A Spotlight on Building Resilience

27 AUG 2020

In recent weeks, Goldman Sachs hosted several resilience sessions featuring leading external speakers, including Deepak Chopra, M.D., co-founder of The Chopra Center for Wellbeing, Susan David, Ph.D., award-winning Harvard Medical School psychologist, Mo Gawdat, author of “Solve For Happy” and former chief business officer of Google X, Joey Hubbard, chief training officer at Thrive Global, and Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg, a child resilience expert from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

Below is a recap of several strategies and best practices drawn from these sessions to help manage work and life priorities in today’s dynamic environment.

  • Accept Your Feelings: Deepak Chopra encourages individuals to observe both their physical and emotional feelings without judgment, and gently accept them as a prerequisite to change. He explained that while we typically tend to brush aside or bottle our emotions, this leads to higher levels of burnout and lower levels of wellbeing.

    Susan David believes that every difficult emotion is a signpost. She recommended journalling to help deconstruct uncomfortable emotions and seek answers: “Write all the difficult emotions you are feeling on one side of a blank paper, and on the other side write about what you can do to make them better.”
  • Adopt the S.T.O.P. Method: Deepak Chopra discussed the effects of stress and shared the “S.T.O.P.” technique to better manage reactions to stress in real-time: S – Stop; T – Take three deep breaths and smile; O – Observe your thoughts and feelings in the present moment; P – Proceed with awareness and compassion. 
  • Evaluate Your Happiness: Mo Gawdat described happiness as the calm, peaceful feeling that you experience when life meets your expectations, while unhappiness occurs when life events do not meet your expectations. During periods of fear and anxiety, Gawdat believes it is important to focus on what we can do to re-balance our expectations and our emotions, and encouraged participants to follow his ‘happiness flowchart’:
    • Acknowledge the emotion: is what I am feeling true?
    • If yes, can I do something about it, and can I do it immediately?
    • If I cannot do anything about it, can I accept the situation and make my life better despite this truth?
  • Invest in Positive Affirmations: Joey Hubbard explained that this evidence-based strategy mitigates anxiety and optimizes our mindset by countering negative narratives and thought patterns, and discussed the impact of positive affirmations on enhancing performance: “What you believe is what you do.” Affirmations should be a positive sentence in the present tense (e.g., ‘I am’). Hubbard also suggests integrating your affirmation into your daily routine (e.g., washing your hands, brushing your teeth) or pairing it with a moment of recovery time to recharge and reset. 
  • Learn to Let Go and Practice Empathy: Dr. Ginsburg explained that while we have always juggled work and personal responsibilities, we have historically had clearer boundaries separating these tasks. Today, boundaries have blurred and demands placed on us are even more complex. “Are we going to drop a few balls? Of course we are,” he told participants, and recommended we “let go” of mistakes. He finds that this period is a good opportunity to reset our priorities, practice self-forgiveness and self-compassion. “Turn your empathy inward – as you practice [empathy] you are also teaching your children to become empathetic and compassionate.” 
  • Take Microsteps: Joey Hubbard highlighted recent research on the brain from Stanford Medicine that underscores the importance of spotting our ‘warning signs’ of overstress.  When we do, we can take small, meaningful steps – microsteps – to improve our mental health before the stress becomes overwhelming. This science-based strategy counters negative thought patterns, which helps to mitigate anxiety.  Hubbard also discussed the importance of understanding your biotype: “Each of us responds differently to negative stress. And learning to recognize our own thought patterns is the first step to choosing a recharge strategy and course-correcting before our stress becomes cumulative,” he said.
  • Recognize the Silver Lining: Gawdat encouraged participants to recognize the silver lining during challenging times. He explains, “Although there is a sense of loss and insecurity in the current environment, we must look at the positive impact it has had on the environment and on sustainability… Our commute times have reduced and we have more time to pursue what we want to.” Gawdat shared that this isolation period has been a great opportunity for him to spend time with his loved ones and connect with himself.


Learn More:
Talks at GS with Deepak Chopra
Navigating Life’s Twists and Turns: Remote Roundtable with Dr. Susan David