Resilience Can Be Built — Here’s How

on February 20, 2020 • Grace

“To fight for change tomorrow, we need to build resilience today,” wrote Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, in her book Option B

Resilience is the ability to bounce back and adapt after adversity, trauma or significant sources of stress. In other words, resilience allows you to continue working toward success, even after you’ve failed. What’s more, it helps you thrive in the face of challenges, rather than simply survive. 

But do we all possess this quality? Well, not quite. 

In fact, most people aren’t born resilient. Genetic differences in our brains control how we react to and deal with stress. However, the older we get, the more resilient we become. That’s because we learn and grow with every failure, making us more adept to handle the next obstacle life throws at us. 

As behavioral science professor Kristen Costa says, “It would be irresponsible to say, ‘We are just born resilient,’ thus if something traumatic or negative happens, we can just sit back, since we will eventually rebound. Instead, my work has shown me that deliberate, intentional effort to cultivate resilience can bolster our inclinations for it. When we think of it that way, we can understand that there are specific habits, behaviors, and mindsets that help us foster it.”

Here are some of those habits, behaviors and mindsets that you can start building in order to become more resilient today:

Develop an Internal Locus of Control

Having an internal locus of control is essentially being in the driver’s seat of our lives. To continue with the metaphor, this means that if there is a crash ahead, we have the ability to swerve the car and avoid the damage. 

To be more literal, possessing an internal locus of control means that you believe that you have power over how you react to challenges and how you allow adversity to affect you. 

On the other hand, if you believe that things happen to you and these circumstances dictate your journey, you probably have an external locus of control. This is less empowering, and is also less likely to coincide with resilience. 

According to a study that followed a group of children for thirty years, people who end up being the most resilient tend to “meet the world on their own terms.” They are independent, autonomous and believe that they affect their achievements, rather than their circumstances. Ultimately, they have an internal locus of control. 

More research found that an internal locus of control was tied to less stress, better performance and improved psychological well-being. 

In order to start developing an internal locus of control:

  • Build your self-esteem. Being confident in your ability to handle a challenge and come out on top is a trait of an internal locus of control. Do this by reminding yourself of your strengths and accomplishments, and practice telling yourself “I can do this.”
  • Make a list of what you have control over. This could include the people you surround yourself with, or your ability to learn new skills, or how negative or positive your self-talk is. 
  • Focus on your choices. Don’t allow yourself to feel trapped by external circumstances by reviewing your choices in any given situation. Remember, it’s your choice to allow others to make you feel unworthy, it’s your choice whether to react with anger or acceptance, and it’s your choice to get out of a situation or to keep trying. This is another way of taking responsibility for your life. 

Be Optimistic

Optimism is, essentially, looking at every situation with a positive perspective. However, this doesn’t mean that you are always happy or that you never face adversity. It just means that when a setback happens, you have the ability to turn it into something valuable. 

In other words, optimists use adversity as increased motivation for achieving their goals. 

For example, if you get rejected for the incredible opportunity you have been training for, instead of seeing it as a failure you can see it as a sign that you need a little more practice in order to win next year. 

Remember: You can’t always change what is happening around you, but you can change how you react to it. Reacting to adversity with optimism will help you stay resilient no matter what challenge comes your way. That’s because it replaces a victim mentality with an empowered one. 

Being optimistic means that you:

  • Don’t take every failure or mistake personally. Just because you’ve been rejected or came in last place or didn’t reach the milestone you were working toward, that doesn’t mean that you are any less worthy, capable or strong. 
  • Know that setbacks are temporary. Even though it seems like everything is coming to an end right now, you can remember that this too shall pass, and that the future holds more opportunities. This is also known as a growth mindset rather than a fixed mindset. 
  • Can put your adversity into context. When something bad happens with your career, or your fitness journey, or your personal life, you can still look at the rest of your life and know that it has value outside of that one aspect. 

Start being more optimistic by:

  • Practicing positive self talk. Remind yourself that you are strong enough to handle the challenges you are facing. 
  • Visualising your goals and success. This helps you stay focused on what you are working toward, rather than the negative setbacks that are holding you back. 
  • Reframing your challenges in a less emotional way. When you set aside your initial emotional response, you can think about your situation more realistically and, therefore, more positively. 

Stay Dedicated to Your Goals 

When facing adversity, dedication and engagement are essential for maintaining resilience. That’s because they provide a clear path for what you are working toward, long-term. 

Therefore, in order to stay resilient even when faced with failure or challenges, you must have a consistent set of goals that you are both dedicated to, and engaged with. These will act as your purpose when the going gets tough. They are your reason to keep getting back up and starting again. 

What’s more, keeping these goals in mind at all times will make mistakes seem smaller in the context of your journey toward success. They are just a bump on the road — not a dead end. And once you’ve gotten past them, you can continue along smarter and stronger than before. 

For example, imagine that you tore a ligament when training for a marathon, which resulted in you not being able to go to the gym for months. It is your dedication to your goal of completing the marathon that will help you continue to engage with your journey by working with a personal trainer or reading up on training safety tips for when you are healed. 

Find a purpose that helps you stay build resilience by:

  • Ensuring that your goals are SMART. In other words, your goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound. 
  • Creating manageable milestones that get you closer to achieving your goals. Having something tangible to work toward will help you stay engaged with your journey even in the face of a challenge. Schedule a way to realistically accomplish something almost every day that gets you closer to success. 
  • Staying inspired and motivated. Get back in touch with your drive and passion after a setback by seeking out mentors in your industry, reading books and articles that apply to your goals or surrounding yourself with likeminded people. 

Get more motivation for achieving your goals, conquering challenges and finding success with my other blogs here!

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