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Last Updated on November 27, 2020

17 Ways for Building Resilience and Staying Tough

17 Ways for Building Resilience and Staying Tough

Have you ever failed at something or gone through a rough patch? Have you made a mistake or suffered a setback and found yourself eating way too much ice cream afterward?

Take heart! You’re in good company.

Even Beyoncé and Albert Einstein have faced hard times. But the difference between people who rebound from difficult situations and folks who stay curled up in a fetal position is the way they CHOOSE to respond to these events.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “resiliency” as the “ability to recover from or adjust easily to adversity or change.” The good news is, you can learn how to become more resilient. Yes, you can make the CHOICE to bounce back from bottom.

So, put down that ice-cream carton and get ready for a pep talk. Here are 17 strategies for building resilience that will help you overcome obstacles and rock your life.

1. Failing is Normal—Just Keep Going

According to Kenneth Ginsburg, author of Building Resilience in Children and Teens, the first of the “7 C’s of Resilience” is “COMPETENCE.” For young people to succeed, they must develop skills to deal with difficult situations. This goes for adults, too!

To bolster your competence, take a look at a learning curve. It shows you that you can improve after you fail simply by persevering. But your performance won’t improve steadily. Knowing this fun fact can prevent you from giving up too soon.

If you take a closer look at the “curve” below, you’ll discover that it’s actually jagged. Those peaks and valleys mean that you’ll get better on some days, as promised, but you’ll also have days in which you hit a plateau or your performance plummets.

    So, give yourself some slack and hang in there. If you persist, you will succeed.

    2. Adopt a “Growth Mindset” to Build Confidence

    Ginsburg’s second “C” for building resilience is “CONFIDENCE,” the belief in one’s own abilities. Here’s an interesting fact. It turns out that the way you view your abilities is more important than your actual abilities. Let me give you an example

    According to psychologist Dr. Carol Dweck, praising yourself for being intelligent or telling your children they are smart encourages a “fixed mindset,” the belief that your ability is static.[1] When you fail a test, you feel defeated because you believe your set amount of intelligence wasn’t enough to succeed.

    On the other hand, praising effort and hard work cultivates a “growth mindset,” the belief that intelligence can be developed. When you do badly on an exam and believe you can get smarter, you view it as a challenge. You put in extra time and effort and do better the next time.

    Whether it be sports, parenting, business, or pretty much anything else, your capacity to get back up after being knocked down depends on your mindset. To learn how to shift toward a more growthful mindset, take a look at this article: 5 Ways to Cultivate a Growth Mindset for Self Improvement

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    When you understand that you can strengthen your abilities through effort, you will do better in work, school, and life over time.

    3. Use Failure as Feedback

    Did you know that Oprah Winfrey was demoted early in her career as a news anchor because she did not have the “it factor” for TV? She went on to reinvent her career and rule daytime talk shows for 25 years. She told Harvard’s 2013 graduating class,

    “There is no such thing as failure. Failure is just life trying to move us in another direction.”

    Perhaps your talk didn’t go over as well as you’d hoped because you gave it to the wrong audience. Maybe your last relationship didn’t work out because your ex was not a good match for you. A square peg won’t fit into a round hole no matter how hard you try to force it and you’ll wear yourself out in the process. What’s the point? Find a square hole!

    As Zig Ziglar says,

    “The most successful people are the ones who learn from their mistakes and turn their failures into opportunities.”

    4. Come Up with Alternate Pathways to Your Goals

    When you suffer a setback, don’t throw in the towel. Come up with a different plan to get where you want to go.

    For example, I decided to become a rock star when I was 30 years old. Even though my music was well-received, an A&R agent in LA told me I was too old to make it in the music business. So, I shifted my attention to launching a CD overseas and got signed to PolyGram in South Africa.

    Research by Dave Feldman and Diane Dreher on “hope interventions”[2] found that when people set a goal, visualized three steps to get there, imagined three obstacles that could get in the way, and then developed three strategies to overcome them, they were successfully able to solve problems in their lives and reach their goals.

    Set up a meaningful goal and come up with alternate routes to reach it in case you hit a roadblock. Where there’s a will, there’s a way!

    5. Develop Your Superpowers

    You were born with unique set of gifts that no one else in the world has. Making a commitment to develop your natural superpowers through study, discipline, and practice can boost your competence and confidence. It may seem like it would be hard work but it’s actually fun. Nothing feels better than getting better at something you love to do.

    Jimi Hendrix practiced his guitar ALL the time. He wore it when he boarded planes and made scrambled eggs. He became a master guitarist because he constantly sought to boost his intrinsic talent. I’ve recorded hundreds of songs but I still take songwriting lessons to hone my skills as a singer-songwriter.

