Resilience was a key theme at the sold out 2020 Watermark Conference for Women Silicon Valley held on Feb. 12 in San Jose, California.

In her keynote address, soccer megastar Megan Rapinoe showcased her resilience firsthand to the crowd of approximately 10,000 attendees – the largest gathering of women on the West Coast, according to conference organizers – detailing some of the challenges in her fight for equal pay for female soccer players. The two-time World Cup champion and co-captain of the U.S. Women's National Team has served as a leader among 28 players who sued the United States Soccer Federation for gender discrimination in pay.

"You can't control every situation, but you can control how you react and how you show up," she said.

Rapinoe's principle is an important strategy in resilience, which is defined as an ability to bounce back and move on from challenges and difficulties.

Another keynoter at the Watermark event, former chairwoman and CEO of PepsiCo Inc. Indra Nooyi, also possesses an unshakable resilience as seen through her tireless efforts to advance women in the workplace . Nooyi explained to the conference hall that everyone's "playbook" when it comes to career success looks different, and that the playbook she deployed relied a lot on her specific family and resources.


"To expect my playbook to work for everybody is not going to work," Nooyi said.

Nooyi added that mentors can play an important role in keeping you going through challenging times, but shared her belief that finding a mentor isn't as simple as choosing someone whom you'd like to mentor you.

"If you go to someone and say, 'Will you be my mentor?' They're not your mentor," Nooyi said. "Mentors pick you; you don't pick them."

A breakout session at the conference presented by author Anne Grady focused specifically on resilience. Grady kicked off the presentation by asking, "How many of you have survived the worst thing that has ever happened to you?" All hands went up, proving the speaker's point that while we may not always feel resilient in our professional and personal lives, we've already made it through all of our previous challenges.

Grady offered the audience strategies to boost their resilience in three main areas: mindset, skill set and reset. Below are some of Grady's key strategies that, when followed, can help you become more resilient in work and in life.

Look at What Is Keeping You Stuck

Grady noted that a mindset of fear and self-limiting beliefs is what often keeps people from moving forward, whether in their career or personal life. She said that deciding you're "not a math person" based on one experience, for example, limits you from all of the options that might come if you didn't hold that negative belief about yourself.


Rather than operating from a "fixed mindset" like this, Grady suggested that adopting a growth mindset can help you be more resilient and thrive. "With a growth mindset, there's no such thing as a 'math person,'" she said. "People with a growth mindset don't waste time comparing with others."

Improve Your Stress Management Skills

In terms of skill set, Grady emphasized: "Our ability to navigate life starts with our ability to deal with stress." After polling the breakout room filled with hundreds of attendees on whether they had recently experienced low, moderate or high levels of stress, the audience saw firsthand that practically everyone present raised their hands for high stress levels .

To help moderate these epidemic stress levels, Grady pointed to the importance of developing a positive attitude and practicing gratitude. "Optimism is how you interpret the stuff that is inevitably going to happen to you," the resilience expert stated. "Gratitude is the No. 1 predictor of well-being." She added that the simple act of looking for something to be grateful for lowers your cortisol levels, which can help ratchet down feelings of stress and overwhelm.

Ask Yourself: 'What's Your Lighthouse?'

Focusing on where you want to end up by identifying what happiness and/or success looks like to you is a tenet of what Grady termed a "reset mindset." She shared an exercise to help you determine what your goals look like in different areas, from career and finances to social life and physical/mental health.

That exercise is to ask yourself, "What's your lighthouse?" When you're swimming in an ocean, Grady said, you need to "aim for an immovable object like a buoy or lighthouse" in order to stay on track.


For example, you can choose a lighthouse to represent a goal such as helping your team complete a report by the deadline or making your numbers this quarter.

When thinking about how to boost your resilience, Grady shared the following quote attributed to author Mary Anne Radmacher: "Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I'll try again tomorrow."

Raymond Mitchell, Author

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