Resilience is invaluable, especially for those who have - or aspire to having - our own business.
In The Resiliency Advantage Dr Al Siebert writes that “highly resilient people are flexible, adapt to new circumstances quickly, and thrive in constant change. Most importantly, they expect to bounce back and feel confident that they will.” The latter part of this statement is particularly intriguing, and something everyone can cultivate. It certainly helps me, on a daily basis.
By remembering how far we have already come, and that we have faced and survived things that once seemed insurmountable, we can increase our confidence in our ability to handle anything else that comes our way. This is enhanced when we seek out and learn about others who have been through similar situations. That's why community - in real life and online - is so invaluable.
The reality is that traumatic events are going to happen in life, and we cannot control that. And so building up, nurturing and protecting our resilience is invaluable, as it will help us to cope when faced with difficulties.
How do we grow, nurture and protect our resilience?
1. Maintain a positive outlook: Even when you’re struggling with adversity, try to find redeeming value in the situation - seek the silver lining. This prevents all of your emotions from becoming negative.
It is healthy to acknowledge the bad, but also to find a way to see some good, for example noting that “at least I don’t have this other problem”, or appreciating that the lessons you’re learning will help you to become stronger.
While thinking “I am sad about that”, also note what you’re grateful or hopeful about. I am sad on a daily basis about my worsening health, and weakening legs, but I am also grateful that this illness forced me to reevaluate my life, and prioritise the things that make me happy.
2. Sense-check your thoughts: It can be all too easy for problems to escalate in our minds, and feel overwhelming. We all know that spiral, where one negative thought leads to another, and another…
We can begin to counteract this by questioning our thoughts; ask yourself "Is this thought true? What is the evidence for and against it?”. Take the thought to court.
It is worth remembering that our brains are wired to pay more attention to negative events and thoughts than positive, it is an inbuilt but somewhat outdated survival mechanism, keeping us safe from harm. We can build resilience by questioning negative impulses and consciously noticing and appreciating positive experiences as they occur, overriding the brain’s instinct.
3. Seek solutions: Resilient people see an obstacle, problem or negative situation and ask themselves “What is the solution to that? What’s the first step I can take to improve this?”. Take control, and build confidence in your ability to handle whatever life throws at you.
And if the solution isn’t immediately obvious, you can still try to take a step in the right direction. Try asking yourself what the ideal situation looks like, and what might be the first step towards that. This approach is more like ‘taking a detour’ that finding a way through a road-block.
4. Give back: Being of service to others and engaging in acts of kindness boosts serotonin (and associated feelings of happiness and well-being), and broadens our perspective.
And this doesn’t have to mean volunteering or charitable donations (although these things are great too!). You can give back by sharing your story, in the hopes that it will comfort or help others. If you’re able to utilise the things you’ve learned from your own experiences with adversity, all the better.
“Tell the story of the mountain you climbed. Your words could become a page in someone else’s survival guide.”
— Morgan Harper Nichols
Bear in mind that if your resilience and your strength has taken a beating, you can rebuild it but this will take time. Nearly a year in my case! Be patient with yourself.
Feeling resilient, and strong, is important if you want to stubbornly pursue the things that matter most to you. It enables you to keep going, overcoming obstacles as they arise.
To help figure out what those things are, I've created some journalling prompts - some questions to get you thinking, just pop your email into this box and they’ll hit your inbox shortly. You’ll also get my fortnightly letters, which is where this post about resilience was first shared in 2018.