There is a lot of talk and research about resilience. It is the skill that is called into play not only when something traumatic occurs but is also credited to being linked to both success and happiness. It’s the no secret secret that is integral to high performance, on an individual and a company level.
Your own experience with resilience may be tied to professional or personal settings or both. I have no way of knowing. What I do know is that the need for resilience comes to us all. It is not only key to professional success and calm decision making, but each one of us at some time will experience loss, bullying, a natural disaster, a physical injury, mental health problems, or emotional trauma. Each one of us will experience trying times and can feel overwhelmed and inundated by their circumstances.
The good news is that while you tend to be given the blueprint for your resilience skills early on in life, you are free at any point to choose to develop it as a skill. There are many aspects of resilience, both in traumatic and day-to-day settings, but I have chosen three to talk about today in the interests of keeping this simple and giving you something useful:
Nope, not everything happens for a reason — sometimes random shit happens. It happens to people that ‘deserve it’, it happens to people that don’t. Know this deeply as a truth and don’t waste your precious time asking ‘why me?’ or saying ‘this is so unfair’ — this won’t take you anywhere helpful. Acknowledge the feelings of frustration, hurt and anger (after all, your feelings have a right to exist) but then move on to something positive that is within your control.
You can choose where to put your attention — so put it to things that are positive and that you can control.
Spending the majority of your time and effort on things you can control not only progresses you but takes time away from the temptation to catastrophise. Ruminating about past arguments, or you that you think someone is talking behind your back, or even that this pandemic sometimes feels like it might never end does not, I assure you, get you anywhere. And these types of thoughts can be especially repetitive — I gently suggest that they don’t need to be and that you can acknowledge the worry, put it in the box of things labelled “I can’t control”, and move on. Yes — this is easier said than done. But when you practice doing it, it gets easier and easier until it is as easy to do as it is to say.
We all skew to the negative — and that’s not just you, nor is it your fault (just in case you wanted to beat yourself up for beating yourself up). The reason we skew negative is that it comes from old instincts. And by old, I mean from when we were cavemen. We are descended from the people that ran away.
The humans that survived this era were the ones who when they heard a rustle in the jungle bushes did not say, “I reckon that’s food”, they said “I reckon that’s death” and hightailed it out of there. They were sometimes right, and they were sometimes wrong, but they died less when they ran away. Upshot— we skew to the negative and this means we pay a lot more attention to negative news and feelings and goings-on. In modern times we are bombarded with perceived ‘threats’ all the time in the form of news, micro-aggressions at work, effects of social isolation and so on. Our little brains treat all of these like they are physical threats that endanger us and we live (sometimes perpetually it seems) in fight, flight or freeze. Now you know this — choose to take your attention away from negative thoughts and happenings and seek out positive thoughts and happenings. Often when something is on our mind, we think that’s because it’s important and we need to think about it. That’s somewhat true — but it’s also true we skew negative and by bearing this in mind, you can make active choices.
Try these to practice pulling away from negativity and choosing positivity:
- Every morning or evening pick three things you are grateful for (yes, every single night, trust me you won’t run out). If you want to make it a conversation, try doing this with your partner, flatmate, or kids.
- Do things that you know make you feel good afterwards (eg watching 4 hours of Netflix does not necessarily make me feel good afterwards, doing pilates or going out for a walk does).
- Don’t be a slave to phone notifications — don’t let news come at you all day (choose a time when you seek it out) and don’t allow every comms platform to send you notifications.
Is what you’re doing helping you, or harming you?
One of the most powerful reasons mindfulness and meditation and the like are universally supported as being so crucial is because awareness is always the first step to change or to level up an existing skill. Be aware of your internal voice and the frequency of your feelings and reactions. Be ruthless with your internal narrative, pin it down, make it answer to logic and reason and most importantly, make your narrative serve you and what you want. You’ll soon see a difference in how you feel, and before long, I bet you see a positive difference in the results you get.
Ask yourself these three questions about the things that you do and the things that you think:
- Does this work toward my goals?
- Is it healthy?
- Am I going to feel good afterwards?
Times are especially trying right now, but there is still so much good out there and in you. None of us is perfect, and all of us have a bunch of inherited shit to deal with as well — but what saves us, what can elevate us beyond what we ever dared imagine to be possible, is our ability to choose.
As ever, super open to feedback or questions about how to extrapolate these principles into your own life — Twitter is a great place to find me, or leave me a comment :)