“Do not judge me by my success, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.” — Nelson Mandela
If there’s one common theme in life, it’s that resilience is the necessary life force that helps us stay flexible, buoyant, and strong.
Wikipedia defines resilience as “the ability to cope with change,” and “being able to withstand or recover quickly from difficulties.”
Resilience rears its head when change happens. One stage of life ends, and another begins. It can happen gently and predictably through natural stage-of-life occurrences, like an empty nest, aging, or retirement. Or, change happens unexpectedly from incidents like a loss, divorce, financial struggle, or health.
Life events, planned or unplanned, drive the cycles of change and contribute to the evolution of you. We can struggle and resist for a while, but ultimately you just have to figure it out and move on to the next part of your life.
Why do some people bounce back, and others don’t?
It’s resilience. As the head of my business, I’m forced to consistently stay motivated and weather any challenges that present themselves. In my personal life, I’m faced with daily decisions and adaptations of what the day brings.
It’s within our nature to be resilient. Just look at the tiny seedling growing from a crack in the cement. It can’t help but thrive!
Your business life has cycles of change too. The economy might dictate doom, but resilient people remain focused and flexible. They know the importance of keeping up with current practices and technology to ride the highs and lows.
Let’s explore how to develop strengths and practices for becoming a resilient “you’…
1. Develop perpetual optimism.
Let optimism prevail. How you handle the past and present will predict your future. Optimists tend to bounce back faster from painful experiences than pessimists. According to Psychologist Charles Carver, Ph.D., “They stay in the struggle because they expect the ship to right itself.” They are adaptable and don’t stay down too long. They rebound and begin again.
Don’t dwell on problems, focus on solutions… and quickly. Visualize what it will feel like once the problem is solved, then take the very next step to solve it. You don’t have to know the whole solution, just take it step-by-step.
2. Listen to understand.
There’s a difference between listening and understanding what you hear. When someone is telling you something, it’s easy to nod, comment, and answer back. But, it’s another thing to truly understand what that person is telling you. Comprehension only takes place with active listening and the right questions.
This is the key to resolving those “difficult conversations.” Unless you really hear and comprehend, there is no way to come to a conclusion.
In an article by Dave Schools, he used the phrase “cognitive incision” when describing a technique for maintaining control of a conversation. I think it brilliantly describes the perfect dialogue when both parties are using this technique.
“Cognitive Incision is the ability to see through social facades and cut straight to the truth. [It…] means you as the listener are keeping up, following along, and analyzing everything that’s being said. In your mind, you are cognizant of the conversation, are aware and knowledgeable of the subject.” -Dave Schools
When two people are listening this way, the right questions escalate the exchange to higher levels. This technique not only solves those “difficult conversations,” but it also deepens the connection you have.
Who knows… it might just bring about the next great idea, product, or collaboration.
3. Let intuition guide you.
Listening to your own thoughts is critical, too. Eckhart Tolle, the author of A Whole New Earth, described the process of writing his best selling book as listening in stillness. He first allows himself to become focused and aware of his thoughts as they arise. Then, Eckhart writes the words when they come. He doesn’t force or prod, he listens, and they flow.
I’ve implemented this process many times when I write, and I sometimes think… where did that revelation come from? When you write, practice waiting for the thought to arrive in your consciousness. The words are there if you listen.
This idea can enhance other creative projects, too. Don’t just make the next brush stroke in your painting… wait for your intuition to guide you. If you listen, it will tell you where it belongs, and then lead you to the next stroke, and the next. That’s the difference that launches the genius in you. Just ask Picasso.
“I begin with an idea, and then it becomes something else. ” — Pablo Picasso
4. Collaborate with others to launch ideas into the stratosphere.
When you interact with others, you’re allowing your brain to see new possibilities. It’s the interactive moment when a simple thought becomes revelatory. It’s when ideas fly and explode into new ideas.
As a writer, my work is often solitary. When I read my first draft out loud to someone, is the moment it soars. I see the things that don’t work, and the places for interjecting new ideas. I watch how they react, and their perspective helps me fine tune it. It makes my work better.
The same goes for my husband’s company that creates hotel and restaurant dinnerware and glassware. My husband listens to the chefs… some of the top names in the industry, and then he gets his design team creating. Together they develop products that help chefs deliver a “wow” experience.
5. Do something to revitalize the “stalled” mind.
The sameness of life sometimes seems so dull. Creative people often need a “ pattern interrupt” to get the juices flowing again. A pattern interrupt is a technique used by psychologists to change thoughts, behaviors, or situations. It interrupts the particular behavior, relinquishes the power of it, and redirects it to something positive.
