10 Ways to Build Personal and Professional Resilience
One of the buzzwords you hear a lot right now is resilience. It is applied to people and organizations and, frequently, to children who are said to be particularly resilient.
I recently read a quote from a child psychologist that said that children are in fact NOT naturally resilient. They are adaptable and there's a difference.
Adaptation means that something changes you when it happens. That can include trauma, which you may adapt to but which inevitably leaves its mark on you. Resilience, on the other hand, is your ability to bounce back when bent by the winds of change or adversity.
We've probably all known people who spend a lot of time blaming their personal failures on past events like a bad relationship or bad childhood. These people may have adapted to the difficulties in their lives but they have been affected by them negatively and perhaps permanently.
We also know people who have experienced extraordinary adversity and come back swinging time after time. These people are resilient. For whatever reason -- genetic predisposition, astrological tendencies (Scorpios are said to be particularly resilient), or simply PMA -- they hold their center even when times are tough.
While you can't control the things that happen to you, you can control your response, and building resilience is key to that process. Here are 10 ways that you can build resilience in both your personal and professional life.
1. Maintain a positive outlook
You've heard the saying "You can't afford the luxury of a negative thought" but you may not have taken it to heart. In my experience, while this is hard to practice, keeping a positive outlook is absolutely required for resilience.
When I was first building my business, my expectations were unrealistic and I was frequently frustrated by what I perceived as the slow pace of growth and development. There were times when I would feel myself losing hope and thinking negatively. Inevitably, if I gave in to that tendency, I would find myself frustrated for days or weeks, wondering if it was time to just give up and go back to teaching.
Train yourself to observe your thoughts and release them (mindfulness, which we'll talk about in a minute, helps with this). Let go of the negative internal voice and turn your attention to anything you can that is positive and affirming. If you can't think of anything, ask a trusted friend or colleague to help you identify some recent wins.
2. Limit negative input
Maybe your parents are worried about the financial instability of entrepreneurship. Maybe your spouse and kids are frustrated because you don't have as much disposable income as you used to. Maybe you are filling your spare time with a steady stream of bad news from TV and Twitter.
It is vital for you to control the input that you experience. If you are old (like me), you may remember the early-80s tech saying "Garbage in, garbage out." It meant that when you are getting bad output, it's probably due to user error on the input.
Purge your social media and stop following accounts that are negative or that make you feel less-than. This could include hustle-culture content or folks who make you feel bad because they are wealthier, sexier, and otherwise more successful than you. In many cases, they are just fronting to cover up their own lack of success or to sell you something.
Flood yourself with positive thinking, including uplifting music, energy-enhancing podcasts, and friends and family members with a great outlook on life. You don't have to quote Gary Vee or Tony Robbins if that's not your vibe. Just find something that makes you feel good about the present and the future and keep returning to it again and again.
3. Cultivate healthy relationships
Connection is key to building resilience. That's because the ability to reach out to another for advice or even just a kind word is central to our capacity to bounce back from bad experiences. Whether personal or professional, the friends you make can help you to keep an eye on your goals and remember all of the good things in your life.
One of the biggest predictors of longevity is social connection. If you're working all of the time and letting your personal relationships with family, friends, and colleagues fall by the wayside, it's time to reconnect with them. If you've surrounded yourself with folks you don't like or respect, it's time to rethink the people you're spending your time with.
4. Practice mindfulness daily
You don't have to go to sunrise yoga to get the benefits of mindfulness -- just 15 minutes a day of mental quiet can make a huge difference. Here are some ways to power down, even when you're on-the-go:
Find one thing to focus on: your breath, a painting, a song. When your mind starts to wander, return your attention to that one thing.
Immerse yourself in a sensory experience, taking note of what you are seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and feeling.
Keep a gratitude journal and spend some time each morning or evening (or both) recording the things you are grateful for.
Do a task mindfully and with total attention. This could include washing dishes, vacuuming a floor, or doing a skin-care ritual.
Stop in the middle of an experience and take an inventory of it. When you're playing with your child, for example, be fully present in the moment. Look at their face, listen to their voice, and immerse yourself in the beauty and immediacy of that experience.
5. Avoid anesthetizing your feelings
For many people, feelings are uncomfortable and can generate fear and anxiety. In order to avoid this, they may numb themselves with alcohol or drugs so that they can offset the discomfort and return to a more neutral mental and emotional state.
However, just like a bodybuilder uses repeated muscle stress to build strength, repeated emotional and mental stress, properly managed, can help to build resilience. Sit with your feelings and experience them fully, then find ways to address the challenges at hand. When you stop deadening yourself to your experiences, you'll become better at handling them.
6. Be goal-oriented
One of the things that can keep us stuck in a negative mindset or emotional spiral is a fixation on the past. If you're filling your mind with regrets about mistakes you've made or things you haven't (yet) done, you'll undermine your ability to move forward with positive energy.
By being goal-oriented, you keep yourself in both the future moment (what you hope to accomplish) and the present moment (what you're doing to make it happen). For those who struggle with negative memories and regrets for past actions, this can provide a much-needed refocus and re-orientation.
7. Take care of yourself
Are there certain foods you love that don't love you? Do you feel worse the next day when you have a second glass of wine in the evening? Does skipping your morning workout keep you from feeling your best as the day goes on?
You probably know what habits allow you to perform at your highest level -- and which ones undermine your best efforts. Work on developing a plan for the way you'll eat, drink, and move each day. While you won't always be perfect (no one is), optimizing healthy habits the majority of the time will give a big boost to your health and well-being.
8. Seek help when needed
Maybe you're in a bad marriage. Maybe you've been dealing with past trauma by burying it with food, alcohol, or drugs. Maybe you're masking symptoms of depression or struggling with severe anxiety.
There are times when self-help is simply not the answer. If you need professional intervention, get it. If you're being abused or sabotaging yourself again and again, get help. If you're in a dangerous situation with an unstable partner, get away.
I know you're scared. I know you feel like telling the truth will ruin your life. I promise you, the sun will come up tomorrow and when you are on the other side of this, you'll experience gratitude like you have never known.
9. Define your purpose
What matters most to you? Why were you put on this earth? What can you offer the world that no one else can? When you are working to build your business, these big-picture questions can be hard to answer. However, they are key to building resilience.
When you think about yourself as part of the world with a special purpose, you can rise above temporary, petty problems. You have the motivation to hang in there when things get dark and you're more connected to others who you see as part of your purpose.
You may not be able to answer all of your big questions, but thinking about them and formulating some sense of your own purpose will help you to continue moving forward and give you a way to define yourself and the meaning of your own life.
10. Respect your own boundaries
Finally, while we talk about setting boundaries with others, we sometimes forget to talk about respecting our own personal boundaries. If you find yourself working in a place or with people that you don't enjoy and can't respect, it's time to rethink your path. If you feel that you've been untrue to yourself in the building of your business or relationships, it's time to course-correct.
If you find yourself constantly doing things that seem counter to your principles, your values, and your purpose, begin looking for a way to change. You have the right to decide what works and doesn't work for you and to set and maintain boundaries both with yourself and others.
Making difficult changes, including saying no when your current path no longer serves you, is one of the biggest ways to build resilience. Doing hard things when necessary shows you that you have the capacity to set your own course and paddle your own canoe. Thus, the next time you have to do something difficult or even life-changing, you'll have the confidence of having done it all before, and of having survived and thrived.