Resilience, over time, can become our own personal super power. Once created, it lives deep within us and supplies us with the necessary grit, determination, and self-compassion to handle setbacks and thrive in the face of adversity. The more we build resilience in times of relative calm, the stronger it will be in our moments of greatest need.
And yet most of us don’t think about how we can make building resilience a part of our daily routine. When it comes to establishing good habits, we pay attention to the healthy food we should eat, the mindfulness practices that ground us and give us peace and perspective, the physical activities that energize our bodies and keep us feeling healthy and fit, and the sleep that renews us for the next day. As for building resilience, how would one even go about that as a daily practice?
It requires a different mindset than throwing down a yoga mat or knocking back a matcha tea. Building resilience can hurt along the way. In fact, it almost has to in order to be effective. On the flip side, there’s something thrilling about watching grit and resolve emerge from inside us like hidden springs. And once we’ve found them, they’re there for us forever, ready to help us navigate our lives no matter what setback or shakeup may come our way.
Here are some ways we can make building resilience a powerful habit:
1. DON’T SHY AWAY FROM THE ADVERSITY IN YOUR LIFE
Everybody has fodder in their lives for building resilience. The key is not so much how to find it but instead how to keep from avoiding it. It’s far easier to bury our challenges and avoid our weaknesses than it is to acknowledge them and be present with them.
I find that often, as a leadership coach, many of my clients struggle with this. They would prefer to appear good, strong, and unbothered than to slow down and acknowledge what’s giving them trouble. I remind them that there’s no way you can live a perfect, beautiful, unblemished life and build resilience at the same time. You’ve got to not only go through the tough times, but truly be present with them.
Being present with adversity as a daily habit can be as simple as stopping and naming your struggle: a relationship at work that’s bothering you, a personal failing that’s holding you back, a fear or anxiety you can’t leave behind.
2. BE VULNERABLE AND SEEK SUPPORT
It’s so easy to feel isolated in our struggles, like we’re on an island unto ourselves and a vast sea of silence separates us from all the normal people on the mainland. And yet the truth is that struggle is the common language of humanity, and the more we open up about our own struggles, the more we discover how many sisters and brothers we have who are in the exact same place. Our struggles don’t put us on an island; they land us on the mainland.
That’s why sharing with others, talking and communicating is so important. That takes vulnerability, which is another word for strength. If we can identify confidants and confide in them on a regular basis, it will help us get through and build our resilience in the process. Those confidants can be our life partners, our best friends, leadership coaches, even social media groups online if anonymity helps you take this critical step.
3. PUT YOURSELF IN CONTROLLED UNCOMFORT
Think of something that makes you uncomfortable. Maybe it’s the idea of running a marathon or standing up on a theater stage before the bright lights and a live audience.
One great way to build resilience on a proactive basis is to do something totally out of your comfort zone. Train for a 5K and then go out and crush it. Or sign up for an improv class even though it makes you squirm. Climb a mountain. Take up tennis. Read War and Peace. Do something that daunts you. Overcome it. And move onto the next challenge. Not only can this take our minds off of other challenges in our lives, it can build our resilience to better handle unforeseen problems that come our way.
4. BUILD AND EMBRACE YOUR PROCESS
Building resilience doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time, consistency and an understanding of a process that works for you. Self-awareness underpins resistance building because with an understanding of the self comes an alignment with your true motivations. And clarity of inner motivation becomes the fuel required for you to overcome the obstacles that stand in your way.
If you are internally motivated to say become a creative director, found your own company, start a family, become a star athlete — the list goes on — then it is without a doubt there will be obstacles to overcome on your path to achievement. The path requires you to embrace the process you build that supports you when times are great and when times get tough (and they inevitably will). The late Kobe Bryant talked about embracing your process. It wasn’t the championships he loved, it was the early mornings he spent at the Staples Center all alone, shooting hundreds of free throws with nobody watching. His internal motivation led to a dedication and a level of resilience that we can all learn a lot from.
The key here is to think about how you can embrace (and possibly enjoy) the challenging process on a regular basis instead of hiding from it. That process will look different for each person and may need to be modified depending on the hardship or struggle. It’s up to you to do the work to find out what process works for you.
Amelia Kruse is a Certified Leadership Coach based in New York working with professionals and entrepreneurs globally.