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Last Updated on March 25, 2020

What Is Resilience and Why Is It Important?

What Is Resilience and Why Is It Important?

Have you ever wondered why some people remain calm in the face of adversity, while others crumble?

People who are able to effectively navigate the highs and lows of life have what psychologists call resilience, or an ability to effectively bounce back from adversity.

Whenever you come across a difficult situation, you have two choices: you can either let your emotions get the best of you and become paralyzed by fear, or you can uplift yourself from the negative and transform pain into possibility.

I think we can all agree that life is a rollercoaster ride of highs and lows. Even if you consider yourself to be a happy person, it is inevitable that you will encounter challenges at some point along your journey. These experiences may bend you, but they do not have to break you.

Building resilience is the key to turning challenges into successes.

Don’t get me wrong… being a resilient person is not an easy feat. However, I believe that all of us have the power to develop a resilient mindset; just like a muscle, it needs to be conditioned and strengthened every single day.

Sometimes it takes hitting your emotional threshold, which I like to call, rock bottom, before you are able to tap into your personal resilience. This is how I came to discover my strength.

What Is Resilience?

The construct of resilience has its roots in the field of developmental psychopathology during the 1970s. In the course of studying children with psychiatric disorders, psychiatrists and psychologists noted that a small number of children did not display the expected maladaptive behaviors.

Instead, they displayed behaviors that were within the normal range of social development.[1]

However, it was the studies of children of schizophrenic parents and the findings that some children thrived despite their high-risk status that led to the expansion of research on resilience. These included multiple adverse conditions, including socioeconomic disadvantage, parental mental illness, maltreatment, illness and catastrophic life events.

During the late 1980s and 1990s, research on resilience revealed it to be a much more ordinary phenomenon than it was first thought to be. The construct of resilience evolved to presume exposure to significant adversity.

Defining Resilience

To date, there is little consensus among researchers about the definition and meaning of the construct of resilience. In the last decade, the concept of resilience has shifted. It was once confined to a set of stable individual traits.

However, the concept shifted to an outcome and dynamic process, dependent upon interactions between individual and contextual variables, evolving over time.[2]

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Today, resilience is commonly referred to as the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress.[3] This definition captures the ‘bounce-back’ characteristic, which reflects one of the central characteristics of resilience.

The Importance of Resilience

Ever-increasing demands on time and energy have created an environment where people feel overwhelmed and unable to manage the high expectations of their daily lives.

As a result, people find themselves constantly multitasking, chronically distracted, and pulled in way too many different directions. If you want to stay at the top of your game in life and in work, it is imperative that you learn how to successfully navigate your way through the tough times.

In a study sponsored by Nationwide and Vodafone, nearly 100 percent of participants cited resilience as a factor in job success.[4] Numbers don’t lie. Resilience is the secret to success.

Here are four reasons why possessing resilience is a critical life-skill in today’s world:

1. Transform Failure Into Success

In my experience, the road to success is paved with a lot of failure. It’s a normal part of life. You cannot build resilience unless you are willing to fail. End of story.

When you mess up, you’ve got to get back up.

Those who are unable to bounce back from adversity end up internalizing failure and inevitably, giving up altogether. If you can relate to this way of thinking, it’s important to understand that failure is an event. It does not define who you are as a person.

Research shows that when you try, fail, try something else, fail, try again, and ultimately succeed, you get a nice kick from your dopaminergic reward system.[5] This is what gives you the momentum that you need when adversity hits you like a ton of bricks.

Failure is merely a steppingstone which everyone goes through on their path to greatness. You’ve got to ask yourself… are you willing to take bold risks in order to become the person you’ve always desired to be? If you don’t try, you will never know.

2. Develop an Internal Locus of Control

Do you believe that life happens for you or to you? In order for you to improve your happiness in any area of your life, you have to ask yourself the difficult question – “Who is responsible for my happiness?”

Your answer to this question will determine how effectively you are able to overcome challenges in life.

People who adopt an external locus of control struggle to bounce back from life’s blows. They believe that external forces determine the direction that their lives will take.

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Not surprisingly, this beliefs leave them feeling powerless. They play the victim in their life story, and trust me when I say that this is no way to live.

