Resilience: Bend and bounce, so you won’t break

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Doug is a manager at a large retail firm. Recently his department reported a significant drop in sales. Doug and his team are working diligently to earn a bigger market share this holiday season, so he wants to find a way to lead and instill confidence in his subordinates, but deep down he wonders if he’s got what it takes to rebound personally, let alone carry others along.

Bob’s office is down the hall from Arthur’s, and he works in the same department. Bob is always upbeat, even seems inspired in the face of adversity and challenge. Doug knows that Bob, a newcomer on the team, joined the company after being laid off by a competitor. Doug admires Bob’s attitude and ability to rally staff’s confidence and morale.  He asks himself how Bob does it and even wonders if it’s something Bob was born with.

Bob’s secret is his resilience, and he wasn’t born with it. He built it. Resiliency is the ability to bounce back, adapt to adversity, and roll with the punches. Resilience gives us the flexibility to restore ourselves, and our lives, after difficulty, trauma and loss, and it is a quality in high demand during these rapidly changing times. Although there may be a genetic factor involved, resilience is not something you are either born with or not.  You can learn, build, and develop your resilience. A sense of humor, like resilience, can also be learned and developed, and it, too, can really help you to roll with the punches.

Here are four strategies to help you build your resilience:

Get Connected and Stay Connected.

Resilience does not mean standing alone through hard times. Relationships with others who are supportive and positive are essential to achieving and maintaining resilience. Mentors, friends, family, advisors and associates can provide encouragement, experience, strength and hope during uncertain, adverse, or painful times.

Isolation creates brittleness and inflexibility – you’re more likely to sink into a negative state of mind when alone with losses, failures or trauma. And your connectedness involves not only receiving, but giving encouragement, experience, strength and hope. When you reach out to support and share with others, you gain and build resilience and allow yourself a chance to heal from your personal injury or trauma. Get involved with support groups, community involvement, etc. And remember to have fun. Fun does wonders for your sense of humor, your resilience, and your health. 

Look Back, Learn and Whenever Possible, Laugh.

Allow yourself to review past events and reinterpret them, drawing strength from your experiences. As you review your life, step back and look at yourself objectively, as if you are watching a movie. Review your story. Find humor where you can, inspiration and courage where you can. Give yourself credit for character and grace and avoid blaming or judging yourself or others. Refuse to engage in beating yourself up or “should-ing” yourself to death. Accept the things you can’t change and take stock of the things that are within your power to change.

One thing that is always in reach, always in your power to change, is your attitude. Everyone has a story. Remember that you are the author of your life story; you may prefer to think of yourself as the director of your “life movie.” If so, cast yourself as the hero! You can find your bearing and begin working toward a triumphant third act or conclusion. And, as in movies, a little comic relief can’t hurt. 

Develop a Plan of Action.

If you want to build resilience, you will need a daily plan of action. Action creates motivation, and motivation creates more action. Always be proactive in the face of adversity, failure, loss, illness or injury. Advance in the face of difficulties or challenges, one day at a time. Remember, you’re working on the next scene in your life’s movie, so make it a comeback story – a triumph of the human spirit theme. Reach out and march headlong toward all that life has to offer. Think: I’m still alive. This experience did not kill me. What doesn’t kill me I can use to make myself stronger and more flexible. Set measurable, doable goals and be consistent with your action plan. 

Keep Hope Alive and Practice Being Optimistic.

Always look forward to a bright future. Visualization is a powerful tool used by athletes, performers and people from all walks of life. At least once a day, take time to visualize yourself where you want to be, and celebrate it as though you are already there. Permit yourself to feel all the peace, exultation and joy that comes as you picture yourself in this specific happy situation, having reached your goal. It’s good to visualize the same thing each day – repetition programs your unconscious mind.

Write affirmations or use mantras. These tools can help you to establish your own inner cheerleading squad. When you choose a mantra, be sure it’s positive. “It’s temporary,” “I’m learning,” or “I’m healing,” are positive mantras. Obviously, “Why me?” or “It’s not fair,” are not positive mantras.  Practice mindfulness meditation and develop skills to counteract negative feelings and mindset.

Always remember that if you feel good, things will go better. And feeling good is a choice. You can change negative thought habits; this has been scientifically proven with behavioral therapies.  Use positive self-talk. Direct your inner dialogue, allowing moment-by-moment opportunities to encourage yourself as a friend, mentor, coach, and advocate.  

Remember, it’s your movie, your life story. Often, the best-loved films are stories where underdogs triumph: where the lead characters, presented with adversity, discover their deep inner strength, embrace change, learn powerful lessons, bounce back, and ultimately win the day. Resilient people view difficulty as an opportunity to adapt, create, innovate, and advance in one or many areas of their lives. Does art imitate life, or is it the other way around? That’s up to you.

Marti MacGibbon, CADC II, ACRPS, is a certified mental health professional, humorist, inspirational motivational speaker, veteran standup comic, author and member of the National Speakers Association. Her memoir, “Never Give in to Fear,” is available on Amazon.com and through her website, http://www.nevergiveintofear.com/. To find out more, call (310) 210-4674.


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