6 key practices to cultivate resilience
If your heart is broken, make art with the pieces.
- Shane Koyczan
If you are not very familiar with the word resilience, quite simply put, it’s the ability to bounce back quickly from hardship, difficulties and toughness. It is the capacity to come back pretty rapidly to a sense of inner peace and emotional composure after going through challenging times.
It is a no-brainer that we are more and more exposed to things that disturb our inner peace. Inside our own homes with our relationships, when watching the news, through our social media and to finish with professional and financial stressors, it has become more and more challenging to maintain a peace of mind instead of living a life of stress, fear and reaction to seemingly uncontrollable events that come our way. Practicing resilience consistently appears to be a life saver in order to navigate more easily and with more flow through our daily lives. So let’s dive in, here is my take of the 6 key major practices that you need to integrate to become more resilient.
1. Make peace with being challenged / develop faith.
I think it is part of human nature to dread challenges and anything that makes us feel discomfort. However, I belive that one key perception we need to adopt in order to live a more resilient life is that life is not supposed to be a calm ride on a peaceful river. Just like Roger Crawford said: “Being challenged is inevitable. Being defeated is optional.”. It is then very important to change the way we perceive challenges. Instead of looking at them as things that threaten our peace, it is important to look at them as things that trigger our growth and that are meant to reveal our greatness. It is equally important to connect with a bigger picture and understand that once you rise to the occasion and integrate the mindset necessary to overcome those challenges, you live a richer life. To quote John C. Maxwell: “Success is due to our stretching to the challenges of life. Failure comes when we shrink from them.”
2. Practice compassion with self and others.
We all have a tendency to be a little harder on ourselves and on others when we go through challenging times. For some, it will take the form of anger, directed at self or others around us, and for others it will take the form of guilt, blame or even shame. Regardless of how it manifests for yourself, it is important to keep in mind that those states of mind hardly serve any good. Like Alan Watts used to say: “No work or love will flourish out of guilt, fear, or hollowness of heart, just as no valid plans for the future can be made by those who have no capacity for living now.”. Reminding yourself that you did the best you could with all that you knew at that time and so did others, is a very effective way to alleviate the harsh emotions that you are directing at yourself and them, and will allow you to connect with a mindset that is more prone to handling the situation.
3. Practice taking ownership / drop the victim mindset
Let’s analyze a small scenario. You wake up in the morning 45 minutes after your alarm went off. Afraid of being late for work, you start panicking. You rush to the washroom to give yourself a quick clean. No time for a shower today, you barely brush your teeth. Because of your high stress you have a hard time finding your keys. Finally you find them and you leave the house like a tornado, only to realize in your car that you forgot your phone that stayed plugged on the wall. You get even more annoyed because of that. You rush back out, take your phone and get back behind the wheel. As you are trying to pull out of the driveway, out of nowhere, another car hits the back of your vehicle and you get in a terrible state of rage.
In the middle of that situation, the majority would start to blame the other driver and the whole universe for the events that just happened to them, feeling like the victim and therefore, giving their power away to external circumstances. The problem with that perspective is: as you allow yourself to feel at the mercy of external events, you deny yourself from the ability to change them.
The perspective I invite you to adopt here is to own the story completely. This starts with owning the fact that you woke up late and allowed yourself to feel panicked because of that, and owning the fact that you attracted another unbalanced driver. This must not be done in a way that is full of blame, guilt or shame (remember to practice self compassion). But it should be done as a recognition of the fact that you initiated those events and therefore you have the power to change them.
4. Build a proactive and courageous mindset
Like Bernice Johnson Reagon said: “Life’s challenges are not supposed to paralize you. They are supposed to help you discover who you are.”. Too often, when we are challenged, we retract into a defensive and passive attitude and sometimes we even deny the events and get into avoidance. That mindset will only anchor you even more in procrastination and will let your problems persist more than they need to.
It is important to adopt a proactive attitude when we are faced with such situations and if you tell me that you’ve never been proactive, I’ll tell you that just like almost everything else, it’s a practice. It starts with changing the way you feel about the events. In some cases, not many physical actions can be taken to handle some situations, but the simple fact of rewirering the way we feel about them a tiny bit more positively can generate a tremendous amount of satisfaction and sense of freedom. You have to acknowledge that impact that events have on you emotionally are just a matter of perception and at any single point in time, you can change your perspective about everything. Understanding that circumstances are not fatal and that they are merely like the weather, allows you to connect with a bigger perspective and claim some of your personal power.
It is just as important to train yourself to practice courage everyday. It starts with having the tough and uncomfortable conversations with relatives, friends or collegues, keeping your word with yourself, practicing self discipline, standing up for what you believe and acting despite the fear that runs through your veins. Cultivating it daily will release in you a feeling of self confidence that will help you tackle bigger challenges.
5. Connect with a strong support network
Science can now prove (from new Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the brain researches) that having the support of a friend when you go through challenging times helps you cope more with the issues. Based on that, it is important to surround yourself with people with whom it’s possible to truthfully connect, people that genuinely care and that will encourage you to take the appropriate actions or comfort you when faced with difficulties.
A note on building that support network is to remember that you might not necessarily find the help you need around the most obvious relationships the majority will lean towards, meaning your family or even some friends. It is important for you to be Ok with the fact that some of them might not understand what you go through at the level you need them to. So finding the people around you that have a genuine ability to listen will help you tremendously, even if they are not necessarily the ones you would’ve expected.
6. Cultivate elevating your spirit
By cultivating your spirit, I mean all the activities that help you detach from your circumstances in a healthy way and that allow you to recharge your emotional batteries. A small list of those activities includes:
Listening to music that uplifts your mood;
Meditation or prayer if you are religious;
Exercise of all sorts;
Other mindfulness practices like: walks in nature, breathing exercises, yoga etc.
One thing to remember about the previous practices is that consistency in your execution will make the biggest difference. Another thing to take into consideration is that you don’t need to be in a crisis to start applying them. Including them in your daily habits will give you a bumper to deal more easily with future obstacles.
One last word: resilience is hardly a switch in your brain that you just turn on. It is a trait of character that you will need to build and reinforce daily. Just like every habit, it takes a great deal of dedication and consistency to install. Your former patterns might come back here and there while you embark on this journey but as you persist through this exploration the future rewards will be worth the effort. So keep it up!