I read an interesting article in Time magazine by Mandy Oaklander in June 2015 on resilience which was very detailed and informative explaining the science behind developing resilience. She writes that scientists use techniques like functional magnetic resonance imaging to look beyond their own observations of people and into the parts of their brains that govern emotion.
The article also briefly listed the top tips from experts on the subject. Here are the 10 tips from experts in the field for developing resilience with my take on each.
1. Develop a core set of beliefs that nothing can shake: The key to achieve this is to first have a personal mission statement for your life. Once you have that in place you can then determine the values around which your life will revolve. Values could be kindness, integrity, honesty, courage. So even if something goes wrong you can go back to your mission and core set of values so that you see any setbacks as temporary.
2. Try to find meaning in whatever stressful or traumatic thing: The best quote related to this is by Napoleon Hill who said “Every adversity carries with it the seed of an equivalent benefit.” Everything happens for a reason and if we understand that, then we can deal with the inevitable setbacks much better. The key is to bounce and not break. Every negative event has something to teach us and once we use it as a learning mechanism to further our lives we can overcome it.
3. Try to maintain a positive outlook: It is impossible to imagine a successful person who is negative all the time. Bill Gates is someone who always has a positive outlook. He is fighting for a larger cause now even eradicating diseases and his foundation is doing excellent work. They key is his optimism that the world can be better than it already is. Another key to maintain a positive outlook is to have a high appreciation for life. Count your blessings and write down everything you are grateful for in your life.
4. Take cues from someone who is emotionally resilient: The people we associate with are what psychologists call our reference group. We all know people who have overcome tremendous adversity and we are in awe of them. I think the suggestion is to keep associating with emotionally resilient people so that you get inspired and the qualities admired in others rub off on you.
5. Don’t run from things that scare you: As Ralph Waldo Emerson said “Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain.” As lot of experts say pursue the things that scare you and move into your zone of discomfort. We have all been afraid of some presentations and once it is done it wasn’t that big of a deal. We have also dealt with everything that life has thrown to us. This understanding clearly tells us that we can overcome things if we approach them head on and meet it with our presence. One thing that can help in this is to do the worst thing first. Start with the most difficult thing on your to do list and the rest of the day will go much easier.
6. Be quick to reach out for support when things go haywire: None of us can do anything alone. When we face problems we should confide either with our spouse or trusted confidant. The office environment is not the right place to discuss your personal problems beyond a point. Also speaking to others enables to sooth our emotional psyche and we can feel better about ourselves. The key is to develop a master mind alliance with key friends whom you can communicate without any inhibition.
7. Learn new things as often as you can: I like this line which says if you are feeling listless make a list. We all have a lot on our plate at work but what about our personal lives. We should have things we want to learn and we are passionate about. To increase joy in our lives we need to do the things that make us happy. So keep learning something new every week and this reduces stress increasing joy.
8. Find an exercise regimen to stick to: Exercise is a great stress buster. The toughest part in an exercise regimen is to get started. The problem is with every New Year we set some resolutions like exercise 6 times a week and lose 30 pounds. The issue here is just because the calendar has changed it doesn’t mean we are physically ready to take on the challenge. So start small by setting a goal like going to the gym 3 days a week, losing 5 pounds in two months. The point is we will stick to an exercise regimen only if feel like we are making progress so we need to set easy to reach goals to keep us motivated for the long haul. Neurological studies show that when we exert ourselves physically, we produce a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) that promotes growth of neurons, especially in the memory regions of the brain. Science has also shown that exercise increases the three neuro transmitters namely dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine which increase happiness levels, reduce cravings, improves learning capacity and eliminates stress. These are all very good reasons to stick to an exercise regimen.
9. Don’t beat yourself up or dwell on the past: It is not the negative event that hurts us but it is what we say to ourselves when it happens that makes a difference. Martin Seligman who is a psychologist and part of the positive psychology movement says that successful people talk to themselves positively. They always see the negative event as temporary and have a future oriented mindset which is the key to lifelong happiness. So the key is to monitor your self-talk and ensure it is more positive than negative.
10. Recognize what makes you uniquely strong and own it: Finally we have to realize that every person has unique strengths that have to be acknowledged. Sometimes we wait for others at work and at home to acknowledge us but I think we should be the first ones to acknowledge ourselves. One of things I have done is to write all my happiest moments in my life and I have come up with 60 things and have been adding to it. Also keep a victory log of everything that you have accomplished till now in your life. Finally write down and keep track of all your strengths like self-discipline, promptness, hard work and any unique talents you may have.
If we follow the above guidelines we can overcome any setbacks in our lives and develop rock solid resilience.
The views expressed here are my own and do not represent my organization.