Do you want sustained relevance and lasting impact in your life?
Of course you do. You didn’t grow up wishing to live an inconsequential, irrelevant life.
You want to matter. You want to make a difference when it matters most.
But what is the necessary component for you to live a life like this? Resilience.
What is Resilience?
Resilience is the ability to withstand difficulty and bounce back from it. It is a hallmark character trait of people who do great things with their lives. Resilient people never get bent out of shape and always spring back to grow into a better, more complete person.
In my 2022 year in review, I explained how it was the most difficult year of my life. I faced prolonged bouts of sickness, intense interpersonal conflict and painful trials surrounding the loss of my dad.
Circumstances like the ones I share in the review typically cause one of two outcomes:
- You grow cold and bitter toward the world and others, and those feelings fester and evolve into resentment and anger. You become cynical, pessimistic and allow the past to dictate your future.
- Or, you lean into the difficult circumstances and walk through them with hope and optimism. You acknowledge the pain, label the feelings and embrace the reality of the situation. You remain hopeful, optimistic and determined that the past will inform the future, not control it.
Resilience is the ability to step into outcome #2 when outcome #1 is more desirable.
But what does it look like to grow in resilience? How do you build resilience when faced with unimaginably difficult circumstances?
How to Build Resilience
The ability to bounce back from a setback often determines those who succeed in life vs. those who fade to irrelevance.
I’ve observed 9 proven strategies which people collectively use to build resilience in their life. Some may surprise you!
1. Always be failing forward.
Failure is inevitable. You will miss the mark and come up short. Just don’t fall into the trap of wasting it.
Failure is wasted when you refuse to learn from it. When you refuse to learn, you restrict your future potential by prioritizing your past reality.
How do you fail forward? You do two things:
- Fail faster than everyone else. The reality is those that grow quickly often fail just as much as those who grow slowly (or not at all). The difference is those that grow quickly fail faster.
- Reflect on and learn from the failures. Failure without reflection teaches you the same lesson over and over again. Stuck people are not resilient people.
Resilient people commit to learning from failure and resolve not to make the same mistakes again.
Will you fail again? Sure, but those that build resilience find new ways to fail, and that makes all the difference.
2. Reflect on the past. Set sights on the future.
Understanding the patterns of your past is one of the best ways to predict the outcomes of your future.
But if you don’t understand them, you are bound to repeat them.
Building resilience requires an honest look at your past adversity and forces you to ask some difficult questions:
- What caused the adversity in the first place?
- What part did I play?
- How did I respond, and was it helpful?
- What would I do differently now?
- What patterns do I need to reprogram to avoid this in the future?
But simply reflecting on the past is not enough. Resilience requires you to set your sights on the future by practicing what you’ve learned from the past.
The future is as bright as you allow it to be. The more you study the past and apply it to your present, the brighter your future becomes.
3. Face the person in the mirror.
Can you stand up to the person in the mirror?
The resilient you of tomorrow has to deal with the reality of you today. Do you like what you see?
Will you embrace reality and label it for what it truly is? Will you be brutally honest with yourself on the difficult circumstances you’ve found yourself in?
Will you own your stuff or shift the blame to someone else?
If your answer is “no”, then what needs to change so that you can say “yes” tomorrow?
Resilient people learn to face who they are. They don’t pull punches.
Facing yourself doesn’t get any less painful over time, but building resilience means you are willing to stand courageously in the midst of painful things and deal with them.
4. Expand your time horizon.
Building resilience requires taking the long view for recovery.
What might seem impossible in two weeks may look trivial in two years.
Choose wisely your focus. If you only stare at what’s right in front of you, you’ll lose sight of the immense positive change that can occur far down the road.
Resilience requires you to cast your vision up and out, not down and in.
5. Step into the pain, not away from it or around it.
It’s easier to run, but nothing good happens at the finish line of that race.
Resilience in your life looks like pressing into the pain and labeling it for what it is.
You don’t diminish it. You don’t act like it’s not there. You acknowledge it, you talk openly about it and then — most critically — you make a determination to heal from it.
You don’t want romanticize the riptide of pain. It will drown you. Rather, clearly define it and then work hard to heal from it.
When you do, you develop the resiliency to face adversity in the future without feeling the same level of pain as in the past.
6. Cultivate a growth mindset.
Resilient people are always asking the question, “How can I grow from this situation?”
If you aren’t committed to personal growth, even in the midst of challenging circumstances or setbacks, you’ll never learn how to avoid those circumstances or setbacks in the future.
Life will simply keep teaching you the same lessons. You’ll live the same years over and over again, and that always amounts to a sad and unfulfilling life.
You want neither of those, so make a pact with yourself to always find a way to grow, especially in the midst of trials and adversity.
7. Accept responsibility and avoid the victim mentality.
No matter what the circumstance, you are always in control of the way you respond to it.
It’s easy to shift blame or pass the buck to someone else. But that’s not a characteristic of resiliency — it’s a characteristic of victimhood.
Certainly some situations or injustices or sins will be committed against you, and you will be wronged in them. Those may be unavoidable.
But by choosing to play the victim, you grant permission to the someone else to exert control and influence over your life, even if they are no longer present in it.
And when that paradigm is true, you’ll always be “down on your luck” or constantly “wronged” by somebody else. Somebody “out there” will be out to get you. That’s a bad way to live life.
Rather, building resilience in your life means accepting responsibility for whatever is in your sphere of control. It’s choosing to take the high road in spite of the circumstances you are enduring.
The maturity of character required to live this way is indicative of the person who has woven resiliency into the fabric of their life.
8. Make the choice to be optimistic.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find someone who is resilient who isn’t optimistic or hopeful.
By nature of the word, a resilient life is one that chooses to be optimistic over and over despite the present challenges being experienced.
Pessimism is evidence of a mind that is rooted in the past, and it will prevent you from building resilience into your life.
Optimism is a choice. Avoid the cancer of pessimism, choose the power of optimism and defy the situational odds when the cards are stacked against you.
9. Force adversity to plant the seeds of resilience.
Adversity plants seeds in your life. And those seeds can take many different shapes and forms.
It can plant the negative seeds of bitterness, envy, resentment, strife, pride and despair.
Or it can plant the positive seeds of resilience, character, integrity, inner strength and mental fortitude.
Which seeds will you allow adversity to plant? It’s your choice, because the fruits of those seeds grow inside of you and change who you are.
Who do you want to become: a mean-spirited, negative cynic or a hope-filled, positive optimist?
For those who want to build resilience in their life, the choice is both clear and easy.
Are You Resilient?
It’s a simple question with a profound impact on your life.
Are you resilient? When life deals the punches, do you get back on your feet or stay down for the count?
I want to encourage you to stand back up, learn how to avoid the punches and take steps to a more confident tomorrow.
(Daily journaling can be an enormous catalyst for this process)
Imagine a future that is better than your past. It’s real, and it’s there for you to claim.
To resiliency in all areas of life,