How to Develop Toughness at Work: 3 Lessons on Resilience from Ivatan Stone Houses

      Are you easily discouraged? At work, if you’re not TOUGH, you won’t endure long enough to achieve your goals. What does it mean to be TOUGH at work?
     Work can be demanding and stressful. It can be dismaying when you are faced with problems that are seemingly too difficult to handle. Some people and situations can also cause you deep hurt feelings, and you will be tempted to give up. No one is exempt from going through heavy storms at work. How do we weather the storms? This requires toughness! Another word for toughness is RESILIENCE.


     In 2012, I went to visit Batanes, a group of islands in the Philippines located at the northern tip of the country. Typhoons usually enter through that island, and so the people — the Ivatans — there through years of experience built their homes to withstand the most treacherous storms. They are made of stone and lime walls and are many times thicker than regular constructions. These houses are resilient. They are tough! If there was a big bad wolf around, I’m sure the three little pigs would be very safe in there.


     We can learn valuable qualities from these Ivatan stone homes. Here are 3 ways to develop resilience through “storms.”


 1. Train Yourself to Handle “Strong Winds”


      Conflict is part of the dynamics at work because we don’t always share the same opinions, and we have varying perspectives when it comes to plans and implementation.  We have to train ourselves to handle opposition. In fact, best selling book author Patrick Lencioni describes “Fear of Conflict” as one of the 5 dysfunctions of a team. Lencioni says,
“When there is trust, conflict becomes nothing but the pursuit of truth, an attempt to find the best possible answer.”
When people are opposed to your ideas, it’s not always because you are being personally attacked. We have to take conflicting opinions as an effort to find the best approach to a problem. When “strong winds” come your way, and it affects your emotions and challenges your pride — learn to take it for the good of the group. Of course, trust is a pre-requisite to this. A team that trusts each other is comfortable with conflict. An organization with a weak foundation of trust will easily get blown away in adversity. Initiate a culture of trust in your group by setting expectations and agreeing on a common goal.


 2. Reinforce your Strength with Spirituality


     When tough times come, we have to learn to center ourselves. We have to “pull it together.” At our core, is our spirituality. When one is strong internally, then he can withstand the pressures and strains externally. It’s like building thick walls to protect you. When we deepen our spirituality, we build layers of spiritual strength. This is why despite the persecution of the Saints, their joy in Christ cannot be stolen from them, and they maintain virtue. In tough times, hope has to be kept alive, and this hope comes from a person who is filled with faith and love.


      “Deep inside this armor, the warrior is a child” sings Gary Valenciano, exposing depth of toughness. Strength lies in “running home” to the Father when we fall down. Before God we bear our weaknesses, and He alone endows us w/ strength that makes us TOUGHER than ever. The Psalmist would sing:
“Though my flesh and my heart fail, God is the rock of my heart, my portion forever. (Psalms 73: 26)


 3. Get Tougher and Wiser at Every Storm


      Helen Keller said:
“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.”
When I went through one of the toughest times of my life, one of my mentors said, “That’s character formation.” It’s true. The lessons stick, and they affect my actions and decisions. Just like how the Ivatan stone houses improve in design at every experience of storm. They would think what they can add to make their homes tougher to face the strongest typhoons.


      In tough times we think more of what we lost. But we can also ponder on what we gained. Through Christ’s suffering, salvation is gained. Whatever we’re suffering from today, the lessons will save us in the future. That’s why we get tougher and wiser at each storm we go through.


      The Dictionary would define resilience as “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.” Toughness is achieved by failing many times and rising every time. Your hard and painful experiences will strengthen you. R. H. Schuller wrote: “Tough times never last but tough people do.” Storms pass, and so will your problems. Endure with hope and gain wisdom for the future. Be tough!


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