Want a strategy to handle life’s setbacks? Wish to experience personal and professional growth in times of difficulty? RESILIENCE is the key to doing so. Read on to find out how.
“There’s no strategy in the world that is going to help us deal with change and chaos if we’re not resilient at the core. Because resilience is a must-have skill to survive and to grow personally and professionally.” (Ted Talk: Gandur)
I want you to have a read through the following questions and see if you answer ‘yes’ to any of them:
“Have you ever experienced heartbreak? Loneliness? Shame?
Have you ever lost someone you truly loved? Went through a difficult divorce? Been the victim of infidelity?
Have you ever lived through a natural disaster, been bullied, or been made redundant?
Have you, or anyone you’ve loved, had to cope with mental illness, dementia, physical imparment or coped with suicide?” (0:22)
When Dr. Lucy Hone asked the above questions during her Ted Talk: The three secrets of resilient people, she asked the audience to stand up if they answered ‘yes’ to any of them. By the time she finished asking the last question, the entire audience was standing.
I’ll bet that you, just like the members of the audience, also said ‘yes’ to at least one of those questions.
Why is that?
Because adversity is inevitable. It does not discriminate based on your personality, your marital status, your income, your religion, or where you’re from.
We all experience challenges and difficulties — whether that is relationship problems, stress at work, grieving the loss of a loved one, having to move, an unexpected job change, or health issues… facing setbacks are per the course of life.
But sometimes the hardships we endure can deeply disrupt our sense of peace and our ability to live to our fullest potential.
When this happens — and when we don’t have the skillset or resources to overcome life’s challenges — our setbacks can leave us feeling overwhelmed, hopeless, and emotionally spent. The negative effects that stem from this can include low mood, anxiety, depression, frustration, anger, and poor coping mechanisms… which only further exacerbates the issues we’re dealing with.
When we’ve exhausted our emotional resources and are in survival mode as a result of the challenges we’ve endured, how are we to function at best? How can we have enough energy to not only just carry on with the demands of everyday life, but to thrive in whatever it is we’re doing or trying to achieve?
How can we muster up enough self-confidence to try again and again (and even grow from the experience) when we face setbacks?
What can we do to overcome our challenges and build the mental strength we need to conquer future hardships?
I have one word for you: resilience.
Being resilient does not mean we are immune to the stressors of daily life. Nor does it mean we are exempt from major adversities. Those who are resilient are just as likely to experience heartbreak, loneliness, job loss, stress, grief, and suffering as anyone else.
Being resilient will not save you from negative experiences and feelings. Rather, it will provide you with the right strategies and thought patterns you need to help cope with, overcome, and feel empowered by life’s challenges.
It’s what you do and how you think in your moments of struggle and adversity that set resilient people apart from the rest. resilience is about looking at fear as an illusion and moving past it to achieve greatness.
So, what does resilience mean exactly?
The American Psychological Association defines resilience as: “the ability to adapt well to adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress — such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems, or workplace and financial stressors” (source).
I think it’s important to note the part that says “adapt well to adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress […]”
How well we can adapt to our difficulties and continue to move forward is essential for our ability to grow — both personally and professionally.
We all have the ability to not only just overcome life’s challenges, but to feel empowered by them. How we do this is determined by 3 strategies on becoming more resilient.
These 3 strategies will help you take control of your life today. Like learning any new skill, they require dedication, patience, and practice, but they’re not difficult. They’re easily accessible for anyone, anytime and you can start to implement them into your life right now.
“You can rise up from adversity; there are strategies that work; it is utterly possible to make yourself think and act in certain ways that help you navigate tough times.” (6:18)
So here they are — the 3 secrets on becoming resilient:
Acknowledge and accept that difficulties are a part of life
“Resilient people get that shit happens. They know that suffering is part of life. This doesn’t mean that they welcome it in […] just that when the tough times come in, they seem to know that suffering is part of every human experience and knowing this stops you from feeling discriminated against when the tough times come.” (7:10)
Understanding and accepting that going through difficult times are a part of life will help soften the blow when those inevitable challenges arise.
“Never once did I find myself thinking, “why me?” In fact, I remember thinking “why not me?” terrible things happen to you just as they do everybody else. That’s your life now: time to sink or swim. The real tragedy is that not enough of us seem to know this anymore. We seem to live in an age where shiny, happy photos on instagram are the norm, when actually, as you all demonstrated at the start of my talk, the very opposite is true.” (7:38)
It’s easy to get caught in the mindset of thinking that everyone else has it better than you. How can we not think this way when we’re constantly being bombarded by tailored, perfect images of the highlights of people’s lives on social media?
But keep in mind the questions I introduced at the start of this blog and how many people answered ‘yes’ to them… this is a good reminder of just how common human suffering is. Everyone goes through hardships. Don’t ever compare your hard times to someone else’s good times and think that you have it worse. Rather, remember that everyone goes through hard times and that this difficult struggle you’re going through, whatever it is, won’t last forever.