As researcher, Julian Rotter once said,

“Those who are passive about their well-being believe they have little or no control over their lives.”

If you ascribe to this way of living, the great news is that at any given moment, you can decide to change this pattern of conditioning.

Conversely, people with an internal locus of control see themselves as the CEO of their lives. They know that they are in control of every single decision that they make.

When they get knocked down, they are able to bounce forward, meaning that they are able to use life’s greatest adversities as springboards for success. When you do this, you become the driver of your destiny and resilience becomes your natural state of being.

3. Build Positive Beliefs

When your world comes crashing down on you, it’s easy to fall into negativity mode and play the ‘why me’ game. However, you cannot overcome challenges in life if you think that the Universe isn’t on your side. Negativity will get you nowhere in life.

Research shows that one major factor that contributes to resilience is the experience of harnessing positive emotions, even in the midst of an especially trying or stressful time.[6]

A resilient person works through challenges by harnessing the power of positive emotions. They are able to reframe adversity into something that is positive, which allows them to bounce back a lot quicker.

You will surprise yourself how much more calm you will feel in the face of adversity when you choose to be happy and optimistic.

4. Help You Embrace Change

At the heart of resilience lies a simple truth – change is inevitable. The reality is that we live in a world of constant change. In fact, uncertainty is the only certainty that we can count on.

People get into trouble when they ignore or resist change. As a result, they end up living a life of pain and suffering because they are unable to find comfort in the chaos.

You will not build resilience by hanging out in your comfort zone. The only way to truly grow and expand yourself is to break free from the chains of stability and dive into the unknown.

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Yes, this will be scary at first. It will require that you do some deep inner work, like shifting your limiting beliefs, breaking bad habits, and learning how to make friends with stress.

Let’s face it… nobody is excited to face their “stuff”, but it’s an integral step on the road to becoming a resilient person. In the words of Socrates,

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”

When you master change, you master your life. Are you ready to jump on the change train?”

How I Discovered My Resilience

It wasn’t until I suffered two near-fatal car accidents that left me with a spinal cord and brain injury that my entire perspective on life changed.

I had hit rock bottom and it felt as if my life was crumbling before my eyes. The doctors told me that I may never walk again and that the best thing that I could do was to accept my new reality.

In that moment, I just wanted to give up, but I didn’t. In its simplest form, that’s what resilience is all about – choosing to keep going when every bone in your body tells you not to.

Rock bottom ended up being the foundation upon which I rebuilt my entire life.

From the traumatic events in my life, I discovered that there were recurring patterns of strategies that I used in order to be resilient. For example, I learned how to make friends with my pain and healed my emotional trauma through yoga, dance and meditation.

Despite my doctors orders, I continued my Psychology degree, while lying in bed with a back brace on for 6 months. I was determined to keep feeding my brain with new knowledge. Falling into depression wasn’t an option.

That being said, there were a lot of moments when I thought, “Why me?” or “Life isn’t fair.” However, through it all, my bounce-back ability remained strong.

I refused to define myself by my pain.

Instead, I took action to create a new reality for myself. It may not have been the reality that I asked for, but nevertheless, I made it work. I become a new version of myself, one that was stronger and more wiser.

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In the words of John Assaraf,

“No matter what your current circumstances are, if you can imagine something better for yourself, you can create it.”

I like to think of myself as a Resilience Junkie, a woman who is addicted to thriving through adversity.

Today, I am a resilience mastery coach. All along, my purpose was hidden within my wounds. I empower women to shift their lives from surviving to thriving so that they can master resilience in every dimension of their lives.

When you tap into your resilience and unleash your inner power, there is no challenge that you cannot conquer.

Final Thoughts

The next time that life throws you a curveball, trust that you are strong enough to stay in the game. Adversity may bend you, but don’t let it break you.

It doesn’t matter how many times that you fall. All that matters is that you get back up again and keep moving forward. In the words of the famous Japanese proverb,

“Fall seven times. Stand up eight.”

You’ve got this. Whatever you do, don’t give up. I am living proof that the comeback is always stronger than the setback.

Are you ready to live a more resilient life?

