Resilience means not only surviving adversity but thriving through it. Adversity comes in many forms. It can be as innocuous as a traffic jam or as devastating as horrible medical diagnosis. Each situation calls for resilience in varying degrees. The traffic jam may simply require a few deep breaths and a good song on the radio. Being diagnosed with a fatal illness requires a complex set of tools. Yet, if understood correctly, the traffic jam is the best way to prepare yourself for when you face that bigger challenge.
One of the strange things about resilience is that we rarely think about it until we need it. Like the umbrella, in can sit in the closet ignored until it rains. Then we reach for it and expect it to shelter us from the elements. Unfortunately, resilience doesn’t work like an umbrella.
Resilience works more like a muscle. If you were challenged to lift a 150 pound weight today, could you do it? I couldn’t. What if you knew you had to be able to lift 150 lbs on January 1st, 2019? Could you take action now to be sure that you would be able to accomplish that task five months from now? Absolutely.
If you don’t exercise regularly you may doubt me but trust me, it’s possible. Some competitive weightlifters have been able to lift more than three times their own body weight. With coaching and a lot of training, you could get yourself in the shape required to life 150 lbs if you wanted to. How would you do it?
You would start with what you’re able to lift now. Then you would start lifting weights several times a week. Over time you would get stronger and would be able to increase the weight. If you continued to apply yourself over time, you would eventually reach the goal of being able to life 150 lbs.
How does this apply to resilience? When it comes to resilience most of us don’t do any training. In fact, we seek out the fastest, easiest, lowest friction way to do everything in our lives. Then one day adversity hits, and we expect to be able to lift the 150 lb weight, and when we can’t, we wonder why.
To become more resilient, you have to practice. You have to develop strategies, skills and tools to be more resilient and you have to USE them! If you set the goal to lift 150 lbs, and all you did was watch instructional videos and read books about weight-lifting without actually lifting any weight, would you be able to do it? Of course not! Resilience works the same way. It’s great to read books, take courses, or read a post like this. The information is useful. However, you won’t actually become more resilient until you put those strategies and skills into practice.
So how do you do that? How do you “practice” resilience? Here are 3 simple ideas you can do this week:
- Allow yourself to experience small adversity more regularly. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Eat healthily when you don’t feel like it. Get out of bed on time instead of hitting the snooze button. These small, but significant decisions to do the harder thing, builds your resilience muscle.
- Invite or at least accept, constructive criticism: Most of us don’t like hearing that we’ve done something wrong. I think we’d all prefer to be told how great we are than be told we need to improve. Yet how do we get better at anything? If all you ever hear is how wonderful you are at everything you do, how likely are you to work hard to get better? Of course, constant criticism can be counter-productive, but if you open yourself up to constructive criticism from the right people, you will not only improve, you’ll be less hurt by the criticism that comes unwanted.
- Practice patience: A large part of being more resilient is simply being more patient. Things almost always look worse in the moment than they do a day later. “Sleep on it” is very good advice. With a little time and perspective, we can get through a lot of things that seem insurmountable at first glance.
Practice doesn’t make perfect, but it does make progress. If you practice resilience on a regular basis, you will become resilient. How do you practice your resilience on a daily basis?