The Road to Resilience

As much as we all wish that life was an easy, straight shot road to success and happiness, we know that isn’t the case. Even when we practice diligence, discipline, commitment, respect, honesty, and integrity as we work toward our goals, there’s simply no way to avoid pitfalls and obstacles in life.  We’ve talked about handling adversity before, but this week we’d like to specifically address developing the character quality of resilience.

Resilience is defined by Merriam Webster as: “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.” Take a moment to reflect on how you usually respond to difficult situations in life. Do you bounce back quickly, or do you let life’s trials negatively affect your mood, outlook, relationships, motivation, and work/school performance?

Resilience is not a character trait we are born with. Sure, maybe some are naturally “tougher” than others, but it’s important to remember that resilience is a value we must develop within ourselves. Being resilient means making a conscious choice to not let adversity drag you into defeat or despair. It means choosing to look for a deeper meaning and potential life lesson in each bump in the road and forging ahead to the other side of the valley.

It is difficult to generalize on resilience because adversity comes in many forms, such as:

  • Personal underperformance—bombing the exam, being cut by the team, throwing a costly interception, forgetting lines in the play, getting laid off from the job, losing an election, etc.
  • Group underperformance—losing a winnable game, bombing a group project, losing a major contract to a competitor, etc.
  • Consequences of unhealthy/unwise/damaging decisions
  • Social/relationship struggles—challenges with making friends in new environments, maintaining friendships, break ups, family battles, etc.
  • Family dysfunction
  • Physical or emotional abuse
  • Death or illness of a loved one
  • Financial crises
  • Bad luck—life’s lemons that just happen…to us all.

As you can see, some adversity is from our own doing, but much of it is not. We don’t always have control of our situations, but we DO have control over how we approach our battles and challenges. And, that’s where resilience comes in.

With all that in mind, here are five tips to help you develop resilience in your own life:

  1. Keep a healthy perspective. Remember that everyone faces challenges and adversity, and some of the richest aspects of our life journey come from battling through our toughest times. We grow as a person and, in time, can use these experiences to come alongside others who are facing similar challenges. So keep the faith and work through the problem to the best of your ability, realizing that (in many cases), good can come from it. Today’s valley is NOT your new normal.
  2. Know yourself and your worth. When you have a strong sense of self, you are less likely to let insecurity and uncertainty drag you down. When you are self-assured, you can confidently handle life’s curve balls and know that mistakes or other negative circumstances are not a direct reflection of who you are as a person. And, you will be less likely to blame yourself for situations outside of your control. #Icandothis!
  3. Tap your support system. Whether you rely on your siblings, parents, friends, neighbors, mentors, or faith community (if applicable), it’s important to have a safe network of people who you can talk to and lean on during hard times. Make sure you have people in your life whom you trust to give you helpful, truthful, and constructive advice. It’s nearly impossible to be resilient when you’re going through life on your own. Surround yourself with positive influences through thick and thin. And, don’t hesitate to seek professional help if needed.
  4. Take care of your health. We’ve all realized at some point in our lives that our mental and physiological health are very closely connected. High levels of stress and other damaging emotions can lead to a greater increase of sickness, pain, and exhaustion. In order to handle adversity with resilience, make sure you are sleeping well, eating healthy, and getting in some physical activity. It matters much more than you may think!
  5. Forgive. Depending on the source of your adversity, it may involve forgiving yourself or others. It’s not always easy, but it’s difficult to truly recover without it.

 

When life hands you a lemon, your resilience, courage, determination, and positive support system will help you through. Being able to look beyond your current circumstances and knowing that your life is not going to crumble because of them is key. More often than not, our best life lessons and personal growth come from the hard times.  So, when you build resilience, every sphere of your life will benefit. You are a special and unique person—have confidence that you can always find a way to persevere, overcome, and make a comeback. #Yesidid!

Take Challenges One Step at a Time

“If you’re going through hell, keep going.”

– Winston Churchill

  

What’s your reaction when the going gets tough?  Like the bumper sticker says, do you just “get going?” Or are you more likely to go back to bed and hope that when you wake up, it will all have blown over?

There’s something to be said for both of those approaches in their own way and at the right time. Sometimes we need to ride out a trial and let it resolve itself. Other times we need to buckle down, roll up our sleeves, and attack the problem.  

Easier said than done?  Not necessarily.  

When our most difficult trials occur, such as the loss of a job or the end of a relationship, it’s easy to get consumed with hopelessness and despair. These emotions are often followed by panic and a complete sense of failure. People in this situation have difficulty seeing the other side of the valley. It’s a terrible place to be.

There are two key ways to avoid this trap. One involves perspective—considering that some good might come of your experience.At least give it a chance! Perhaps an even better job opportunity might come your way. You may find a new friend, job, or love interest that’s a better match. Who knows?

The second key is to develop a step by step plan and take things one day at a time. Rather than focusing so much on the outcome (which often seems insurmountable), divide it up in pieces and work the plan. This way, the situation doesn’t seem so overwhelming and you’ll build momentum with each small success. As you make progress, you become more optimistic and perform better. There’s nothing like seeing some light at the end of the tunnel to help you regain hope. 

The massive job layoffs we’ve seen in our economy in recent years provide an excellent case in point. As companies have downsized their workforces, many excellent and dedicated workers have lost their jobs through no fault of their own. This is extremely painful because of the economic hardship and the loss of the daily contacts with colleagues and friends. People tend to react to this situation in one of two ways. Some fall into a deep trap of bitterness and self-pity, waiting aimlessly for something good to come along. Others use this as an opportunity to consider new career possibilities and/or to improve their skills. Then, they actively seek out new employment situations, often finding them superior to their former job. The same is true for younger people who don’t make the team, or don’t get into the college of their dreams.

You’d be amazed at how often these kinds of disappointments prove to be the catalyst for a better future. By taking the process step by step, you sustain a positive attitude during your transition period and prepare yourself better for the rest of your life. And this doesn’t just go for job losses; the same principle applies in many other challenges you may face in your life time.

When a trial strikes or your circumstances throw you for a loop, think about ways to slow down, step back, and focus on what (and who) is important. Remember that time heals pain, And, as Scarlett O’Hara famously said as she stood on the smoldering ruins of Tara in Gone with the Wind, “Tomorrow is another day.”                                                                     

When you go through an especially tough time, are you able to take things one step at a time? Do you see how progress helps improve your confidence and attitude? How can you encourage someone around you with this perspective? Please share your stories, insights, and questions with us; we’d love to hear from you!