Sometimes work or daily life feels so stifling it sputters and stalls. If you’re feeling stuck, do something different. Sign up for a floral arranging class. Go for a picnic at the beach. Bake a batch of chocolate chip cookies and share them with a friend over coffee.
Or… go all the way and book a tech-free vacation for you and someone you love.
6. Consider how you show up in the world.
Your appearance is the first thing people notice. A huge part of looking great is self-care. It’s a fact we need exercise, sleep, and healthy eating to be at our best.
How we dress is one more aspect of looking great. When we’re grocery shopping, at spin class, or at work, we’re assessed within seconds. I frequently run into clients at the gym or the grocery store. When you look good, you feel good. It doesn’t take much effort to put on a nice workout top and pants instead of a torn tee shirt and sweats. Your next potential client or even soul mate could be the one you meet over peaches in the produce section.
Many people have heard me speak on this premise before, including a good friend of mine who is a producer in the entertainment business. He told me he heard my voice as he ran out of the house to the gym one day… “Michael, you never know who you’re going to meet. Always look your best, even in gym clothes.”
He went back into his house, showered and re-dressed for success. That morning during his workout, he met the head of a prominent network. He connected with her, pitched his idea, and it’s now in production.
If you thought your next great opportunity might be waiting at the gym, the grocery store, or the coffee shop, do you think you’d take a few extra minutes to look your best?
7. Accept failure as a guide to success.
Failure is an essential lesson in learning how to bounce back from difficult times. Keep careful watch over feelings of failure. It can be a destructive force and keep you weak and small.
Look at failure as a guide to your future. It tells you what didn’t work. When a reporter asked Thomas Edison, “How did it feel to fail 1,000 times?” Edison replied, “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.”
Resilient people know the next failure puts them one step closer to success.
8. Keep your “child heart.”
Child’s play was vital to your development. Did you send “play” away when you became an adult?
Remember when you built sand castles at the beach or splashed finger paint on giant sheets of butcher paper? Did you mold animals with clay?
Then, it didn’t matter how good you thought it was, or what others thought. You did it because it made you happy.
Return to playing! Find something easy and creative to recapture your “child heart.”
When I feel stressed, I often paint ceramics, do calligraphy, or gather flowers from my garden to brighten my home. It soothes me.
It’s time to return to the delighted child you once were, where your eyes are full of curiosity, and your heart is full of awe.
9. Sometimes we need help. Ask for it.
If you’re struggling in your personal or professional life, consider this the perfect time to create your Dream Team. Make use of your friends, a coach, a therapist, a mentor, or enroll in a program that will guide you.
My whole life changed when I surrendered to the fact I needed help. I use the word “surrender” because my unyielding pride kept saying, I should be able to do this on my own.
In nature, when a female elephant is sick or wounded, the other females form a circle around her. They protect her, nurture her, and watch over her until she’s strong enough to stand on her own.
This is how my circle is. When my son died unexpectedly, they were all there, circling around me until I could stand on my own.
There are times we need help. Ask trusted friends for support and in turn, be a good friend to them.
Enlist mentors for specific guidance and create professional alliances for business help.
When was the last time you said, can you help me? Draw from your pool of strength… your Dream Team.
Note to self: Every time I thought I couldn’t survive, I did.
Yes, you will bounce back and survive. Recognize your challenges as the beginning of the next chapter in your life story. Lean into it and armor yourself with the shield of resilience.
After my son died, I could only see a future of despair, but his loss forced me to uncover a new me, a new life.
“Resilience is accepting your new reality, even if it’s less good than the one you had before. You can fight it, you can do nothing but scream about what you’ve lost, or you can accept that and try to put together something that’s good.” -Elizabeth Edwards
Each challenge forced me to discover my strength, and each time I was called to tap into my resilience (because everyone is capable) and survive.
Resilience is the only prescription for restoring the soul’s potential.
Learn to bounce forward and dare the new chapter to emerge. The chapters of our lives are a series of choices.
Choose resilience. It’s there inside of you, waiting to emerge at a time when you need it most. It won’t let you down. You’ve got too much life still waiting to live.
Thanks for reading! If you’ve got creativity on your mind… I have a complimentary sample for you. A short ebook on how to establish some simple habits to set your creativity on fire: How to Develop the Creative Mindset.
**Previously published on Medium**