It’s like pellets of water rolling off a duck’s back.
What would it feel like not to take something personally and to repel things that don’t make you feel good?
You may be thinking, “I’d like that, but it’s easier said than done!”
And you would be right!
But the research is also clear that it’s possible to deliberately build resilience. Here I offer three activities that can help you armor up and face the ups and downs of life with confidence.
Some Things I Control, and Some I Don’t
There are things you can control and things you can’t. One indicator of resilience is accepting that stuff happens and best-laid plans are sometimes bumped.
Universal laws notwithstanding, you generally have control for as long as an activity is in your hands, like when you’re working on a project, raising a child, or training an apprentice. However, it’s good practice to let go when the project is done, your child has grown, or the intern is on his or her own because it lessens resistance and conflict. It strengthens relationships because it shows respect. It builds trust and allows for effective communication.
Did you know that circumstances trigger thoughts, which cause feelings? Feelings determine actions. The consequences of your actions show themselves as the state of your life.
Think good thoughts if you believe you are or can be the master of your destiny.
Imagine coming to work feeling good despite a tightly scheduled day. No sooner have you sat down and powered up than you receive a call from the mayor who wants to see you immediately, or your manager pops in and says she wants you to attend a two-hour meeting that’s starting in 10 minutes.
How do you feel now?
Tense, stressed, anxious? Maybe a little mad because your perfectly planned day is out the window? What does the mayor want? Am I in trouble? I’m not prepared for a two-hour meeting. This is messing up my whole day. My manager doesn’t respect my time.
The situation is out of your hands, and it’s time to pivot. What can you do?
Keep it simple. Take deep breaths. Think about how you can rearrange your day and how lucky you are to have this chance to shine in front of your supervisor. Be curious about the meeting. Attend knowing that you add value by being present, listening actively, and having faith in yourself.
Resilient People Are Grateful People
Another way to switch your lens is to think about how fortunate you are to hold a well-paying, benefit-rich position that allows you to provide for your family. And how you’re trusted by your peers.
As you think about that, notice how it makes you feel.
Let’s refer to our example. Do you want to make your boss wrong or thank her for the chance to be seen? Which is more likely to forward you, “How dare my manager infringe on my calendar?” Or, “I’m grateful that my supervisor is confident in my abilities and asked me to sit in with (or for) her.
Gratitude done right activates neurochemical, anti-inflammatory, and neural circuits that improve long-term health and longevity while making you happier now!
Positive Psychology defines happiness as a state of being where one has more positive emotions (joy, hope, pleasure, love) and fewer negative ones (fear, anger, sadness, anxiety, worry) (Lyubomirsky, 2008) (Khoda, 2016). Many studies show that the effects of active gratitude on depression can be on par with medication, therapy, and exercise.
In one simple six-month experiment, participants were asked to think of three good things that happened to them each day. The results showed those with higher levels of gratitude were happier and less depressed.
Science backs the claim that switching your attention to the good is a powerful and effective strategy if you want to be bulletproof. Psychologists call this benefit finding. The U.S. Army calls it hunting the good stuff. I call it giving gratitude.
The label doesn’t matter. What does is to find the language that works for you. And to notice and appreciate the good in the world.
Make it a habit to be happy.
Is What I'm Doing Helping or Harming?
What do you believe about how much control you have over situations?
Mental resilience differs depending on your environment. It could be that you have more emotional mastery at work, but not so much when you’re with the kids.
If you’re uncertain about a decision you’ve made or are about to make, ask if what you’re doing is helping you or harming you and your loved ones. For example, is how you’re thinking and acting helping or harming the relationship with your partner? What about your professional ambitions–are they being helped or harmed?
This question can have a huge impact on your life. Whether it’s accepting family as they are or forgiving yourself for lapses, being aware of how you feel about it and what you’re doing can put you in the catbird seat and keep you tough.
Only you decide how situations and circumstances affect you. Let’s go back to our example once more.
You’ve been asked to accommodate a superior, which will likely cause an inconvenience to you or someone you had to meet. But how will resisting what’s happening help? Will it make you feel better? You can decide not to go, but at what cost? Think of the upside and act like a leader. Face the situation and muster the courage to do what needs to be done.
Three Anytime, Anywhere Activities
- Don’t amplify a situation by giving it more attention than it deserves. Ask if what you’re doing is helping you achieve your goals. Make the needed change and step forward.
- Foster a good attitude and do the best you can, no matter any surrounding disorder. Some things are just going to be out of your control, like squeaky stakeholders, client emergencies, and personnel matters. Handle them with grace and you’ll enjoy the stormy days as well as the sunny ones.
- Always make it a habit to notice and appreciate the good. Wait, did I say that already?
Rob is a former educator, business owner, and government and tourism executive. Nowadays, he enjoys tending his gardens, coaching, training, reading, and writing.