Leadership for a Lifetime: Resilience

Now is no time to think of what you do not have.

Think of what you can do with what there is.

Ernest Hemingway

ID-100352171You don’t have to live very long to realize that things don’t always go the way we plan—or the way we want. You’ll bomb a test or get a low grade in a class. A boyfriend or girlfriend will break up with you. You may get sick or experience an injury. It may take a while to make friends or find your dream job.  But, when these kinds of things happen, you don’t have to let your circumstances overwhelm you. You can be RESILIENT!

The most resilient, impressive leaders I know have found ways to be courageous in the face of great adversity; life challenges lift them up instead of knock them down. Adversity happens to everyone, and it can take many forms. Unfortunately, not everyone is prepared to handle adversity well. Peter Gray, Ph.D., a research professor at Boston College, recently wrote for Psychology Today about this issue:

“A year ago I received an invitation from the head of Counseling Services at a major university to join faculty and administrators for discussions about how to deal with the decline in resilience among students. At the first meeting, we learned that emergency calls to Counseling had more than doubled over the past five years. Students are increasingly seeking help for, and apparently having emotional crises over, problems of everyday life… (Later), that head of Counseling sent a follow-up email, …including this sobering paragraph:

‘Our students are no different from what is being reported across the country on the state of late adolescence/early adulthood. There has been … a decrease in the ability of many young people to manage the everyday bumps in the road of life… The lack of resilience is interfering with the academic mission of the University and is thwarting the emotional and personal development of students.’”

The everyday bumps in life will happen; you can be sure of it! And since it’s not likely we’re going to avoid adversity, it pays to learn to take a healthy perspective to it.

Resilient people don’t give in to anger or despair when faced with a setback. Instead, they tap into a greater purpose to bounce back stronger than ever. They know how to bend to inevitable failures and tragedies and not break. Here are six habits of people who know how to confront adversity and move on to live their lives stronger than before:

  1. They are persistent and have a strong sense of purpose.
  2. They are self-confident and self-reliant.
  3. They have a strong network of supportive relationships.
  4. They accept that adversity is inevitable and are not resentful. They don’t have a victimized (“Oh, poor me …”) mindset.
  5. They are optimistic. They perceive bad times as a temporary state of affairs and an opportunity for personal growth.
  6. They take care of their health. They know how to deal with the physiological and emotional toll that stress and adversity take on their bodies and minds and take proactive steps to stay healthy, fit, and positive.

If you want to be a resilient person, it also helps to be self aware of your own stressors. Stress comes in different forms to different people, and with different underlying causes. What’s your biggest stressor? Is it time? Finances? Relationships? Academics? Order vs. chaos? If you know this about yourself, you can fight through stress/adversity by tapping into your stress relievers (exercise, quality time with friends/family, time alone, prayer, music, etc.). DON’T make the mistake of turning to false comforts to make you “feel better” when adversity hits. That’s how people get sucked into addictions like drugs, alcohol, and overeating, or into bad relationships because they don’t want to be alone. We address resilience in our book, What I Wish I Knew at 18, with an entire chapter devoted to “Overcoming Adversity.”

You have to be able to see past the current circumstances and know your world is not going to ultimately crumble because of any of them. There are so many wonderful things about YOU, built into your character, personality, and unique skill sets, that you can draw on to find a way to persevere, overcome, and bounce back. This is resilience and it is one of the hallmarks of great leaders!

For more tips on developing resilience, check out our blog series: “Stress-Busting Tips for Parents and Teens,” Parts One, Two, and Three.

 

Photo: Freedigitalphotos.net, by Sira Anamwong

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