How Staying in the Moment Boosts Your Resilience

on September 16, 2021 • Grace

As I’ve talked about before, I believe resilience is one of the most important skills a person can foster in themselves. And I say “skill” because it isn’t necessarily a natural character trait; it can, and should, be cultivated. And why should we bother? Resilience allows us to bounce back from adversity, which is necessary to achieve anything worth working for in life. Because if one thing is certain, it’s that life will present us with difficulties, and nothing worth having comes easily. 

That probably sounds a little Buddhist. But the Buddhist tradition has a solution to this fact of life that helps boost resilience, and one that anyone can avail of this very second: mindful, present-moment awareness. And few people live with present-moment awareness as successfully as elite athletes.

Being absolutely, completely engaged in the present is essential for athletes, and the better they are at doing so, the stronger their performance will be. Athletes need to be able to process the situation evolving around them quickly and effectively in order to respond. If they let their minds get too wrapped up on something that happened too long ago, or start worrying about something that may or may not happen in the future, they will miss the opportunities presented by the now. Such distraction could even endanger their physical safety.

I was thinking about the value of present-moment awareness when I saw this interview from Milwaukee Bucks basketball player Giannis Antetokounmpo, just before Game 5 of the NBA finals, when surely he was feeling the pressure of expectation: “When you think about the past, that’s your ego. When you think about the future, that’s your pride. When you think about the present, that’s humility.”

Researchers in the journal Personality and Individual Differences found that people who are able to remain mindful in the present moment are less susceptible to rumination and worrying, and less likely to obsess and wallow over past mistakes. This means that they are able to respond more creatively to problems because they aren’t stuck in old, unhelpful thought patterns. It also means they are more likely to treat themselves with compassion. Not treating ourselves with compassion is one of the major psychological hindrances people face, because when we are harsh on ourselves and judge our past, we are held hostage by that past and cannot move forward. The more we can remain present and allow ourselves to be students of the moment, the happier, healthier, and more effective we will be. 

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