self confidence

4 Steps to Building Greater Resilience

Over the last seven years or so, I’ve been on a journey to discover what it really means to be ‘me’. This time has included some of the darkest moments of my life, as well as some of the brightest. I’ve been lucky enough to have support from friends, and therapy was also invaluable, but what ultimately helped me through the tougher times was resilience.

Resilience is one of the most overlooked life skills, but is one of the most important. It seems astonishing that schools choose algebra over “Resilience 101” lessons – but that’s the world we’re living in. This means that it’s up to us to develop our resilience and teach ourselves how to call on our internal strength in times of stress, strain or struggle.

In this post, I want to talk about four tips that I’ve found invaluable for my own levels of resilience. Resilience is necessary for a wide range of situations. It’s not purely reserved for times when we deal with ‘big’ events like death, illness, divorce, or unemployment.

It shows up in our day-to-day ability to bounce back from a ‘no’, to hear unfavorable feedback and retain our belief in the project, and most of all to hold on – even with just a finger – to an internal belief that at the end of it all, we will be OK.

1. Think: Is it really personal?

We cannot be in control of everything 100% of the time: sometimes we encounter events, relationships and situations that don’t turn out as we’d hoped. Whereas before we were hearing “yes”, we go through times in life where we start hearing “no” This isn’t necessarily because of who we are or what we’re doing, but because of a whole host of other factors, from timing to individual whims.

When I first started writing for my website, I felt incredibly vulnerable. Putting my thoughts and writing out into the world felt like a risky thing to do. Several months down the line, someone left a comment on one of a post I wrote about forgiveness, saying that what I had written was “ridiculous”. I felt pretty crushed, but quickly realised that forgiveness is an emotive topic that many people have strong beliefs around; it was possible that what I had written challenged the commenter’s perspective. Equally, just because this person disagreed with me didn’t mean that I was necessarily wrong, just that we held different perspectives on the topic.

Once I stopped taking the comment personally and started viewing it objectively (someone disagreed with something I wrote and communicated that), I stopped feeling crushed and started focusing instead on the many positive comments I received in response to the post.

2. Practise building your resilience in times of calm

In my experience, we’re required to call on our resilience cyclically. Certain periods of life have require very little resilience, while others require more than it feels we can muster at the time. I’ve come to appreciate how useful the calmer, stress-free moments are for building my resilience muscle.

Most of us – myself included – have many beliefs built into what it means to be rejected, whether that’s for a job, a date, a publishing deal, or any other situation. When we can practise hearing ‘no’ from a place of stability, self-awareness and self-compassion, we start to realize that no doesn’t necessarily mean ‘because you’re a terrible job candidate/person/writer etc.”; no just means “no”. Carrying this awareness forward into more stressful times in life helps us hold onto that stability and compassion, exponentially improving our ability to bounce back from tougher times.

Deliberately inviting discomfort into our lives by putting ourselves in positions where we might hear a “no” might not sound like an appealing prospect, but it helps us develop a sense of trust in our ability to deal with life’s curveballs and sets us up to come out of challenging situations as a stronger and wiser person.

3. Start keeping a journal

Keeping a journal is useful for many aspects of personal development, especially when it comes to developing our resilience. Not only does keeping a journal give us a chance to work through and process our experiences at our own pace, but it can also help us recognise resilience we didn’t even know we had.

Having kept a journal for the past several years, one of the most valuable gifts I’ve taken away from it has come from the practice of reading back through entries I made months or years previously. Not only does it improve my self-awareness, but doing this has also helped me recognize that quite often, when I thought I was lacking strength, the resilience I needed was inside me all along – I just hadn’t recognized it for what it was.

4. Ask for help

Resilience doesn’t mean dealing with everything on your own. An important part of developing our resilience revolves around being able to recognize what we need to support us through difficult times, and taking action to meet that need. Far from being a sign of weakness or an inability to cope, asking for help is a sign of strength.

When we’re in the middle of a challenging situation or a time of crisis, we might feel like we don’t know who to turn to. Making a list of our “2am people” in advance – the people we’re close enough to be able to call any time of day for support and vice versa – sets us up to get the support we need and gives us the best chance of helping ourselves.