The next strategy of resilience will show you how you can change your mindset around difficulties and channel your thoughts into productivite methods for personal and professional growth.
Selective attention: focus on what you can change
“Resilient people are really good at choosing carefully where they select their attention. They have a habit of realistically appraising situations and typically managing to focus on the things that they can change and somehow accept the things that they can’t. This is a vital, learnable skill for resilience. As humans, we are really good at noticing threats and weaknesses. We’re hardwired for that negative — we’re really, really good at noticing them. Negative emotions stick to us like velcro, whereas positive emotions and experiences seem to bounce off like teflon. […] Resilient people don’t diminish the negative, but they also have worked out a way of tuning into the good. (8:18)
Focus on what you can control. We all have the power to choose where we put the focus of our attention. Is it serving us to dwell on the negative? Will that help us move forward? Or would it be more productive to try to see the good in every situation — even ones where we’ve experienced loss, grief, and suffering?
Let’s say you were let go from your job of 10 years due to downsizing. This is a hugely upsetting setback, no doubt. Take the time you need to grieve this loss, feel frustrated, stresed, and experience all the emotions that come with a job loss. But after a bit of time has passed, ask yourself: “What can I learn from this negative experience?” “How can this experience make me stronger?” Resilient people are really skilled at selectively choosing where to focus their attention. Your mind is a powerful tool. If you only concentrate on the negative, then that’s where your focus will be. Think about the opposite and what could happen if you choose to focus on the good.
“Don’t lose what you have to what you have lost. In psychology, we call this benefit-finding. […] I call this trying to find things to be grateful for. […] Being able to switch the focus of your attention to also include the good has been shown by science to be a really powerful strategy.” (10:30)
It is scientifically proven that cognizantly switching the focus of your attention from negative to positive — such as practicing gratitude — makes an implemental difference in your mood: higher levels of happiness and less depression. (11:21: study by Seilgman & Co.)
“When you’re going through grief, you might need a reminder or permission to be grateful. It could be a bright poster that says to ‘accept the good;’ in the American army, they framed it as: ‘Hunting the good stuff.’ Find the language that works for you, but whatever you do, make an ongoing, deliberate effort to tune into what’s good in your world.” (11:49)
ACCEPT THE GOOD. Write it down somewhere where you can see it every day. Say it outloud each morning as a way to begin your day with gratitude. Or do something else entirely… whatever works best for you, but do something to practice gratitude each and every day. Choose to see the positive in your life.
The 3rd strategy of resilience is said to be the most powerful…
Ask yourself: is what you’re doing helping or harming you?
“Is the way I’m thinking or acting helping or harming me in my bid to get that promotion, to pass that exam, to recover from a heart attack…” (13:22)
Ask yourself this question every time you find yourself ruminating over past mistakes, insecurities, struggles, or grief; engaging in unproductive behaviours; or starting to veer off course from your goals. If you answer the question honestly, and the answer is ‘no,’ think about what you can do to stop hindering your personal and professional growth and start helping it.
It’s a simple question, but also a very powerful one. In Dr. Hone’s many years of research of resilience, she has found that this one strategy has had more of a positive response from the clients she’s worked with than any other.
“People [tell me] what a huge impact it’s had on their lives. Whether it is forgiving family members from ancient, transgrecent arguments from Christmases past, whether it is trolling through social media, whether it is asking yourself if you really need that extra glass of wine…
Asking yourself whether what you’re doing, the way you’re thinking, the way you’re acting, is helping or harming you, puts YOU back in the driver’s seat. It gives you some control over your decision-making.” (13:48)
“Is what I’m doing helping or harming me?” Ask yourself this and answer it honestly. Change your course of action accordingly. Once you get in the practice of doing this, you will start to see positive effects because you’ll be the one in control over your decisions and be developing better self-control and self-confidence along the way.
The next time you experience a setback, use these 3 strategies of resilience as your guide to overcome and feel empowered by the struggle you’re going through.
Keep in mind that we all experience hardships; we have the power to choose to focus on the good in every situation and practice gratitude; and we can ask ourselves if what we’re doing in the current moment is helping or harming our personal growth and development.
Resilience is a learned skill that we’re all capable of developing. It is our greatest superpower to overcome life’s inevitable challenges.
“Becoming more resilient not only helps you get through difficult circumstances, it also empowers you to grow and even improve your life along the way.” (APA article: Building your resilience)
The strategies for becoming more resilient are available to you at any time, but start putting the work in today, so that the next time a challenge arises in your life, you’ll feel confident that you have the skills to not only just get through it, but become stronger from it. becoming resilient can make it easier for you to find meaning in your life and work.
Reading about resilience is just the first step (and it’s an important one!), but implementing it is where the real work comes in. At Men’sGroup, we’re here to help you stay on course. Want a group of guys to keep you accountable on your quest for resilience? Or would you like to have a safe space to talk about some of the struggles and difficulties you have had or are currently going through? Join a Men’sGroup today and we’ll help you with all of that.
Be resilient. See you in the group!