    Find some YouTube videos, buy a book, or take classes to improve your skills. Even if you only do it as a hobby or a side project, developing your innate skills gives you the energy and expertise you need to overcome challenges in your life.

    6. Find a Supportive Tribe

    Ginsburg’s third “C” for building resilience is “CONNECTION.” He encourages parents to offer children and teens the security they need to stand on their own and come up with creative solutions to problems. Adults need positive encouragement and community, too.

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    It’s not a sign of weakness to seek support. Even the mighty Avengers (Captain America, Iron Man, Hulk, etc.) join forces when threats grow too large for any one of them to handle alone. Dorothy Gale achieved greatness in The Wizard of Oz because of a little help from her friends The Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion.

    Surround yourself with like-minded friends and acquaintances who can keep you on track with your goals. Find an accountability partner and check in with each other once a week. Be sure to form connections with “power-with” people, those who find their power from within themselves and enjoy aiding each other’s journeys.

    The next time life knocks you down, put out the bat signal for your tribe to come help you. They’ll help you rebound faster and own your power.

    7. Remove Kryptonite From Your Life

    As important as it is to surround yourself with a positive tribe, it’s also essential that you distance yourself from people who rain on your parade.

    If you have naysayers in your life, realize that this “power-over” mentality is a sign of inadequacy, not a show of real strength. There’s no need for people to aggravate, torment, or control you if their sense of self is intact. When people try to kryptonite you, it’s a sign of their weakness, not yours.

    To protect yourself from people who try to belittle or manipulate you, learn how to discriminate between helpful information and controlling criticism. The former fills you with energy and gives you a sense of direction; the latter leaves you feeling defeated and drained. Consider the source.

    8. Set Good Intentions

    Ginsburg’s fourth “C” for building resilience is “CHARACTER,” it’s about learning right from wrong.

    Superheroes use their power to save the planet. Super-villains often possess superhuman strengths, too, but they wield them for personal gain. Which camp do you fall in? Does it depend on what you’re doing?

    Create a list of your values and stand by them no matter what. Being true to yourself and living with integrity will help you get through hard times.

    9. Practice Kindness

    The fifth “C” for building resilience is “CONTRIBUTING” to the welfare of others. The tiniest act of kindness can make a positive difference.

    According to Talya Steinberg, Psy.D,[3]

    “Studies show that receiving, giving, or even witnessing acts of kindness increases the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood in the brain.”

    Being kind makes you feel happier and more at peace, which helps you stay grounded in difficult situations.

    What little act of kindness can you do today? Give your loved ones an extra hug? Call or email a long-lost friend? Here’re more ideas for you: 29 Ways to Carry Out Random Acts of Kindness Every Day

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    And be sure to high-five yourself the next time you see your reflection in the mirror. Being kind to yourself counts.

    10. Listen to Music You Like

    The fifth “C” for building resilience is using COPING strategies to deal with stress. One easy shortcut for buoying yourself up when you feel down is listening to music you like.

    Research shows that hearing your favorite music releases dopamine, a feel-good neurotransmitter. When you’re happy, you organize information better, think more creatively, and become a better problem solver.

    I like to sing “Roar” to give me moxie. What about you? All you need is 15 minutes of your favorite tunes. So listen up!

    11. Give Yourself a Hug

    Another quick way to build resilience when you feel badly is to give yourself a hug. Sounds silly? It’s not.

    According to Dr. Kristin Neff, author of Self-Compassion, hugging yourself releases oxytocin (the love hormone that makes you feel safe and loved) which decreases stress.[4]

    The next time you’re challenged, give it a try. Even if you’re in public, you can discreetly fold your arms around yourself. You’ll be surprised by how much better you feel.

    12. Say Positive Affirmations

    When you mess something up, your inner critic often makes it worse by telling you that you’re not good enough or you’re an imposter. Just because these digs stress you out doesn’t mean the limiting thoughts are true.

    Research shows that saying positive things such as “keep going” and “you can do it” can replace negative self-talk and help you get on your feet again.[5]

    Need some ideas for positive affirmations? Here’re some: 10 Positive Affirmations for Success that will Change your Life

    13. Relabel “Fear” as “Excitement”

    When something scares you, your sympathetic nervous system gets you ready for fight or flight. Did you know that you experience the same physiological reactions when you’re excited?

    The next time you get sweaty palms, try reinterpreting that response as excitement and use that nervous energy to master whatever you’re trying to do, whether it be giving a talk, going on a job interview, or winning a race.

