I have a couple of solid talents. I can juggle well enough to make a 5-year old clap. I’m fluent in another language (American Sign Language.) I’m good with computers. I can speak in front of crowds.
But I’m terrible at resilience.
What is resilience? Resilience is the ability to recover from loss or disappointment and benefit from it.
It’s more than getting back up when you get knocked down or at least being able to take the blow.
It’s more than a Kryptonian immunity from the verbal jabs, the “sorry, we are going another direction”, and the “it’s not you — it’s me.” It’s being deaf to the criticism that comes from a dark place. It’s being able to endure what life hands out.
And also growing from it.
When you have a distracted mind, when you have ADHD, we tend to emotionally amplify everything that comes at us — especially the bad, tough and harsh.
Resilience is a hard emotional skill for us to learn. We might have been torn down from the start: the teacher that didn’t get us, the parent that shamed us, the sibling that outpaced us at every turn.
So how do we develop this resilience, this ability to withstand the storms that come, the shrapnel that tries to cut through us?
In Type — R Transformative Resilience for Thriving in a Turbulent World Ama Marston and Stephanie Marston break down the components of resilience.
Resilience isn’t simply the ability to take a punch, to get up when you’re knocked down. It’s gaining knowledge, experience and innovation from the blows of life. It’s being able to learn from what’s going on around you, understanding what you have control over and what changes you can make.
I’m going to outline what they offer as the components of resilience; you might not be great at all of them, but where you are weakest, you can bolster. There are questions at the end of every section to help you explore that skill more in-depth.
If someone changes plans on you or when you are faced with a new role at work, adaptability lets you let go of your control, your expectations and shift gears.
It’s facing the unknown, considering others’ opinions and making a change with style and grace.
This is hard for the distracted mind. We are counting on something being one way; we have our plans and they are set in our minds. Then something changes; someone makes a decision that derails us. The weather shifts and now rain is pouring down on our day.
We are in ruin.
But instead of this being our kryptonite, here’s how we can become more adaptable.
We can recognize continually that change happens. We would be fools to believe that everything will continually stay the same. Even rivers change course — why do we think that yesterday will resemble today — at all?
We can focus on the benefits of change. When we look back 1 year or even 5 years, we can see how some disaster, some unforeseen circumstance took our life in a different and beneficial area. While I was stationed in Afghanistan, I made some of the best friends of my life there in the war-zone and online. Without that experience, my life would be that much grayer.
We can be ready for the inevitable change. I’ve started a mantra, something small that I try to speak daily: It won’t always be like this. When I say it in the sad times, I recognize that whatever I’m feeling won’t last. When I say it in the happy times, it reminds me to be ever-present.
We can also ask ourselves these questions:
What opportunity will this change bring me?
What strength do I have that can make this shine?
When unforeseen changes happen, we might not think we have the skills to thrive in this new environment, but just taking two steps back allows us to breathe, adjust and see where are strengths might come in handy.
Healthy Relationship to Control
There is something called a locus of control. It is the sphere in which you have power or influence over the outcome of something; your behaviors, your words, and your actions. Anything you can’t control is found on the outside of your locus of control. The behaviors of others, the weather, stock prices, etc.
When we mix up what is in and out of our control, we tend to suffer quite quickly and without a healthy resolution. If I’m bummed that my favorite stock tanked, and I mope around all day, nothing can really get me out of that mode, unless the stock suddenly rebounds. I’ve taken all my control, my emotions and the rest and simply put it in the hands of something out of my control.
Not the healthiest move.
And when we say that our behaviors are someone else’s fault, when our words are because of someone else’s actions, again, we are lying to ourselves. “He made me do those things!” Well, again, not the best move.
So we need to reassess what is in our locus of control and what isn’t.
What can do to influence this situation?
If there isn’t anything I can do, how long should I obsess over it? (Rhetorical, but you understand.)
How can I let go of whatever I can’t control?
If you want the PDF of all of the questions here, simply click here and download them.
