The Art of Resilience

90 days of spring logo-1.png         Knowing when to hold on and when to let go is an art form.


It’s week two as an apprentice with the marketing team at Spring Asia. While the open learning environment that Imran and Singrui created has been helpful in my attempt to develop new skills (read my previous post), there are also moments where I wonder what on earth am I doing. A good case in point would be the fact that I have absolutely no background in any of the Adobe programmes or anything about designing, however I have been tasked to design social media posts as well as to design the layout for Spring’s newsletter.

I would thus consider myself quite an experienced individual in the art of resilience. We all know that resilience encompasses some element of determination and strength, however true masters of resilience actually know when to move on. Holding onto something you should not is akin to holding on to a love long lost – you’re wasting time. So, let us take a tip or two from the queen of heartbreaks, Adele, on how to tide through the tough times at work.

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The honeymoon stage…NOT. 

The start of a resilient attitude usually begins with a tinge of positivity and believing that you’ve got this all under control. So begins the teeth clenching, fist tightening, lips pursing kind of determination in front of your desk.

Resilience doesn’t mean fighting all the way until you reach the top at one shot, it is often times a long and arduous process with checkpoints along the way. Many who take the one shot approach would find themselves feeling burnt out before they reach the top – and I’ve been a victim of this many times.

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Giving yourself brownie points when you reach a checkpoint is a good way to overcome the fatigue of prolonged determination. It could be a small tap on the shoulder to feel good for, or it could be rewarding yourself with an ice-cream break. These cheap thrills not only helps you to stay motivated, but also allows you to mentally break up huge tasks.

Which brings me to my next point…

Turn impossible tasks into bite-sized pieces 

Even if you don’t dive head first into a difficult task, the next problem you might face is getting lost inside it. Feeling lost is often the result of a lack of proper planning and strategising. Start first by doing research on how others have completed the task (chances are, what you’re working on isn’t a breakthrough idea), then break apart the elements on what is required of the task, extract what you are able to do with your current skill sets, and finally piece together a simple step-by-step formula on how to best complete the task.

Doing this evaluation can help you to make sense of any challenging task as it provides a clearer direction of how to approach the problem.

Overcoming the downward spiral into nothingness   

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If you’ve ever fought long and hard enough to finish a task, chances are you’ve met with some form of a dead end. Out of sheer stubbornness and a false outlook of strength, many still continue crashing through their work in hopes that they might see the light at some point. The truth is, working at the same task can seem like resilience in action, but you are really just working your way into a bottomless pit.

Whilst working on the design for the newsletter, I faced several conceptual dead ends.I tried creating another design, got rejected, went back to my original design, got rejected again, tried some other stuff, got rejected once more… The mental inertia to let go of initial ideas is something all of us are guilty of – our brain naturally works around similar and familiar ideas.

Don’t be that guy who always dates people that resembles their first love. If you find yourself going around a loop of never-ending modifying and editing, stop immediately and re-look at your work from a broader perspective. Don’t waste your energy and resilience on ideas (or people) that do not work out.

Bin it. Leave it. 

Most people try to re-work their stuff from the nearest checkpoint onwards, which is probably the most logical and practical thing to do. But if you’ve reached the point where nothing else seems to work out…you might have to make the painful decision: breaking up. 

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If the ideas are getting you nowhere, you should consider trashing it and rebooting. Starting again is a scary thought, just like the jitters you get from starting a new relationship. However, I urge you to take the plunge and start again. When looking for inspiration this time, cast your net wider by looking at works that are unrelated to yours to find new elements that you can adapt. Creating something entirely new might just be the breath of fresh air you need to bring your work (and yourself) back to life.

If you are a design noob like me, try starting from Instagram. A simple search for “design” will give you a plethora of accounts that showcase works from professional artists. A few of my favourite accounts include @thedesigntip, @pirategraphic, and @typetopia. Scroll away!

Actually walking away 

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Long hours at the desk will drain away your creative energy. Tear yourself away from the desk, a 15 minutes break won’t kill you! Take an extended break at the pantry, grab a drink at a nearby cafe, or simply take a stroll outside your office. Completely reset your brain so you are no longer in the bottomless pit. You would feel more refreshed and open to funky new ideas that would work even better than before!

Hitting the sweet spot 

Hopefully these tips would help you avoid the crash and burn of failed resilience. Working smart and in manageable amounts is commonsensical, but truth is it isn’t easy to find the balance between pushing the limits further and letting the bad stuff go to try working on something new. And once you’re done with the task, you can bid goodbye to all the binned ideas and frolick in the sunset with the design you were always meant to create.

(Said apprentice worked on multiple drafts for this post and the newsletter. After trashing a few designs and going out for lunch with friends, the newsletter was completed before this post was published. Point taken. Case closed.)

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Categories: 90 Days of Spring

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