More Tips About Building Resilience

Featured photo credit: Brad Barmore via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Ashley Elizabeth

Psychologist and Motivational Speaker

What Is Resilience and Why Is It Important? 13 Simple Habits to Cultivate Self-Compassion How to Overcome Fear and Realize Your Potential (The Ultimate Guide) 5 Powerful Tips for Overcoming Adversity How to Find Yourself When You’re Lost in Life

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Last Updated on March 30, 2020

How to Get Unstuck in Life and Live a More Fulfilling Life

How to Get Unstuck in Life and Live a More Fulfilling Life

We all know the feeling—when you sense that you are not completely happy and fulfilled with your life—things are not where and how you envisage them to be. You go through the motions everyday, angry with yourself and the universe for throwing you such an unfavorable dice.

You can’t help yourself but feel a perennial envy towards those who are smiled upon by karma—the lucky individuals who seem to have the Midas touch and everything they undertake ends up with success, recognition and greater opportunities. Life must be so exiting.

Unlike yours.

We call this sensation many names: I’ve hit a wall; I’m not making progress; I’m stagnant; I’m moving in loops; Something is off in my life; I’m off balance.

Or simply: feeling stuck.

In this article, we’ll look into the reasons behind this feeling and how to get unstuck in life and live a more fulfilling life.

Is Being Stuck Really Such a Bad Thing?

Is it really so bad to be stuck in the status quo? After all, not everyone can be a super-star, right? What’s wrong with living a quiet life, with not many turns and twists and just going with the flow?

True—there is not much fun in this, but there is not disappointment, anxiety, stress and ill-ambition either. Life is easy and uncomplicated.

So why do we keep hearing over and over from the greats that staying is one place is not a good thing?

Tony Robbins gives us an elegantly simple answer to this question:

“If you are not growing, you are dying. “

“Progress equals happiness,” he says. “That ’s because reaching a goal is satisfying but only temporarily. Life is not about achieving the goals, life is about who you become in pursuit of those goals.”[1]

There you have it—staying in one place makes us unhappy.

We all know that the comfort zone can be great. It’s like a warm old blanket you wrap yourself around on a cold winter night, cuddled in front of your favorite TV show.

But just because something feels comfortable, does it mean it’s ok to stick to it forever?

Progress equals happiness, remember.

You may not even fully be aware of the small voice in the back of your mind that’s been bugging you, but you better learn to listen carefully—because you may wake up one day and realize that your productive life is gone and you haven’t achieved many of the things you wanted for yourself.

Pretty gloomy picture, indeed.

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Simply put, what the wise men advise us of is not just some self-help fluff for them to gain more popularity or sell more books. It is true—as you will learn below—that not moving forward, not even making the effort to do better or become better—even if you don’t always succeed in these endeavors—is a mental demise and a waste of your potential.

The Common “Stucks”

There are many reasons why you may feel stagnant in your life—some may be completely out of your control even. The main thing, though, is to be able to identify the reasons and then try to take some remedial actions.

But it starts with an awareness—because you can’t fix what you don’t know about, right?

Here are some of the main contributors to your feelings of stuck-ness:

You Lack Purpose in Your Life, or the “Why” of What You Do

Simon Sinek, the best-selling author and motivational speaker tells us in his famous TED talk that every successful endeavor—be it related to an organization, your career or personal life needs to begin with defining the “Why.” You need to be able to explain to yourself why you do what you do and what drives you.

It is the thing (s) that gives meaning and inspires you to wake up in the morning and to want to take on the world. It is your reason for being.

You Like the Status Quo

You may like your comfort zone. After all, it’s…well, comfortable. But as we established, the good old blanket is not necessarily going to make us fulfilled in life. You can watch so many TV shows wrapped in it before you get bored.

We, humans, still carry our ancestors’ fighting instincts—for hunting, for self-preservation, for taking actions to make our lives better. Inaction is not what made the mankind create all the innovations we enjoy today.

The Good-Old Fear of Failure and of the Unknown

Admittedly, it’s not an emotion to be taken lightly—it can be quite real and powerful for many of us.

According to a Gallup poll done a while ago among U.S. teenagers, the fear of being a failure and not succeeding in life was at number four.[2] More specifically, this feeling was described as “making mistakes that will mess up my life,” “not measuring up,” “not leaving a mark.”

So, fear can be a powerful paralyzer and can elicit a “safe-mode” response—i.e. stuck-ness.

