“Resilience is like a muscle. Flex it enough, and it will take less effort to get over emotional punches each time.”Alecia Moore
Resilience, a buzzword that has become very popular in the past fifteen years. Today, I am going to reveal the 7 secrets to building resilience in your life, relationships, and business. While the term is a very old concept, Dr. Marty Seligman, known as the father of Positive Psychology, has spent his life researching and training others about the importance of developing resilience.
So, what is resilience? I will give you a couple of definitions:
Resilience is the ability to resist the manifestations of clinical distress, impairment, or dysfunction that are often associated with critical incidents, acts of terror, mass disasters, and personal trauma.[i]
One of the unique things about the 7 secrets to building resilience is you can develop and enhance it at any stage in life.
Another way of explaining resilience is when you are able to calm a frenzied mind after some type of negative experience. It is that internal drive, an inner force by which we can hold ourselves through all the downsides of life.
Emotional resilience is not about overcoming a particular challenge or winning a battle. It is the strength to power through the storm and still keeps sailing. For those of you who are familiar with the Bible, the resilience piece combined with faith is a reliable and consistent theme in the Scriptures.
One of the adventures of my life was attending the North Carolina Outward Bound School in 1968, I was 16 at the time. The motto of Outward Bound, which is still very much a part of my being is “To Serve, To Strive, and Not To Yield.”
The founder of the Outward Bound School put it this way;
“There is more in us than we know. If we can be made to see it, perhaps for the rest of our lives we will be unwilling to settle for less.”
Kurt Hahn, Outward Bound Founder
We are living in an age of incredible, rapid change. Being alive in the era of a technological revolution means that we are having to adapt to things that have never existed in our lives before. From rigorous, rapid digitalization to the 24/7 news cycle, social media influence, the “Amazonification” of business, and the changes that commercial enterprises, it is only natural to feel emotionally in knots at times.
The word resilienceis an ancient word rooted in the Latin word ‘resilio’ which means ‘to bounce back’ or retaliate.
Emotional resilience is an art of living that is entwined with self-belief, self-compassion, and enhanced cognition. It is the way through which we empower ourselves to perceive adversities as ‘temporary’ and keep moving forward through the pain, suffering, and setbacks of life. As we actively look for ways to use the 7 secrets to build resilience, we will enrich both our lives and the lives of others
On a grand scale, building resilience in the areas emotional, mental, and even spiritual resilience means bouncing back from a stressful encounter and not letting it affect our internal motivation. It is not a “bend but don’t break” trait; instead, resilience is accepting the fact that I am broken and continue to grow with the broken pieces together. The Apostle Paul, in the New Testament book of Philippians 4:14 says, I press on to reach the end of the race.
Here are a couple of women who have a very unique look at what it means to be resilient. One is known to nearly everyone and that is Amy Poehler.
Amy Poehler, Comedian
“I see life as like being attacked by a bear. You can run, you can pretend to be dead, or you can make yourself bigger. So, if you’re my stature, you stand on a chair and bang a pan and scream and shout as if you’re going to attack the bear. This is my go-to strategy.” —The Guardian, July 2015
Another woman that exemplifies a resilient faith is my friend Gayla Unger. We have known Keith and Gayla for a number of years and watched her face some significant challenges with breast cancer. I am blessed to know a woman which such tenacity, grit, faith and optimism. She is a woman who has a stellar, powerful perspective as a person who, in her own words has been chosen, challenged and changed.
Gayla Unger, Senior Leader, Premier Designs Jewelry
“I am a woman of deep faith in God’s perfect plan for my life. Proverbs 16:9 is my life verse. This scripture reminds me that I can make all the plans I want but ultimately the Lord will direct my feet. I knew at that moment, that although I had not “planned to have cancer” that the Lord would direct my feet. I knew within 24 hours that I was chosen and He was not going to allow me to waste it. Joshua 1:9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go…
Make a list of what you love to do and make sure you spend time doing those things. Be a moment maker every chance you get. Let go of the stuff that doesn’t matter and cling with all your might to that which does. Create a life you love. I am so grateful I was chosen, challenged, and changed through this diagnosis. I won’t waste it. Be sure to check out her entire post. Link to her website
I hope you are feeling encouraged with these very brief snapshots of resilience. As a matter of fact, I want you to pause for a second and think about others that model resilience.
Resilience is our ability to adapt and bounce back when things don’t go as we have planned. Resilient people refuse to wallow in or dwell on failures, they don’t allow letdowns and setbacks to steal their energy. Instead, they acknowledge the situation, learn from their mistakes, and then choose to move forward.
There are three components of resilience:
- Challenge/Adversity– Resilient individuals see difficulty as a challenge, an opportunity as opposed to a disheartening, petrifying event. As a general rule of thumb, they look at failures and mistakes as lessons to be learned from and opportunities for growth. They refuse to let setbacks become a negative reflection on either their capabilities or their self-worth.
