Resilience is a key survival trait, whether you’re an amoeba evolving in a competitive environment, or a broker on Wall Street. (Wait, those two things might not be all that different.) In essence, resilience is bouncing back rather than falling flat in the face of adversity and stress.
As an example: a University of Pennsylvania researcher studied the factors determining whether a West Point cadet succeeded or washed out during a brutal initiation process called “Beast Barracks.” The result was phenomenal. What made the biggest difference wasn’t SAT scores, physical aptitude, or even leadership potential. It was the cadet’s ranking on the “Grit Scale” measuring perseverance. If a cadet was even one standard deviation higher on the Grit Scale, they were 60% more likely to make it through Beast Barracks. This means that what proved most necessary for success wasn’t intelligence or physical scale, but pure mental toughness.
Good news: resilience isn’t a genetic trait, but a pattern of behavior and thinking that can be learned and practiced
Recognize and Manage Expectations
Especially when you’re going into a challenging situation, define what you rationally think are possible outcomes. Don’t even look for solutions yet. Just scope out the ways things could potentially realistically unfold so you feel prepared rather than blindsided.
You are in Control of Your Reactions
You can’t control what happens in the world, but you can control your reaction to it. Try seeing situations from a different perspective when you feel caught up in an emotional reaction, wait five minutes or even pretend you’re giving advice about the situation to yourself. These strategies all help put you back in the driver’s seat so you can act rather than react.
Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable
It’s highly unlikely that discomfort will kill you. Practice sticking with things that are out of your comfort zone, whether it’s doing extra pull ups when you want to quit, or waiting in line at the store. These small victories will help you when things actually hit the fan.
Having a strong web of connection with family and friends strengthens resilience. Whether it’s bowling buddies, your church or extended family, cultivate a support system that suits you.
Take care of yourself.
Eat a vegetable. Go outside. Get a work out. Sleep. The basics of physical care will pay off when the going gets tough.
Pump Up Positivity
No, you don’t have to be Marty Sunshine. But a key factor in resilience is the ability to find some value in whatever circumstances come your way. Look for the lemonade amidst the lemons.
Find the Humor
Much like finding the positive, finding humor, even if it’s dark humor, can help you keep your perspective and bounce back. When the going gets tough, the tough find a Judd Apatow flick.
Keep in mind that, like any other habit, building resilience takes time and repetition. It will pay off. Change is inevitable – choose how you’re going to handle it.