have control over. I believe this is the very first thing that a fresh auditor should keep in mind, instead of killing himself/herself with the pain of not being able to change things that he/she would never have control over.

There will always be difficult situations and people that you need to deal with. Focus on your task, get the most out of it. Don’t spend your time trying to convince people on requirements or the principals of the assessment you are doing. Stay calm, give people a chance to provide their point of view, but stop the conversation politely when you see that it is going nowhere. Focus on your task again.

The road to resilience will include a considerable amount of emotional stress. Watch your body and try to gauge the level of stress. Remind yourself that nothing is personal. Psychological research states that individuals interpret the setbacks as permanent, pervasive, and personal have much more difficulty than the ones doing the opposite. Remember, the things putting you under stress are temporary, specific, and external.

You are bigger than one

To maximize mental health and build resiliency, you must be bigger than your only professional identity, no matter how much you love what you do. Healthy people with strong mental resilience have two or more positive identities in addition to their professional identities. A gardener, a painter, a photographer, or parenting. When you create more than one identity, a threat to any one of them will hurt you less overall.

Start a routine in the mids of disruption: running, going to the gym every day, going on a short walk, the activities you can still do while auditing. There is a world outside of the problems you are facing. Introducing one of these routines will help you deal with the stress during the audits. It will also help to build your long term stamina while keeping you on track and focused.

Do a self-assessment after each audit

You will realize quickly that every single audit is teaching you at least one lesson, if not more. Perform a self-assessment after each audit. This doesn’t need to be a formal one. Think about the situations which you did well as well as you were not able to cope with. Get advice from your manager or coach. Discuss with them openly how you felt, why you felt the way you felt.

Ask questions to yourself and give honest answers. Are you afraid of being rejected? Is that the reason why you struggle to defend your position during the assessment? Did you take it personally while discussing with one of the auditees? Is that the reason why you lost your control and over-reacted? Do you have some confidence issues? Is that because you are a perfectionist and demand more than you can deliver at this time?

If you can surface the emotion which caused you to perform less than your potential, this will also help you deal with it. Make an action plan for yourself and stick to that. Tell your manager/coach the things which were beyond your control. It could be that they have some control over those and ease the process for the next one.

Remember all the learning you get through the audits will help you to:

  1. Stretch your comfort zone
  2. Create new brain paths
  3. Create opportunities to fail
  4. Build resilience

which in return help you flourish. Anyone who wants to can build resilience with a discipline of effort. Start it by changing how you evaluate situations in the face of challenges.

By Tülay Kahraman
September 18, 2020

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