Build your resilience in the face of challenges


Optimism’s not just seeing the bright side of things. It’s believing in your own abilities, and not talking yourself down or focusing on your flaws

Photo credit: Samuel Muigai | Nation Media GRoup

When something dreadful happens, like losing your job, most of us become paralysed with worry. But others seem able to tackle every calamity calmly and successfully.

They’ve developed effective management skills, skills that we can all learn. Like getting past the initial shock. Our thoughts inevitably go into overdrive as a crisis strikes, and because your brain can only process so much at a time, your decision-making skills seize up. You’ll get through that stage faster if you stick to your normal daily routine, even though you’re hugely stressed.

It’s also important to face up to reality. We so want things to be normal, we often ignore the signs that something’s about to go wrong. For instance, when an organization is obviously downsizing, and yet no one starts job hunting until after they’ve been fired. Or we rationalise away a partner’s flirting because we don’t want to rock the boat.

Instead, constantly scan for threats, especially the signals your friends and colleagues are sending. See reality for what it is, not what you’d like it to be, and re-jig your strategy to cope with it.

Cultivate the belief that you’ll always cope with your problems. And you will, because we all have huge reserves of resilience. So start observing your emotions, rather than letting them overwhelm you. See crises as challenges to overcome, not the end of the world. Accept that problems are just a normal part of life, and never ever give up.

Develop the ability to stay calm, even if you’re naturally sensitive to life’s problems. For example, practice improving your emotional resilience on everyday minor issues, such as an annoying colleague at work.

Get enough sleep and simplify your lifestyle. Surround yourself with a supportive network of friends and family. Marry someone you can trust and talk to. Work on your sense of humour. Learn from your mistakes. And start finding meaning in coping with life’s challenges, rather than seeing yourself as a victim.

Learn to be optimistic. Optimism’s not just seeing the bright side of things. It’s believing in your own abilities, and not talking yourself down or focusing on your flaws. Seeing crises as challenges to overcome, not impossible disasters. Becoming more action-oriented, and accepting that change is part of life, not a nightmare.

Improve how you approach problems by listening to everything with an open mind. Especially watch to see if you’re missing something. Look for the root causes of every difficulty, and avoid superficial solutions. Learn to consider all the possibilities in a situation. Develop good problem-solving techniques and resist the urge to blame others.

Don’t let adversity define you. Setbacks are inevitable, so learn to stay strong in the face of adversity. Prepare for problems, because life’s rarely ever fair. And above all, recognise that resilience is a skill that can be learned and practised, until it becomes a part of who you are. So build yours up, and you’ll always achieve your goals.