Resilience is the ability to effectively cope and get back up after the adversity. Resilience is neither a personality trait nor an in-born attribute. Rather, it is a way of cultivating one’s mindset, perspective, and behaviour that brings out the strength of a person in the process of growth towards maturity.
Life is unpredictable. There will always be ups and downs. Resilient people are able to face their adversity with a positive attitude, adapt well, and leverage on such opportunity to learn and grow, as well as to self-reflect.
Being resilient is not only important in today’s context when urban life has become more complex and uncertain, rather being resilient is a skill set that many influential leaders are beginning to recognise its significance. Therefore, resilience can be learned.
When I was in my first year of my probation working as a counsellor for a correctional organization, the stress was high and I was once told that I was not competent enough to continue working there. In other word, I almost got myself sacked. Thankfully, I managed to talked myself out of that predicament and appealed against the review. What I got was six more months of grace to “prove myself”.
It was a challenging year for me and I knew I had to prove my competence, otherwise I would be walking out of the office door for the last time. For the first time in my career, I was put in such a position of mixed emotions – both stress, anxiety, and at times, depression. I can understand now, for that very brief moment of my experience, how it really feels like to be axed, retrenched, or terminated with sudden notice.
For the rest of the six months, I battled it out. To be honest, there were times I felt like giving up. There were even times when I caught myself writing up my resumes and sending them to the four corners of the earth just to escape from this humiliating state I was in. I felt like reseting the game and starting my career life on a fresh page.
Little did I know that with such an unpleasant experience then, it actually taught me how to be resilient. On hindsight, I truly appreciate such adversity that had occurred in my career which had make me tougher, both mentally and emotionally.
Here are 4 ways to build resilience, and I will share with you how I managed to use them to overcome my adversity.
1. Being Mindful, Live in the Here-And-Now
When I received the news of my negative work review, it was as though someone had thrown a stone at me and hitting my face without an apology. It was painful, shocking, and very disappointing. Especially when I knew then, how much effort I had put in to do my best. This unpleasant feeling in me went on for a few weeks. I was depressed and became unmotivated to do anything.
Now, what got me out of the trap of brooding and whining over such an experience was to simply accept the circumstance the way it is. What is — is. What isn’t — isn’t. In addition, I had to come to term and realise what was going on in my head and in my heart.
In short, I had to accept that I was feeling upset and angry towards my superiors for making such decision in my work review. Also, I had to accept that I cannot change the way things turned out for me, but I can always change the way I see the situation and how I respond to it.
If you live in the here-and-now; accept the way you feel without denial; look at how you can work your way around the problem to improve your situation; and see things in a positive light, you will emerge victorious over your adversity in due time.
2. Beware of Thinking Traps
The next few weeks after receiving the news about my work performance was spent brooding and feeling upset about what had happened. It dawned on me then, that the way forward consists of two options — remain hopeless and bitter, or I better do something about the way I was thinking about the situation.
I was in a Thinking Trap, where my emotions were taking over my life just because my mind was too focused on the feedback that I was incompetent at work. How we think affects the way we feel, and then, how we feel gets translated into the way we show it.
Thinking Traps are simply false assumptions about ourselves or the situation made without examining the evidence, and they are usually unhelpful.
One of the Thinking Traps include the use of unhelpful phrases that we say to ourselves such as “I’m always forgetful”, “I’m never going to be successful”, “All men are jerks”, “I can’t handle…”, “I shouldn’t have…”, “They should do this…”, or “I must have been very useless…” etc. The words in Italics show how generalised or distorted the statements are.
Distortion occurs when we choose to interpret certain facts based on how we perceive them, and then use that interpretation to form our conclusions and judgements. One negative example is, “My boss didn’t say anything good to me today, so he must be upset with me”.
Deletion occurs when we choose to focus deeply on certain details of our reality such that how we perceive them become excessively magnified or exaggerated. Deletion happened because other factual details have been deleted or wilfully ignored. This is normal because humans have selective attention. We only pay attention to things that matter more to us. Therefore, it is important to focus on the positives and learn to reframe our situation when we face certain difficulties in life.
Generalisation occurs when we simply jump into conclusion and form our overall judgement based on one or few experiences that occurred to us. These conclusions are usually formed without examining the evidence. One negative example is the belief that: “All men are jerks, because I’ve just been two-timed”.
You need to beware of Thinking Traps when you are developing your beliefs about your situation because it could hinder you from acting with resilience and becoming successful in the long run.
3. Reach Out to Others
It would be a lonely journey for me had I not turned to others around me for help. If I had refused help from others, or stubbornly avoided social interaction and sharing my problems, I would not have recovered from that shock and disappointment I had experienced from my career back then.
I knew then, that I had to do something about my life and turn it around so that I can add value to my work. I told myself that I had to look out for people who are more successful than I am, and model after them. That was why I decided to look for the best mentors in the field of personal development. And that was when I met my NLP teacher who inspired me, encouraged me, and gave me great insights and knowledge on the use of NLP and the Enneagram profiling system. NLP has helped me to live better, simply by changing the way I perceive my life. This learning experience with my teacher had dramatically transformed me and the rest was history.
Being resilient is not just about thinking positively, or facing our challenges head on alone, but rather knowing when and how we can call upon others for help.
People are your best teachers. Look to the ones who are successful or are coping well in life, learn from them and model after them.
4. Take Care of Our Health
To be honest, I couldn’t function properly at work after the negative feedback on my work performance. This lasted for a week or so. Reason being, I was calling in sick, partly because I was too demoralised to work. I was depressed and that had caused me to develop headaches, flu, and other unpleasant physiological issues. Some said I was developing some kind of burnout, but I thought that I was losing resilience at that time.
It took me a while before I decide to watch my diet, and not drink too often. I started to have more sleep and exercise more. I turned to fun activities with friends and loved ones just to give my mind a break from thinking about my problems. Finally, I realised that a healthy mind and body gives me better sense of focus, and it helps me to problem-solve and function well at work.
We cannot overcome our adversity with a weak mind and body. Apart from having a positive mindset, and a circle of friends who are there to support us during tough times, we need to take care of our health, both mental and physical.
My resilience from this unpleasant experience had paid off. I was given six months grace to prove myself, but I did it all in three months. And that was how I got confirmed and passed my one-year probation at work (one year and three months to be exact).
I would never forget this unpleasant experience because it transformed me to be who I am today. And with this, I am able to share with you and many others about the value and ways of being resilient, and also, having a never-say-die attitude.