Sometimes, we aim for the stars and wind up in a McDonald’s dumpster. We wonder how we got there. And as we crawl out of the dumpster, we rarely take the time to figure out what happened. We simply pick the french fries off of our jacket, climb the diving board again, not realizing we are going to end up in the same place; we make the same mistakes in our relationships or our career; we screw up the same thing over and over.
So our resilience just takes a critical blow because we make the same mistake over and over and we feel like a failure. We live in our personal, terrible Groundhogs Day.
So when we take a hit, we need to ask ourselves, “What can I learn from this?”
It might be the question you ask immediately after not getting a promotion, but when the dust settles, when the immediate blow of the rejection passes, we can ask ourselves these questions:
What can I do better next time I’m in this situation?
How can I prepare better?
What sources can teach me? What can I read or listen to so that this doesn’t happen again?
Who can I ask that can give me good, unbiased counsel about this situation?
The reason for this article was that I was finding that my resilience was just poor. So I decided to dig in deep to figure out what I was missing. So I’ve stacked up some books on resilience for the next month (Type-R being the 2nd in the stack.) I’ve also talked to a counselor about strategies as well as good friends. It’s been transformative for me to learn about this and practice it (the practice is the hard part.)
Sense of Purpose
We can get stuck in looking at the minutiae of our jobs and other roles we have; but we if we lose the broader picture of what we are doing, we lose our motivation to continue.
If we have a bad day at work, reflecting on why we are at that job, what it means to us, our bad day starts to fade into the background. We might realize it’s just a “one-off.” We might need a refresher on the bigger picture, a time to journal and reflect.
And if that purpose isn’t working out, if it’s no longer aligned with who we are, we might need to take a look and find something else.
Does this position align with my beliefs and values?
Can I articulate my sense of purpose for myself and where I am putting my time? Does that mesh well?
There is a verse in the Bible that says, “But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up.” (Ecc 4:10b) That word “woe” in Hebrew is the same as, “That is the worst thing that could possibly happen to someone.” You’ve hit rock bottom when you don’t have anyone to lift you up when you’re down.
I have a group of friends called “The Lanterns” after the Green Lantern Corps. When we’ve been friends a long time, when they have seen me through some hardship, and the time is right, I’ll give them a Green Lantern Ring.
These are the friends I call when I’m in a rut, when my life hits the skids. They listen well and provide great counsel. And also, they provide me feedback on the next steps so that I don’t repeat the same mistakes, but I can also learn from mistakes made.
Who are the people in your life that will be there when you hit the skids?
Who has the best counsel in the situation you are in right now?
If resilience has a nemesis, a Big Boss, I’d call it The Repressor. When we face adversity and get wounded, we might just stuff those feelings down, down and down. The Repressor just pushes down those feelings of doubt and pain. We wipe away the tears, clench our fists and go at it again, but we are still walking around wounded. Nothing has been rebuilt and eventually the foundation of who we are starts to crack under the weight of what we are storing, what we aren’t dealing with.
Taking time to work through the hurt, the pain is valuable because then it doesn’t have power over us when something similar happens. If you don’t process and work through a terrible breakup, either you are going to feel the same pain the next time it happens, or you’ll start to pull away, fearing that pain will happen again. Either way — you lose.
But facing pain, working through it, learning from it, defeats The Repressor.
How can I start to work through my disappointment?
What tools do I have at my disposal to help with this?
How often do I avoid challenges because I want to avoid conflict?
What right now is harming my progress as a person?
Where to go from here.
This might be a bit to take in but focus on one area to shore up your resilience. Answer those questions first. Reflect on them and see what you action you take towards building the muscle of resilience.
Resilience is a life long process. It’s a movement towards enduring the hardships that life throws at us. It’s not so we can take it like Superman sometimes takes a punch, unmoving, unflinching. But like the solar-energy-feeding Kryptonian’s best move, we can redirect it and use it for our benefit, learning from it, getting its wisdom. It’s then we build resilience.