I went to high school in a small town in South Florida. Like all small towns, ours had more than its share of tragedy, scandal and loss.
I’ve stayed in touch with my friends over the years and made regular visits home for reunions and funerals. I have been struck by the faces at these events. Yet, some people who have experienced adversity still wear it. They are trapped or even defeated by it. Yet others have come back from ordeals and are living a healthy, fulfilling life. They have moved beyond divorce, bankruptcy, and other disappointments. They didn’t let adversity define them.
What do they have that others have missed?
The belief in oneself; the ability to recover from setbacks, adapt to change, and keep going in the face of adversity.
You could call it the art of living. It can make the difference between being stuck or moving forward into a bigger life. In business, it can propel the leader through complexity, disruption, and constant change.
Where does resilience come from?
We know there’s a genetic factor. We can see it with our friends and family. But, resilience can also be nurtured. We can work on being adaptive and strengthen our resilience.
7 Ways to Build Your Resilience
Don’t allow hardship to eclipse your identity.
- “See” a separation between you at your core and the temporary trouble. This doesn’t mean you go into denial. If it means you don’t confuse your identity with the situation. You are not your personal problem, and you are not an ugly earnings report.
Take inventory of who’s in your corner.
- Surround yourself with other resilient people who are smart, soulful, and supportive of you. One of the most important things about having a strong community is that you don’t go it alone until you hit bottom. Get ahead of struggle by asking for help. A close network of good people with grit will help you see the big picture and move forward without a bunch of drama.
Renew and recharge.
- Become aware of those activities that give you life. Exercise, nature, meditation, family time, a weekend trip–notice those things that enliven your spirit. You will return with more clarity and a heightened ability to problem-solve and improvise.
Shape your own story.
- Consider the “first-blush” version of the story as something you can change. It’s going to change in your rearview mirror, so why not change it now? You will strengthen your resilience if you can see the story as something you can begin to shape in the present.
Release the people around you to move forward.
- Don’t get stuck in the blame-game or obsess on the negative aspects of the setback. Figure out what went wrong, look at it closely, call it an important learning experience and move on. Your team will be re-energized in their work.
Be proactive and remove set-ups.
- In a recent survey, workers at a British firm identified the top three pain points that worked as a drain on their resilience as politics and difficult people; being spread thin with too much work, and personal criticism. Build a healthy environment at work and at home that invites resilience.
Get out of your head.
- Turn your thoughts toward others who are less fortunate. It’s a fact. For example, your mind cannot hold two thoughts at the same time. If you consider helping someone, you lose the headspace to worry about your own problems.
Resilience is not a simple formula. For many people, stepping into discomfort and vulnerability is the way to move forward. Don’t fall victim to the belief that it will not define you
Resilience is Not a Simple Formula
My grandfather, Robert Butler (we called him “Gam”), was a county agent in Monroe County, Mississippi. He fought on the front lines in WWI at the age of 19, surrounded by bloodshed. Gam worked hard to support his young family through the Great Depression. He recovered from personal depression after seeing only 2 out of 12 boys on his block survive WWII. He lived well into his 90’s. In his lifetime, he witnessed his beloved wife, dearest friends, and siblings go before him. One by one.
Resilience is Moving Forward
Throughout his life, Gam moved forward. How? He thought of others. At night, he visited people in his community who were in need. Privately he helped with counsel, connections or the means to do what they needed to do. He was loved by everyone in the county and was a man of great influence. He was resilient.
Gam set a high bar for us. He showed us that there are many ways to be helpful and show kindness to others. For instance, pay attention, actively listen and comment on a job well done.
To be sure, resilience is not a simple formula any more than hardships are all the same. But for many people, stepping into the discomfort and vulnerability–with the belief that it will not define you–is the way to move forward.
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