6 Ways to Boost Your Resilience & Thrive in Life
The summer I was 23, I moved 1,000 miles away from home (to a place I’d never been, to an apartment I’d never seen, and with roommates I’d never met) to start my post-college grown-up job.
It was exciting, but also terrifying!
Less than two months after I arrived at my new home, it was a beautiful, sunny Sunday afternoon and I was just starting to feel settled in when I got a call that my dad had suffered a massive heart attack and died earlier that morning.
Less than 24 hours later, I was on a plane heading back to Atlanta for my father’s funeral.
Just a few stressful life-changing events, right?
And just for extra giggles, a month after my father’s passing, my car was hit while parked in front of my apartment and almost totaled!
This wasn’t exactly how I pictured my “real life” unfolding when I was imagining life after college!
In those first three months of entering my adulthood, my life turned completely upside down (from both good and bad events). I’d never faced anything to the level of one of these events, much less all of them!
But, I bounced back and survived. I didn’t have any guidelines or advice on how to navigate each of these life-altering events. I took it day-by-day and, as hard as it all was, I didn’t try to avoid any of it.
I also didn’t have a strong support system around me since I’d just moved to the area. This was back in the day when calling someone outside of your local area meant beaucoup bucks because it was long-distance (and I was a broke just-out-of-college kid!).
I didn’t know it at the time, but I was exhibiting signs of resilience. Looking back, I feel a mixture of shock and pride at my ability to face one hit after the other and to carry on.
Resiliency is the ability to bounce back from difficulties or setbacks quickly. No one taught me how to be resilient, so I was fortunate to discover I had those qualities innately.
If we look at it through the framework of living a purpose-driven life, being resilient is a valuable tool for staying ahead of the inevitable challenges and resistance that you hit along the way.
WHAT IS RESILIENCY?
It’s not throwing in the towel; it’s not numbing yourself with alcohol, drugs, food, shopping, etc.
Resiliency is facing what comes your way head-on, accepting the change of events, and coming out on the other side stronger.
Let’s face it - everyone will be hit with a life-changing or unexpected situation at some point in their life (think job loss, the death of a loved one, natural disaster, divorce, etc.). When it feels like your life has come undone or flipped upside down, being resilient provides the skills to survive and eventually thrive in the face of the disaster.
In other words, life’s challenges and difficulties don’t hold you back, and they act as a springboard to launch you to something different, and possibly even better.
Sounds pretty cool, right? But, how do you know if you’re already resilient?
Unfortunately, you won’t know your level of coping skills until you’re hit with adversity, and something knocks you off your feet. Resiliency is only tested in times of challenges, tragedies, etc. If you’ve never been dealt with a major life event, you don’t know how resilient you are.
But, you don’t have to wait to figure out if you’ve had those skills innately or not! Resiliency is a combination of beliefs and actions that can be learned. You can train yourself to be more resilient (even if you already know yourself to be resilient!).
That means you can prepare now so when the inevitable happens, you’re in control and ready.
HOW TO BECOME MORE RESILIENT
Before we get into how to train yourself to be more resilient, let’s talk about the common characteristics of resilient people.
People who show signs of resiliency tend also to exhibit the following traits:
- Positive attitude
- Ability to control emotions
- The belief that opportunities are born from challenges and struggles
- Curious nature
- Strong connections with others
Remember, at its core, resiliency is nothing more than coping skills.
Now that you are aware of some of the key characteristics to get into a more resilient mindset, let’s examine how you can use that to your advantage and strengthen your coping skills.
First off, let me just say that everyone is on a personal journey because everyone is unique. While I’ve provided common characteristics of resilient people, the traits that make one person resilient may look different for another, so you have to do the work to know yourself to strengthen your resiliency.
With that said, here are some general tips for starting to exercise this, potentially, underused muscle:
#1 | Practice gratitude
Overlooking opportunities to express gratitude blocks your ability to see the situation from a new perspective. Finding something to be grateful, even in the worst of times, gives you the skills to see the situation through a new lens. When you can do that, you enable yourself to start seeing new options.
Gratitude also allows you to move from a victim mindset to someone that thrives.
#2 | Strengthen your connections
Going it alone isn’t necessarily a badge of honor. Having no strong relationships keeps you isolated and without a supportive shoulder or sympathetic ear.
People with strong support systems tend to bounce back more quickly, so it’s essential to grow your connections with others. Maybe it’s rekindling a friendship with those that have drifted away; perhaps it’s meeting new friends with similar interests for the person you have become, or want to become; maybe it’s tightening the bonds with your parents or siblings.
And, keep in mind: your strong connections don’t have to be limited to just blood relations - it can be any way that supports you, listens to you, and believes in you.
#3 | Reframe challenges
If you only see challenges as something bad or what keeps you down, it’s time to do some mindset work. One of my favorite things to remind people is that failing is not failure.
When you fail at something, you invite in the opportunity to improve and grow stronger. Failing helps you fine tune your approach and hone your skills. Challenges and difficulties in life act in much the same way - if you reframe what’s happening, it allows you to see beyond the struggles to the opportunities. This opens the door to growth instead of the self-pity that keeps you stuck.
#4 | Accept that change is inevitable and part of life
Acceptance allows you to step beyond what’s blocking you, so you’re not stuck hitting the same brick wall over and over. No one says you have to like it, but accepting change, difficulties, challenges, tragedies, etc. as part of life enables you to push past the resistance and bounce back.
#5 | Plan for the unexpected
While you certainly can’t plan for everything that life may throw your way, you can certainly put safety nets in place to minimize the impact.
Imagine a few worst-case scenarios - losing your job, the death of a loved one, your house burning down, etc. What can you do now to minimize the impact if something were to happen?
For example: If you work a full-time job, having only one source of income makes you less resilient in the event you lost your job. To increase your resiliency, you might strive to have more than one income stream. Then, if you lost your job, having an additional income stream(s) places you in a better position (i.e., you have some cash coming in, or you may be able to expand on this to replace the lost income from your job).
#6 | Learn to regulate your emotions
One of the key characteristics of resilient people is their ability to stay in control in stressful situations. When you panic, you lose rational thought. Rational thought is needed for making plans and seeing all of the available options. Learn to manage your anger and find ways to reduce anxiety.
Also, watch your attitude. A negative attitude or outlook on life provides fuel to adverse situations. If you expect things to be hard, or you can’t see yourself getting out of a difficult time, you’ll act in such a way and make choices that support that story you’re telling yourself.
RESILIENCE AND LIFE PURPOSE
Becoming more resilient is a good life practice, but having strong coping skills aren’t limited to major life-changing events. These traits help you pursue a life that fits you and allows you to create a meaningful, purpose-driven life.
They’ll be minor setbacks that will propel you to find an even better path while strengthening your inner muscles for perseverance and endurance.
Resiliency will help improve your overall mindset and motivation to follow through with your soul’s desires.
The journey of life will inevitably knock you down and it’s your job to get back on your feet. The ability to do so quickly and with as much grace as possible is what determines whether you live a life of constant struggle or a life of growth and expansion.
Challenges and difficulties aren’t exactly fun, but they are integral to a full and meaningful life. They’re the universe’s way of pushing back to make you stronger.
But here’s the thing about resiliency: you may be resilient in some areas of life and not in others, so it’s important to take inventory and make the needed changes now.
Boosting the characteristics needed for stronger resiliency is like buying an insurance policy for your car or home. You hope you won’t need it, but when you do, it’s priceless.