The state of being resilient is not static, but something that requires constant learning and attention. If you want to be and stay resilient for life, you’ll need to keep working on it.
So, there’s no magic formula for resilience.
But there are some simple things you can do to start building your resilience.
Here are 10 powerful ways to build your mental resilience.
1) Have goals
All of the resilient people you’ve read about had goals.
They’ve achieved things with a big dose of luck thrown in, often, but they’ve always been goal-oriented.
Having goals means that you have a clear path to aim down. You might have to change that path, but if it’s not there in the first place, it’s difficult to know where to go. You can’t read the map if you don’t know the destination.
Important for resilience because: Having a clear vision gives you the determination you need to plow on when things are tough.
Try this: Sit down and write a list of things you know you’d like to achieve. Be as wild as you like. For each, write down a possible timescale, and then start to break down each goal into smaller targets that can become part of a plan.
(If you’re looking for a structured, easy-to-follow framework to help you find your purpose in life and achieve your goals, check our eBook on how to be your own life coach here).
2) Nurture a sense of purpose
Having a sense of purpose is not quite the same as having goals. Purpose is a deeper force. It comes from inside you. People who live their lives with purpose tend to have strong values, and the ability to align their life to those values.
Think, for example, of Malala Yousafza. She valued education and the freedom of her people and has lived her life acting out those values, by making a new life in the UK, going to Oxford and continuing to work and advocate for others like her.
Important for resilience because: Simply having such strong values and purpose gives you resilience, because it makes you determined.
Try this: Start by remembering a time when you felt confident and happy with your life. Then, write about how you feel about that memory. Try and pick out what made you feel happy and what was important to you.
Do this again with a few more memories, and then start to look for patterns. If the same
things are repeated, you know that these are your values. They’re the things that drive you.
They’re what gives you purpose. When you make choices in life, try and make them align with your sense of purpose.
3) Be brave
Being brave means that you are able to take on difficult things. It means that you are able to take risks.
It means that you are willing to experiment. When you are brave, you are out of your comfort zone, and when you’re out of your comfort zone, great things tend to happen.
Why it’s important to resilience: Without bravery, you will never try anything new, and never change. The ability to cope with change is central to resilience.
Try this: Next time you’re asked to do something new, do it. Make a point of doing things that feel outside of your comfort zone.
It can be things as simple or small as trying a new food or traveling somewhere you wouldn’t normally go.
Small changes in your actions add up over time to big changes in your attitude.
4) Practice your skills
Feeling that you’re good at something engenders feelings of optimism and hope.
When you feel that you are a capable person, able to achieve things and do things, you naturally become more confident and resilient.
Think of JK Rowling typing away day after day.
She worked alone and needed to know that she was good at what she was doing.
By practicing over and over, her writing kept getting better and better. She kept on gaining confidence, and that confidence helped her push through.
Why it’s important to resilience: Being good at something only comes with practice, and
being good at something improves resilience through confidence.
Try this: Pick a skill that you have, something that’s important to you. Perhaps something
that’s linked to one of your goals. Set aside time every week to do it, no matter how busy you
5) Solve problems
When you’re not feeling resilient, it’s easy to hide away from problems. It’s easy to adopt an ostrich-like approach and simply not deal with things.
But by doing this, you reduce your resilience, because you put yourself in a place where you’re paralyzed by negativity.
And if you are in that place, you cannot move forward or grow.
Why it’s important to resilience: Problems will always arise, and it’s your ability to deal with them that builds your resilience.
Try this: Make a list of any outstanding things you haven’t done, however trivial. For example, perhaps you know you have bills that need to be paid, that you’ve been putting off.
Set aside an hour, or however long you need, to deal with them. Tick them off a list when they’re done. Make this a regular thing, ideally weekly, so you never get a chance to hide from problems.
6) Nurture optimism
Being resilient is about being optimistic.
It can be difficult to be optimistic, and there will always be dark times in life when it feels almost impossible.
Do not seek to banish or bury negative emotions. Instead, remember that for every bad thing that happens, there are also good things.
Remind yourself that setbacks and hardships are temporary.
Why it’s important to resilience: It is impossible to push through hard times while feeling pessimistic.
Try this: Keep a gratitude journal. Write down things that you appreciate that have happened, as they happen.
These might be as small as someone holding a door open for you, or far more significant, such as the birth of a child. Over time, you’ll see that there is always light in the darkness.