Your Crowd

We all know the famous adage that we are the average of the five people we rub shoulders with. So, if your in-crowd is similarly stuck as you are, although it may be consoling at times, you won’t be motivated to make much progress yourself.

It’s called a social proof bias—if everyone around you is doing (or not doing) something, then it is ok for you to follow suit.

Comparisons to Others

While comparisons are not always bad, according to the Social Comparison Theory,[3] they have to be handled with caution.

Faring against others can make you very unhappy with yourself. Failing to recognize that your path is not the same as others’ and that there are many ways to get to an end-point (goal) can be very discouraging to taking the first step to unstuck-ness.

Personality

Our temperaments can also contribute to a sense of feeling stuck. For instance, you may be more of a passive, dreamy kind of person who prefers observing to taking action, pensiveness to gregariousness, solitude to venturing out in the world.

That is, you have more of a slow-burn personality vs. a fiery one—therefore, it takes you longer to contemplate all alternatives before taking the plunge.

And that’s ok. But you need to recognize that this may also be the reason why you are not progressing as fast or as much as you would like towards your goals.

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And while changing who you are is hard (impossible even, according to some psychologists), there are things that can be done to make it so much better for yourself, which I will discuss a bit later.

A final point to note here is that, paradoxically, it is possible to feel both stuck and unstuck at the same time. For instance, you can have a great career, but your family life may feel a bit stale, or wise versa.

As our personal and professional lives constantly fight for the top spot on our attention list, the feeling of stuck-ness may also depend on where you are on your life’s trajectory.

For someone who is younger and single, stagnation may be felt more vividly in their professional lives, as opposed to someone who is in their mid-life, where family takes priority—such individuals may not feel as down-hearted that they are not progressing quickly enough professionally.

How to Get Unstuck in Life

The neat thing about your path to becoming unstuck is that it follows the so-called Principle of Equifinality,[4] which states that the end state can be reached by many means.

It’s not just one thing that can help you to start moving forward again. There are many avenues you can explore to find out what works for you and with your own story and personality.

1. Show up and Be Willing to Do the Work

Woody Allen has famously said that “80% of success is showing up.” That is, you need to begin with the right motivation and willingness to take action towards unstucking.

You must want to improve your current state. And you must follow through.

2. Self-Reflection

Spend some time alone. You need to figure out why you are stuck—that is, what is the root of your discontent. Meditation may help here too. But this step is essential:

Packing on some self-knowledge and awareness on why you are where you are in life can help you discover a whole new universe of ideas on how to make it better for yourself.

It is as the saying goes: Identifying the problem is half of the solution.

Start to do self-reflection with the help of this article: The Power of Self-Reflection: Ten Questions You Should Ask Yourself

3. Break a Sweat

There is an avalanche of research on the benefits of exercising for the body and the mind. The latest research tells us that if you want to put your mind in the best possible focus shape, a 15-minute jog will do the job better than 15 minutes of relaxation and meditation.[5] It also clears your thinking, improves your attention spans, and can generally make you feel like a “brand new person.”

4. Find a Purpose

As I already touched-upon, the “Why” behind your actions is a prime driver of self-progress. If you link your goals—be them personal or professionals—to a “bigger-than-me” aspiration, then it will be so much easier to convince yourself to keep moving.

According to recent research,[6] we all have a specific purpose-seeking style—similar to our own way of writing, dancing or speaking.

There are four types or “Whys”—creative, prosocial, financial and personal recognition. The prosocial approach to finding meaning, though, which is based on kindness and compassion towards ourselves and others, is the best one in the long-run—it was shown to lead to greater caring, integrity and personal growth.

Here’s How to Find Purpose in Life and Make Yourself a Better Person.

5. Find a Passion

It’s barely a secret that if you enjoy something, you will want to do more of it and it won’t feel like an obligation. You will have an internal motivation to keep going despite setbacks, despite the stress or the tiredness you may experience at times.

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So, find what thrills you and makes you come alive and strive to become better, the best even, at it. The more progress you make, the more confidence you will have that you can apply the same passion and dedication to all other parts of your life that feel stagnant.

Learn How to Find Your Passion and Live a Fulfilling Life.