Resilience isn’t an innate talent or gift, it’s a skill. Like all skills, it takes consistent practice to strengthen. When we pay due care and attention to strengthening our resilience, however, we unlock a deeper level of potential and opportunities in our lives that would otherwise stay hidden.

What is your experience with resilience? Do you have any tips that you would add to the list above? Leave a comment and let us know.

  • David Corbett

    Great article.

    Another step that I would add:

    Read and learn about how people who have achieved their dreams have needed and used abundant resilience to overcome obstacles, push through difficulties, recover from failure and keep persisting in spite of setbacks.

    Too often we see the end result of all the resilience but not the evidence of how much it was required – the overnight success story. Every successful actor, athlete, politician, singer – and anyone successful in any other field – has a great story to tell about resilience. The problem is we don’t always hear enough of those stories and we might think success is achievable without resilience. It isn’t.

    So, step 5: Learn how successful people needed and used resilience.

    Thank you.

    • HannahBWYA

      Great tip David! I agree that this is really helpful. Thanks for pointing that out :)

  • al

    i think that taking a step back , and being realistic with what has happened. sure you may have been rejected and it may have knocked your confidence but it is not the end of the world. try to use some negative events as opportunities to grow, by learning from them so you can do better next time.

    • HannahBWYA

      Right on, Al :) We can build up things like rejection in our heads to the point where they take on more significance than they actually have. At the end of the day, we’re still here ready to try again tomorrow!

  • http://bebrainfit.com/ Deane Alban

    When faced with adversity I think about times I handled tough situations well to remind myself that I can be strong, courageous, and wise when needed. Focusing on your strengths rather than weaknesses will give you the confidence to handle what life throws your way.

    • HannahBWYA

      I love this Deane! One of my favourite coaching questions is “How have you dealt with [insert situation here] in the past?” It’s so great for stepping out of the immediate situation and, like you said, focusing on our strengths and self-trust.

  • cmcoto

    Hannah, Thanks for sharing! I think that resilience is one of the most important qualities, or capacity one may have. We need to work on it, every day. I would also suggest to live by the Here and Now, and not in the past, or in the future.

    Thanks.

    • HannahBWYA

      Thanks cmcoto! I like your suggestion to stay in the present. Our minds are really good a trying to make sense of what’s happening by placing the current situation in the context of the past and the future, but all that’s really true, right now, is the present.

  • http://www.brainwavelove.com/ Ashton @ Brainwavelove

    Useful tips, Hannah! I particularly like your definition of resilience – it’s a strength of character we need to practice daily in order to deal with all sorts of obstacles and daily challenges. It’s funny how sometimes we think we are practicing resilience, but in fact we are just burying our feelings of hurt and disappointment. Resilience is all about remaining truly calm and faithful even during the greatest storm.

    • HannahBWYA

      Yes! You make a really important point there, Ashton. Resilience isn’t the same as dissociation and there’s nothing strong or tough about burying our feelings. Even in the darkest of times, I take solace in knowing that my hardest feelings will pass and I’ll come out the other end a little stronger and a little wiser :)

  • http://www.kizi10.info/ Kizi 10

    Very impressive article. I have read each and every point and found it very interesting

  • Alfie Yee

    Hannah, I live in Singapore and read your article. a really inspirational piece. Thanks for sharing

  • josh – reachyourpower.com

    love the idea of the seasons – we all have the “winters” in our lives, but doesn’t springtime always show up immediately after?

  • Mish

    Thanks Hannah I had a very stressful day at work today and my resilience depleted. Your article gave me strength to keep trying.

  • http://wwww.minecraftchannel.net/ Minecraft

    I think that your perspective is deep, its just well thought
    out and really fantastic to see someone who knows how to put these thoughts
    down so well.

  • Mallie | The Irrational Mind

    I completely agree about the journaling! (http://theirrationalmind.com/2013/08/the-power-of-journaling/) One thing I learned this week is that parents can pass on their resiliency to stress–or lack thereof–to their children without even realizing it.