Developing Resilience Overcoming and Growing from Setbacks

I have not failed.  I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work….Thomas Edison

The Importance of Resilience

Resilience (or resiliency) is our ability to adapt and bounce back when things don’t go as planned.  Resilient people don’t wallow or dwell on failures; they acknowledge the situation, learn from their mistakes, and then move forward.

There are three key elements that are essential to resilience:

  1. Challenge – Resilient people view a difficulty as a challenge, not as a paralyzing event.  They look at their failures and mistakes as lessons to be learned from, and as opportunities for growth.  They don’t view them as negative reflections on their abilities or self-worth.
  2. Commitment – Resilient people are committed to their lives and their goals, and they have a compelling reason to get out of bed in the morning.  Commitment isn’t just restricted to their work – they commit to their relationships, their friendships, the causes they care about, and their religious or spiritual beliefs.
  3. Personal Control – Resilient people spend their time and energy focusing on situations and events that they have control over.  Because they put their efforts where they can have the most impact, they feel empowered and confident.  Those who spend time worrying about uncontrollable events can often feel lost, helpless, and powerless to take action.

Another key factor to resilience is how we explain setbacks to ourselves.  This explanatory style is made up of three main elements:

  • Permanence – People who are optimistic see the effects of bad events as temporary rather than permanent.  For instance they may say “My boss didn’t like the work I did on that project”, rather than “My boss never likes my work”.
  • Pervasiveness – Resilient people don’t let setbacks or bad events affect other unrelated areas of their lives.  For instance, they would say “I’m not very good at this”, rather than “I’m no good at anything.”
  • Personalization – People who have resilience don’t blame themselves when bad events occur that are out of their control.  Instead, they recognize when other people, or the circumstances, are the real cause.  For instance, they might say “I didn’t get the support I needed to finish that project successfully,” rather than “I messed that project up because I can’t do my job.”

Other Resilient Attributes

  • Maintain a positive outlook, and envision brighter days ahead
  • Set solid goals and develop a desire to achieve these goals
  • Be empathetic and compassionate, however don’t waste time worrying what others think of you.  Maintain healthy relationships. Don’t bow to peer pressure.
  • Never think of yourself as a victim – focus your time and energy on changing the things you have control over.

Having a resilient mindset can significantly affect how you view adversity and stress and help move you towards success.

The fact is that we’re going to fail from time to time. It is an inevitable part of living that we will make mistakes and occasionally fall flat on our faces.  The only way to avoid failure is to live a shuttered and meager existence, never trying anything new or taking any risks.  Few of us want a life like that!

Instead, have the courage to go after your dreams; even when there is a very real risk that you could fail in some way or another.  Being resilient means that when you do fail: you bounce back; you will have the strength to learn the lessons you need to learn; and, you can move on to bigger and better things.

Overall, resilience gives you the power to overcome setbacks, so that you can live the life you’ve always imagined.

Developing Resilience

The good news is that even if you’re not a naturally resilient person, you can learn to develop a resilient mindset and attitude.  To do so, incorporate the following into your daily life:

  • Get enough sleep and exercise, and learn to manage stress.  When you take care of your mind and body, you’re better able to cope effectively with challenges in your life.
  • Practice thought awareness.  Resilient people don’t let negative thoughts derail their efforts.  Instead, they consistently practice positive thinking.  Also, “listen” to how you talk to yourself when something goes wrong ~ if you find yourself making statements that are permanent, pervasive or personalized correct these thoughts in your mind.
  • Practice restructuring thoughts to change the way that you think about negative situations and bad events.
  • Learn from mistakes and failures.  Every mistake has the power to teach you something important. Don’t stop searching until you’ve found the lesson in every situation.  Also, make sure that you understand the idea of “post traumatic growth” – there is real meaning in the saying “what doesn’t kill you, will make you stronger.”
  • Choose your response.  Remember that everyone experiences bad days and everyone goes through crises.  But you have a choice in how you respond.  You can choose to react negatively or in a panic, or you can choose to remain calm and logical to find a solution.  Your reaction is always up to you.
  • Maintain perspective.  Resilient people understand that, although a situation or crisis may seem overwhelming in the moment, it may not make that much of an impact over the long-term.  Try to avoid blowing events out of proportion.
  • Set effective, personal goals
  • Build your self confidence.  Remember resilient people are confident they are going to succeed eventually, despite the setbacks or stress they may be facing.  This belief in themselves also enables them to take risks:  when you develop confidence and a strong sense of self, you have the strength to keep moving forward and to take the risks you need to get ahead.
  • Develop strong relationships with your colleagues.  People who have strong connections at work are more resistant to stress and they’re happier in their role.  This also goes for your personal life:  the more real friendships you develop, the more resilient you’re going to be, because you have a strong support network to fall back on.
  • Focus on being flexible.  Resilient people understand that things change, and that carefully-made plans may occasionally, need to be amended or scrapped.

Key Points

Resilience is the ability to bounce back when things don’t go as planned.  You can develop resilience in several ways.  First, take care of yourself by exercising daily and getting enough sleep so you can control stress more easily.  The stronger you feel physically and emotionally, the easier it is for you to overcome challenges.

Focus on thinking positively, and try to learn from setbacks and the mistakes you make.  Set specific and achievable personal goals, and work on boosting your self-confidence. And finally, build strong relationships with colleagues and friends so you have a support network to fall back on.

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