How To Build Resilience

Oftentimes resilience is built in the trenches of life. You went through something really hard or painful, and, with or without crutches, you have made it through alive. It might be something you wished it didn’t happen, or that no one should ever have to go through. Or there are the occasional crises and obstacles, that sooner or later, we all face. These COVID-19 days are also giving us a “resilience” workout.

As the 18th century Irish writer, Oliver Goldsmith said, “our greatest glory in living lies not in never falling but in rising every time we fall.” More importantly, research shows that, in fact, obstacles and hardships act as a catalyst for more engaged, authentic and motivated individuals. Take Starbucks’ former CEO, Howard Shultz, for instance. Growing up in the inner city in a very poor family, he witnessed his family’s struggles to make ends meet. When his father was laid off after an injury, with no health insurance to cover medical expenses, he vowed to build a company that his father would have been proud to work for, one that respected his employees and offered healthcare protection even for part-time employees.

So how to work the resilience muscles such that regardless of what happens to us happens for us on the long run?

  • Always cling to something positive. Train yourself to see and be grateful for at least one positive thing in your life, even in the midst of the storm. As long as you can still count your blessings, you are not defeated. Hope dies last and with it, our humanity.
  • Frame what the story is. Journal what’s happening, objectively frame what you are facing, possible outcomes and ultimately what may or may not be under your control. Depending on the situation, think about your worst case scenario (and see public speaking coach Maryna Shkvorets’ article on this).
  • Allow yourself to feel negative emotions. If you are angry, hurt, upset…those are emotions you shouldn’t try to repress. Give those emotions the outlet required for their processing. Unresolved emotions get trapped in your body and, sooner or later, they will resurface in more toxic and emotional ways.
  • Power through action. Identify one step that you could take to mitigate or minimize what’s happening. Oftentimes after you allow for your emotions to come out, or you have journaled about what you are going through, you can think more clearly in terms of next steps or actions to take. Or simply show some self compassion via an activity that you know is life-giving. Or reach out to to help those who, after all, are less fortunate than yourself – moving the focus away from your own problems will give you some respite from figuring out your own, while putting things into a more balanced perspective.

Robert Glazer, author of Elevate: Push Beyond Your Limits notes that “behind each story of achievement, you will find many untold stories of failure and adversity that needed to be overcome.  In this life, you will face unexpected setbacks; it’s just a matter of how you respond and if you keep going.”

While we can’t control what life throws at us, we can control our response. Resilience is therefore one of the most precious gifts to give ourselves – because it’s the key to a life of overcoming and with overcoming comes thriving, growth and authenticity.

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