The Power of Resilience
How to Expand your Capacity to Bounce Back From Adversity
I’ve come to realize that one of the most important traits one can have in both their personal and professional lives is resilience. A simple concept, but not always achieved simply.
Life is unpredictable and as poet Robbie Burns noted, “best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” Despite a concerted effort to plan and execute, we are often sidetracked by surprises, adversity, or even outright failure. Ones ability to lift themself up and continue forward progress can be the catalyst for eventual success.
Contrary to what some believe, I am convinced that resilience is not something that one is born with, rather, it is something that must be developed and honed like many other skills we require in life. Resilience must also be nurtured, and without such, it can be lost. I’ve seen once strong people beaten down, devoid of the confidence they once possessed, forcing them into a downward spiral.
Having a positive outlook is critical. However, this should also be balanced with a modicum of pragmatism. In establishing those ‘best laid plans’ one must make a concerted effort to envision the various obstacles that may be encountered. But when something fails, it must be used as a learning opportunity, you must grow from it through reflection. You must not allow a step backwards or failure consume you. Making a practice to look back on failed relationships, jobs, or projects is critical; asking yourself questions like what could I have done differently? Could I have foreseen the challenges I faced? Were there clues I missed? A thorough analysis on an event or experience is necessary if you want to learn and grow. Sometimes it takes time and space to do this effectively — be very conscious of that fact, or raw emotions could shape your perspective.
I’ve failed a lot in life. Personally and professionally. I’ve let those closest around me down, as well as myself. Like many of you, I beat myself up about those failures, at times spiraling into depression or a personally dark space. I’m lucky to have great friends, family, and colleagues that have helped me through those hard times. Even strangers had a profound impact on me likely without even knowing it. So much of resilience is ensuring you’ve got a support base around you that you can count on. These people lift you up when you need it, they’re there for you through thick and thin. But these cannot be one-way relationships. You must equally be there for them, be the optimistic voice when they need encouraging, or that friend who will be honest and genuine with them when they need a reality check.
It has taken me a while to recognize one of the most important things you can do to foster resilience as a character trait — Taking care of yourself. This is multi-faceted. You need to ensure you focus on your mental and physical well-being. It’s very easy to not prioritize these things. I have neglected them for too long, and still it is an area that I am working on. Getting rest, eating better, and exercise — all things that will better position you to be stronger. This is one of those areas where I still benefit from my friends’ encouragement and support.
There is no magic pill that we can swallow to expand our capacity for resilience; it takes time and reflection, self-awareness and commitment. But, one thing is for sure, if you focus on becoming more resilient, it will pay dividends in every aspect of your life.