    The fact that your inner critic is messing with your mind could mean that you’re on the brink of a new growth opportunity. Take advantage of the adrenaline and go for it.

    14. Stand in the Wonder Woman / Superman Pose

    According to Amy Cuddy, best-selling author of Presence, adopting the Wonder Woman power pose — hands on hips, feet wide apart, shoulders back — for two minutes can make you feel powerful.

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    This postural feedback gives you the experience of being a laid-back alpha (i.e., a superhero). When you need a jolt of power, try it. It works! If you’re a guy, just pretend you’re Superman or Thor when you do it.

    You can learn more about the power of this pose in this TedTalk:

    15. Write about Tough Times

    The last thing you probably feel like doing after a painful experience is dwell on it, but research by Dr. James Pennebaker shows that writing about tough times can actually improve your psychological and physical well-being.[6]

    Jot down your thoughts and feelings about the emotionally charged event for 20 minutes per day for four consecutive days. Afterward, you will feel mentally and physically stronger.

    16. Stop Passing Judgment on Yourself

    The final “C” for building resilience is to learn how to feel a sense of CONTROL over your life. The Serenity Prayer wisely advises us to accept what we cannot change, change what we can, and learn to tell the difference. But let’s be honest. That last part can get tricky.

    Eating balanced meals, exercising, and getting enough sleep helps you bounce back from tough times. But what if you have a bad habit that prevents you from engaging in these healthy habits? Here’s a tip a wise woman gave me years ago that can help you break the pattern:

    Imagine for a moment that each time you eat that extra cookie, or drink that extra glass of wine, or stay up too late watching TV, a layer gets laid down in an imaginary bowl. Every time you repeat the pattern, another layer goes down and the layers stack up over time.

    To get unstuck, just observe yourself eating that extra cookie instead of judging yourself for it. At the same time, imagine that a layer gets removed from that make-believe bowl as a result. If you engage in the bad habit again, do not pass judgment. Watch yourself with compassion and see another layer come off in your mind’s eye.

    Over time, this metaphorical bowl grows emptier and you begin to catch yourself sooner in the process (e.g., when you first put your hand in the cookie jar). Eventually, you’ll be able to stop yourself before you even begin. This gentle mindfulness tool can help you change habits that seem beyond your control.

    17. Set Yourself Up for Success

    My friend Mike enjoys skiing really fast, to the point where he is about to break his neck, because it puts him in the moment and brings out his best performance. If he were to try a steeper slope, he would fall; the bunny slopes would bore him silly. Like Goldilocks, he found the hill that was “just right“ to put him in the zone.

    What does this last point have to do with building resilience? When you’re in the zone, you do your best work. If the activity is too simple, your mind wanders. If it’s too hard, you get knocked out of the moment, too. These are the critical moments when your inner critic sneaks in to fire zingers at you.

    To create a successful outcome, consciously choose to do things that are fairly challenging, but not too challenging. This Goldilocks approach will keep your inner critic at bay and bring out the best in you. When you succeed in one area of your life, you’re more likely to succeed in others.

    Final Thoughts

    We all experience defeat at some point; it’s part of being human. But you have a CHOICE about how to react to hardship. If you CHOOSE to learn from your mistakes and persevere with a growth mindset, you can succeed at pretty much anything, especially if you come up with alternative pathways to your goals and surround yourself with people who believe in you.

    When you feel overwhelmed or stressed out, write about it, listen to your favorite tunes, give yourself a hug, say positive affirmations to yourself, relabel fear as excitement, or stand in the Wonder Woman/Superman pose.

    Just a couple of these hacks can help you get your mojo back. Just remember to keep going. You’ve got this.

    More on Building Resilience

    Featured photo credit: Michael Descharles via unsplash.com

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    More by this author

    Dr. Michelle Millis Chappel

    Michelle is a psychology-professor-turned-rock-star who has helped thousands of people create successful meaningful lives by using their superpowers.

    Feeling Like It Might Be Too Late To Pursue Your Dreams? Think Again 17 Ways for Building Resilience and Staying Tough 10 Principles for Success to Start Living Your Dream Life How to Become Goal Oriented and Achieve More in Life Scientists Find 15 Amazing Benefits Of Listening To Music

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    Published on February 19, 2021

    8 Greatest Obstacles In Life You Must Overcome To Be Successful

    8 Greatest Obstacles In Life You Must Overcome To Be Successful

    Whether it’s planning a public speech or a kid’s birthday party, our intentions lean toward success no matter the endeavor. And whatever success we are hoping to attain, there will likely be obstacles that we must face. When these obstacles surface, we can either shy away and miss our chance or meet these challenges informed and ready.

