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Focusing
on a positive impact

Building resiliency for change: Supporting young leaders to make tomorrow better

By Hani Abouhalka

Last week I had the honour of taking part in the One Young World (OYW) Summit in London, both as a Johnson & Johnson plenary speaker and a coach to one of the 2019 #JNJOYW scholars, Wesam Eid.

For those who aren’t familiar with OYW, it’s an NGO which identifies, promotes and connects the world’s most impactful young leaders to create a better world, with more responsible, more effective leadership. J&J has been partnering with OYW since 2013, empowering and further strengthening over 240 global young leaders to date to build their leadership capacity as they change the trajectory of health for humanity.

Each year, we select an important and relevant health topic which not only strongly impacts the world, but also resonates with young people, so it seemed fitting that 2019 would focus on mental health and well-being and building resiliency to enact change. Mental health illness is one of the biggest challenges of our time. It can have a devastating impact on individuals, families, communities and economies globally – and its effect on young people can be especially harmful. The Summit provided an ideal opportunity to bring the topic of mental health and building your resilience to the fore, share experiences and offer advice and support for young people who are facing these issues.

What mental health and resiliency means to me

The topic of mental health and resiliency is very close to my heart for both personal and professional reasons. Professionally, I’ve been part of Johnson & Johnson for 20 years, during which we’ve learnt a lot about building resiliency and bringing about change in our sector. We see first-hand the burnout doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals face, no matter which country they work in and the subsequent impact it has on the communities and economies.

But resiliency was also something I witnessed at home from a young age. I was born in Lebanon during the civil war and spent my childhood living through the conflict. In fact, if I told myself when I was 10 that I would be on stage at the OYW Summit talking to a room full of inspiring young leaders, it wouldn’t have just been a dream, but rather a hallucination. The only thing on my mind at that age was whether we would have running water, food to eat or if we would go to school.

I learnt about resiliency by watching my parents during that time, in particular my father. He worked a job that required him to travel through gunfire every day. His workplace was bombed, his friends and colleagues lost their lives and I never really understood how he had the will and the courage to wake up and do it again, every day. But he provided some advice that has helped me to build my resiliency in times of adversity and principles on which I’ve continued to develop throughout my life. 

Four principles to building resiliency

  • Have a purpose that transcends anything that’s going on around you. Remind yourself you’re fighting for something that truly matters.
  • Be an eternal optimist! Believe that your better days are always ahead and tomorrow will be better than today. 
  • Connect to a network of people, be it friends, work colleagues or a coach for support.
  • Nurture yourself and give yourself the time you need to recover, be it through physical exercise, nutrition, or mental downtime.

Change is not easy and it’s not a straight line. We need the right mindset, tools and support to help us through difficult situations. We will win fights and we will lose fights, but we cannot lose ourselves. I urge everyone, but particularly young people to take care of yourselves because we need you to drive change and make tomorrow better.

To quote my favourite film, “It will always be alright at the end. If it’s not right, it’s not the end.”

If you’d like to learn more about our global partnership with OYW, in which we offer our young leaders both from within and outside the company, a six month accelerated learning and development opportunity, click here.

#ResiliencyForChange @JNJGlobalHealth #MyCompany #TalentforGood