6. Nudge Yourself

The Nudge Theory[7] has been around for a while and has shown some wonderful results in positively influencing people’s behaviors—from making us conserve more energy, to improving the payment rates of fines, to making job-seekers more engaged and involved.

Small things as daily reminders in terms of micro-goals you can set on your phone, for instance, can have a profound favorable effect on becoming unstuck.

Nudging can also help overcome some of these personality traits we talked about—like passiveness or acute proneness to procrastination.

7. Seek Different Experiences

Even if you are in a happy relationship, you may still feel stuck—i.e. you may be unfulfilled, uninspired, or bored even of doing identical things over and over. The same rings true for your professional life.

The end-point is that you need to feed your brain different experiences if you want to get unstuck. If you repeat more of the same thing, you will end up with more or less similar outcomes. Change requires taking the path less trodden, experimenting, learning new ways, seeing new places, reading, travelling—it’s an endless list, really, to personal growth.

According to research covered in Psychology Today,[8]

“Activities that lead us to feel uncertainty, discomfort, and even a dash of guilt are associated with some of the most memorable and enjoyable experiences of people’s lives. Happy people, it seems, engage in a wide range of counterintuitive habits that seem, well, downright unhappy.”

8. Leave Behind the Things That Are Not Constructive for You

Arianna Huffington put it in a great way:[9]

“You can complete a project by dropping it.”

Assessing the things that make you feel stagnant is important. But equally valuable is to recognize that just because it may be hard or even impossible to get something that you really want, it doesn’t mean that you’ve failed or that you are necessarily stuck.

Maybe it’s simply not your thing. For instance, you may want to become a professional golfer. You practice and practice but you can’t quite reach the level of Tiger Woods that you aspire to. Perhaps it’s time to take stock of your life and shift your focus.

9. Compare Wisely

Comparisons can often make you feel down and create a sense of stagnation, which may not always be valid. You must realize that your pace of progress differs from your friends’, neighbours’, siblings or even significant others’.

Just because you are not a millionaire by the age of 30, or haven’t started your own business, or written your third bestseller yet, doesn’t mean that you are not moving forward.

So, mind how you measure your progress and your state of stuck-ness. Your perceptions may differ from reality.

Besides, it’s never ever too late to start things over! Here’s how:

How to Start Over and Reboot Your Life When It Seems Too Late

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10. Ask for Help

Finally, remember that you don’t have to do it all alone. If you feel stuck in your personal life, you can speak to your close ones and find a solution together. Maybe they feel the same way.

At work—raise your hand, speak to your manager, volunteer to do things that can help you learn and become more valuable.

You don’t have to come up with all the answers right now. The most important thing, going back to the first idea, is to be willing to make a change.

When Is Enough Enough?

Seeking progress is a great thing. Who wouldn’t want to become a better version of themselves after all?

But the pursuit of growth should be handled with caution. It can become very addictive and sometimes even be counterproductive.

It’s true—you may experience a “runner’s high” and success can make you overflow with dopamine, but the constant chase of “more” can toss you into a never-ending spinning wheel.

You will never be happy with the status quo and won’t accept things as they are—which, naturally, can open a Pandora box of mental health issues.

That is, too much of a self-improvement drive may leave you unable to enjoy your life, to be fully present in the Now and to appreciate the person that you are.

And this is not necessarily a good thing.

So, should you strive to improve yourself, so that feel unstuck and free again? Absolutely.

But remember to take a breather and be grateful for what you have.

Summing It All Up

The feeling of being satisfied or unsatisfied with one’s life is very personal. Similar to its cousins—happiness and success, it is best measured by and depends on our individual histories, personalities and paths—i.e. my trajectory is different than yours and what makes me feel content may not create the same feeling for you.

For instance, you may be happy to be in a position where you help others and their gratitude is sufficient enough reason for you to wake up in the morning. But for someone else, this situation may create a sense of stuck-ness.

The main take-away here is that you shouldn’t compare your story to anyone else’s because you may end up feeling constantly stuck. And this, speaking from experience, is not the best place in the world to be.

Progress is great, but don’t forget that your life is here and now.

So, try to enjoy yourself some too, while making your grandiose plans to take on the world, will you please?

Featured photo credit: Camila Cordeiro via unsplash.com

Reference

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