(For 5 science-backed ways to be more positive, click here)
7) Be flexible
Flexibility is absolutely key to resiliency.
With the ability to be flexible comes the ability to change and grow.
When the unexpected happens, resilient people are able to alter plans and adjust expectations. They can thrive on change, rather than being constrained by it.
Why it’s important to resilience: You cannot meet challenges without the ability to be
Try this: Every month or so, take a look at your goals in the light of anything that’s happened to you recently. See if they need to be updated, and be willing to change them as and when you need to.
8) Build strong relationships
Resilient people are able to make connections with others and gain from their support when times are tough.
While there are many examples of people who have borne great hardships while alone, such as Nelson Mandela in his cell, most extraordinary people all had a person or people in their lives who made a difference.
Why it’s important to resilience: None of us live our lives in isolation, and few goals can be achieved without help from others.
Try this: Make a list of the people who are important to you and why. If you don’t have as many people on your list as you would like, think about ways you could nurture existing friendships and create new ones.
9) Find space for your mind
Resilient people make time for themselves as well as for others.
If your mind is constantly whirring, if your brain is always busy, then it can be difficult to be resilient You will tend to feel overwhelmed by unexpected events because you simply don’t have the spare brain space you need to process and deal with them.
If you lead a busy life, perhaps with a family and a full-on job, you may feel quite often that you don’t have this vital brain space. You may also feel that it’s impossible for you to get it.
Paradoxically, that busyness stops you from taking any time out.
But it’s vital that you allow yourself to step off the treadmill now and again, giving yourself quiet time and contemplation.
Why it’s important to resilience: Think of your mind as being like a plant that must be nurtured and protected. If it is to be able to bounce back when damaged, it needs to be fed and watered.
Try this: Make a pact with yourself that you will take some regular time to just be still and quiet. Things like yoga or running can be great if they work for you, as can meditation, but you can keep it simpler than that if you want.
Take five minutes every day, away from everyone and everything, to just sit, think about your day and calm your mind.
(If you’re looking for specific actions you can take to stay in the moment and live a happier life, check out our best-selling eBook on how to use Buddhist teachings for a mindful and happy life here)
10) Keep learning
Resilient people are able to learn from their mistakes.
They can also recognize that everyone makes mistakes and that doing so is simply part of the process of leading an active, happy, healthy life.
If you expect to never do anything wrong, you’ll be constantly tense and on edge, hoping that you never slip up.
If, when something doesn’t go to plan, you are able to sit back, analyze what happened, and think about how you might avoid it happening again, you’ll develop resilience.
Why it’s important to resilience: Our minds are designed to learn from what we do well and what we do badly.
It is only by learning that we can progress. By learning from your mistakes, you teach yourself that it is OK to make them. When it is OK to make mistakes, you allow yourself to take more risks.
Try this: When something negative happens, actively spend some time thinking about it.
Don’t run away from your mistake but take time to ask yourself some questions.
What sequence of events led up to the mistake? What was I trying to achieve?
What information would it have been useful to have? What could I do differently next time I’m in a similar situation?
Are you a resilient person? Are you able to deal with obstacles and recover from set-backs?
The simple truth is we can all learn to become more resilient.
Resilience and mental toughness are key attributes to living your best life. They determine how high we rise above what threatens to wear us down, from battling an illness, to dealing with challenging emotions, to carrying on after a relationship has ended.
In The Art of Resilience: A Practical Guide to Developing Mental Toughness, we outline exactly what it means to be mentally tough. We highlight 20 of the most resilient people in the world and break down what traits they have in common. We then equip you with 10 resilience-building tools that you can start using today.
Putting yourself first
What’s your number one goal at the moment?
Is it to buy that car you’ve been saving up for?
To finally start that side-hustle that’ll hopefully help you quit your 9-5 one day?
Or to take the leap and finally ask your partner to move in?
Whatever your goals are, there’s a hidden trap in how you set them.
The trap is this:
You’ll only experience genuine life satisfaction when your goals are aligned with your values.
Because when values and goals are aligned, you enjoy the journey much more. And this makes achieving your goals much more likely.
If you find it hard to articulate your deeper life values, I suggest downloading the free values exercise by career coach Jeanette Brown.
It takes only a couple of minutes and will reveal a number of powerful insights about your underlying values.
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