- Dedication/Commitment– People who demonstrate resilience are committed to their lives, goals, and vision. They live their lives with intentionality and have a sense of mission which gives them the drive to face another day. This drive is not just about work; they are committed to their relationships, friendships, and faith or spiritual practices.
- Internal Focus of Control – Resilient people spend their time and energy focusing on events and situations they feel they have control over. Because they apply effort where they believe it will have the most impact, they often feel a sense of empowerment and confidence. People who live with an external focus of control often allow challenge or adversity to control them, as a result, they feel lost, helpless, impotent and powerless to take any meaningful action.
Dr. Marty Seligman frames resilience this way. As he talks about resilience, he frames it in the context of optimism and pessimism. He says our ‘explanatory style’ indicates how we will respond to challenges and adversity.
Pervasiveness– Resilient individuals refuse to let setbacks, challenges, and adversity impact other unrelated areas of their lives. They might say something like, “I am not very good at this” rather than “I’m no good at anything!”
Personalization– People who are resilient don’t blame themselves when negative events happen. Instead, they see other people or circumstances as a possible cause. Once again, in the workplace, they may say, “I didn’t get the support I needed to finish the project successfully, rather than “I screwed up that project because I cannot do my job right.”
They have a positive image of the future. They maintain a positive outlook and envision brighter days ahead.
Here are some other common traits about resilient people:
They have solid goals and a desire to achieve them.
Resilient people tend to be empathetic and compassionate. However, they don’t burn up any calories worrying about what others think of them. As a general rule of thumb, they have healthy relationships but are slow to bow to peer pressure.
Individuals who are resilient never think of themselves as victims-they focus their time and energy on changing things they have control over.
So, what types of challenges, setbacks, or adversity are you facing today?
You see, how you and I view adversity and stress will dynamically and kinetically impact how we succeed, and this is one reason that developing a resilient mindset is so important.
The truth is that you and I are going to have “face plant” moments and setbacks as we live our lives. The only way to avoid this is to live an isolated, sheltered and meager life, never trying anything new of taking any risks. Who wants to live like that?
Instead, we should have the courage to pursue our dreams, despite the genuine risk that we will fail in some way or another. Being resilient means that when we do fail, which we will, we will bounce back. Being resilient mean that when we fall down, we get back up, we have the strength to learn the lessons that we need to learn, and we can move on to bigger things.
Here are the 7 secrets for building or developing and strengthening your personal resilience:
- View every experience as a growth opportunity. This directly relates to maintaining a “Growth Mindset.” Be sure you take a couple of minutes to view this video, it will not disappoint.
- Find meaning and purpose in your work, maybe even seeing it as a vocation. Martin Luther (1483-1546) asserted that the term ‘vocation could be applied not only to those who are ‘called’ into the ministry, priesthood, or holy order. Instead, Luther preached that all Christians have a vocation: wherever God has allowed the opportunity to work or start an enterprise, was one’s vocation. In other words, work is sacred.
- Learn to reframe stress and anxiety as helpful feelings and emotions. When we are stressed and feel the tension in our chest, we need to remind ourselves that our body is getting ready for action. These feelings and emotions can be helpful in that they are designed to help us perform better. Recently, my wife and I attended a Jeff Foxworthy show, and in the early part of his show me made the following statement. “You know, I still get a little nervous before every performance, I have learned that as long as I am a little jittery, I will do a great job.
- Play and relax more. Research time and time again reveals that people are most creative and solution-oriented when they feel relaxed, curious, and happy.
- Recalibrate your thinking to a long view. Life is a marathon not a sprint. Remember our lives have a start date and a end date what will you do with the dash between those two dates?
- Remember, resilience is a life skill that is best developed in the context of relationships and social support. These intentional connections are mutually beneficial and life enriching. There is an ancient text that says, “As Iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” Proverbs 27:17
- Practice Self-Compassion. Self-care explained – Do you remember the safety briefing from your last flight? When the flight attendants get to the part about the unlikely event of sudden cabin depressurization, they explain that the oxygen mask will drop from the ceiling and at that point, they instruct you to put on your mask first, then and only then, help someone else with theirs. Self-care is sort of like this in a way. It is a very intentional, active choice that we do to take care of our mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional health. It’s putting ourselves first…because we can’t care for or be the best help to help others unless we first take care of ourselves.
Wow, that was a lot of material!
Let me ask you a personal question. How would you rate your personal resilience? If you are married, how resilient is it? Here is an article I wrote for Christianity Today on Resilience in Marriage. Here is another link about resilient marriages.
Do you feel pretty good about how you manage the ups and downs of life? If you’d like more information, here are some links that you might find helpful.
I’d love to hear your thoughts.