Want to improve your shot at success in life? Work on building the following resiliency skills:
1. Learn how to put things in perspective. Resilient people know the difference between a disappointment and a tragedy. They let mole hills be mole hills and save their energy for the mountains. This is easier said than done. A disappointment, especially a big disappointment can loom large at the time. Resilient people learn to ask themselves “What’s the worst thing that will happen now?” Short of death, very few things are so important that there can’t be a recovery. Loss of the job? So? There are other jobs. Loss of a girlfriend or boyfriend? Yes, it hurts. But heartbreak isn’t a heart attack. People can and do recover from the loss of romance and go on to find someone new. A big misunderstanding with a good friend? Yeah. That hurts too. But if the friendship is worth anything, the willingness to have a frank and calm talk will usually get you through. Over-run your credit? It’s a problem, sure. But it’s a problem that can usually be solved with some discipline and hard work.
2. Build and maintain a network of caring people. These are the people you will be able to reach for when you need support. Work to include older, wiser people in your life who act as role models. Getting close to people doesn’t happen by accident. Unlike those who promptly forget people they’ve met, resilient people make the effort to stay connected and to be on the giving as well as receiving end of the relationship. Resilient people honor and respect what older people they encounter have to offer. They are the kind of people who put others in touch with each other, who call when they know about something that would be of interest to someone, who write quick emails and rarely forget to send a birthday card or a thank you note. They find a way to do an errand for someone who is sick and attend their friends’ events. They are the people who manage to have breakfast now and then with a friend or bring muffins for everyone in the office. This isn’t about kissing up. This is about being a good friend. Good friends help each other through. You can’t have enough of them.
3. Practice being an optimist. Resilient people believe that life is essentially good. They are masters at finding the silver lining in even the darkest cloud. A resilient person is someone who finds a positive way to understand even the most difficult obstacle or hurt. At the very least, dealing with a painful event can help make us stronger. Suffering can help us better understand fellow sufferers. A set-back may in fact make the way for something better to happen. Does this seem like a stretch? So fake it. Fake it often enough and convincingly enough and you may even become more optimistic.
4. Develop your sense of humor. Resilient people can appreciate the absurd in difficult situations. When all else fails, they can even laugh at their own inability to laugh. We laugh with Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof (who suffered one tragedy after another) not because he is a fool, but because he can always find irony, and humor, in his lot.
5. Give other people some slack. Resilient people know that no one is perfect. They know that they aren’t perfect either. They understand that people aren’t their best selves when stressed, or hurt, or overwhelmed. Their reaction when someone upsets them is more often curiosity than anger. Before cutting someone off or out, they want to know the facts. They want to understand how they contributed to the misunderstanding. And they want to work with the other person to make things right again.
6. Embrace change. Finally, resilient people aren’t upset by change. In fact, they often thrive on it. To them change equals opportunity. Making it in life often means getting out of our own comfort zone. Life does us the great favor of giving us loads of opportunities to do just that – like it or not. Those who embrace change when it happens and invite it when it doesn’t are more likely to succeed.
Most of the skills may seem obvious to you. Because they’re obvious doesn’t mean that they are easy or that you’re stuck with your current level of proficiency. Like anything else, practice makes if not perfect, at least better. With a little thought and some effort, you can build and strengthen your resilience repertoire so that it becomes an increasingly reliable part of you. The additional self-confidence that results is invaluable as you launch yourself into the risky business called life.