Failure is a familiar trauma in life, but its effects on people differ widely. Some reel, recover, and move on with their lives; others get bogged down by anxiety, depression, and fear of the future. Seligman, who is known as the father of positive psychology, has spent three decades researching failure, helplessness, and optimism. He created a program at the University of Pennsylvania to help young adults and children overcome anxiety and depression, and has worked with colleagues from around the world to develop a program for teaching resilience. That program is being tested by the U.S. Army, an organization of 1.1 million people where trauma is more common and more severe than in any corporate setting. Nevertheless, businesspeople can draw lessons from resilience training, particularly in times of failure and stagnation.
The program is called Comprehensive Soldier Fitness, and it has three components: the Global Assessment Tool, a test for psychological fitness (administered to more than 900,000 soldiers to date); self-improvement courses following the test; and “master resilience training” (MRT) for drill sergeants. MRT focuses on enhancing mental toughness, highlighting and honing strengths, and fostering strong relationships—core competencies for any successful manager.