Facing difficulties is all part of life. It can often feel like we face endless challenges instead of happy endings – when we overcome one challenge, another one rears its ugly head.
Some people I know grew stronger through these challenges, some became weaker and couldn’t see hope anymore.
Two friends of mine were made redundant from their job during the recent financial crisis: while one felt humiliated, lost confidence and therefore had difficulty finding a new job, the other analyzed the situation, spent time identifying his strengths, saw it as an opportunity for growth and found himself a senior manager role in a new company.
It’s not how many challenges we’ve been through that differentiate us, it’s how we see these challenges that matter.
It’s not just optimism. It’s resilience
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While optimism is a positive outlook defined as “the quality of being full of hope and emphasizing the good parts of a situation, or a belief that something good will happen”, there is a difference when it comes to resilience.
Resilience is defined as “the quality of being able to return quickly to a previous good condition after problems.” In other words, it’s about moving on from a difficult situation without just emphasizing the positive parts and blindly believing that something good will happen. Instead it’s about seeing both sides, good and bad, being aware of the potential issues of the situation and taking action accordingly while keeping hope alive at the bases of it all.
Resilient people never think they really fail
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The only failure is when someone does nothing, doesn’t try and just wallows in the injustice of a situation. Failing 90 times, to a resilient person, means learning 90 lessons and it’s these so-called failures that contribute to ultimate success.
Having the mindset that a so-called failure is a setback rather than a time for growth and redirection can be enough for us to give up. We’ve all experienced these and may well have given up on a dream or positive path as a result. But even though these failures can hit us hard, it’s actually just a symptom of big success because most of the huge successes in our life come from 80% failure and 20% intended outcome.
This is how the 3.8 billion company succeeded
Slack is a perfect example of resilient success. The $3.8 billion company failed massively before they succeeded. The CEO began spending 3 years building a revolutionary video game raising $17 million and recruiting over 40 staff without knowing if this would be a success. With staff moving across the country to get involved with the project, it was a gamble that initially didn’t pay off: with fierce competition, the company lost money and the team was laid off leaving a few to pick up the pieces.
But instead of giving up at this massive hurdle and what many people would describe as a failed attempt, the CEO and remaining employees focused on their strengths to develop the chat system used by millions of people around the world and the rest is successful history.
Resilient people ride on their internal qualities, not external triggers
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It’s so easy to get affected by what’s going on around us and lose sight of the big picture. Resilient people know this very well. That’s why they work on their inner qualities which will save them when they get into difficulties.
The success of Slack was built on the mindset that the external factors weren’t going to get in the way when the choice to keep going with the skills they were already good at would lead them to a better opportunity.
So how can we make this important shift of focus to gain resilience?
Write down what is most important to you at critical moments
Your why in any given moment or long term goal is important to create resilience and writing this down is what’s called value based affirmation. Many studies  have backed up the idea that intervening at crucial moments to write down what is most important to you increases long-term positivity.
In suburban middle schools, minority students were found to perform worse than other students and were asked to reflect and write what was most important to them at the beginning of the school year and before exams. By doing this exercise, grade repetition amongst these students dropped from 18% to 5%.
Value based affirmation helps to shift one’s negative mindsets and raises his self-worth. Remembering what is important, especially in challenging times, makes us see the bigger goal instead of the short-term difficulties and this is what makes us survive.
Focus on your strengths rather than your weaknesses
Challenges tend to remind us of our weaknesses and cause us to dwell on them. People who are resilient tend to already be well aware of their weaknesses but they don’t spend time focusing on them or trying to improve them with too many efforts.
Instead, they look towards their strengths and tune their direction accordingly when things appear to go wrong. Focusing on our strengths is how we acquire growth while focusing on our weaknesses only ultimately serves as a reminder of why we fail because of them. Resilience means knowing the best way to move forward in order to get ourselves back to a place of strength and we can’t do this if we allow our weaknesses to keep us down.
Resilience isn’t something many of us are born with, it’s a skill that comes out of experiencing dark times and setbacks in life. It’s about developing the skill to see challenges differently and the skill to intentionally shift our focus and mindset to create a position in which we can take advantage of trying times.
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