    Although obstacles can seem like the outside world is plotting against us, in reality, these external challenges are merely triggering hurdles that already exist within. They might be memories or beliefs we have about ourselves that act like mud and slow us down. We can be trapped by our own self-sabotage.

    What could happen if you knew about and prepared for these obstacles beforehand?

    If you knew what you were up against, perhaps you could come equipped with just the right tools to get through anything that threatens your chance at success. Perhaps you could take an obstacle that felt like a mountain and turn it instantly into a mere molehill!

    Here are 8 of the greatest obstacles you must overcome on your way to success:

    1. Perfection

    One of the most common obstacles we face is the need for perfection. Elizabeth Gilbert, in her book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, shared that her mother always used to say, “done is better than good.” Anyone prone to perfectionism is going to find it difficult to remain on the road to success if everything has to be “just so” all the time.

    Perfection is the killer of creativity, vitality, and accidental discoveries! There are so many instances of people fortuitously discovering things that we use every day.[1] If they had been so concerned with perfection, they may never have enjoyed the success of their “mistakes!” Plus, learning from our mistakes is how we develop and grow throughout our lives. Therefore, “perfect” will never provide a straight shot to success.

    How can you stop going for perfection? Just as it may have taken years of practice to “perfect” a skill you have acquired, it takes practice to undo perfectionism.

    Try the following:

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    • Try new things and let go of your expectations.
    • Don’t do everything on your “To-Do” list. See what happens when you leave it for tomorrow.
    • Learn how to prioritize (no, everything isn’t equally important all the time).
    • If you’re feeling particularly rebellious, send an email with a typo in it!

    Have fun with this and learn how to laugh at yourself. Welcome to the wonderful world of being human.

    2. Fear

    Fear is triggered when we have a thought or perception that we are not safe and secure. This is quite a useful tool when there is a real threat to our safety. However, when the threat is imaginary, fear can actually prevent us from doing the work we need to do to achieve our goals.

    As with perfectionism, the best way to deal with fear is to become more mindful.

    Here are some steps you can try in working through fear:

    1. Sit with the emotion of fear and notice where you feel it in your body. Notice the thoughts that accompany the feeling.
    2. Ask yourself what you are afraid will happen and write down your answers.
    3. Visualize yourself experiencing your worst fears. How did you feel imagining your worst fears coming true?
    4. Ask yourself when you have felt this way before. How did you cope with it that time? What strengths could you use in your previous visualization?
    5. Imagine yourself using your strength with the imagined worst fear. How does it feel to know that no matter what happens, you have the tools and resources to handle it?

    In this exercise, we’re trying to be okay with the emotion of fear. Fear is actually trying to help by keeping you “safe.” It calls upon memories of when you were threatened in your life. But when we spend all of our energy trying to prevent the feeling of fear, we make it stronger. We also deny ourselves the memories of all the times we have faced our fears and triumphed.

    Allowing the fear to be present and calling upon memories of making it through challenging times helps to convince our minds that, as President Franklin Roosevelt said, the “only thing to fear is fear itself.”

    3. Lack of Clarity

    Imagine that you are going on a trip and you need to pack. Your suitcase is out, but you don’t know any details of the trip. You haven’t decided where you’re going, how long you’ll be gone, or what you’ll be doing. How easy will it be to pack for this trip?

    If we’re trying to run our careers or lives without clarity, it can be nearly impossible to figure out what we need to be doing to get to our destination of success. So, how do we get clarity?

    Author and speaker, Simon Sinek, had some excellent advice for businesses on how to get clarity, and it applies beautifully to just about any area of life. According to Sinek, when clarifying your “message,” you should start with your WHY.[2] In other words, why are you doing what you do? Once you are clear on your “why,” it will be much easier to figure out your “how” and your “what.”

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    Let’s go back to the packing analogy. Perhaps your why for vacationing is to get some much-needed rest as you have been stressed out lately. That tells you that a quiet vacation might be better than one with lots of museums and crowded attractions. Your “why” tells you that you don’t want to be very active, but you do want to take care of your body, mind, and spirit, perhaps by spending a few days at a nearby spa. Less travel means less stress. Looking at the spa, you see they have a 3-day retreat. Now, you know how to pack.

    See how easily those details fell into place once you got clear on your “why”? Imagine what success you could achieve once your “why” is uncovered!

    4. Making Comparisons

    It’s natural for us to compare ourselves to other people. That’s how we know whether we’re doing things correctly or not and how we can continue improving. When we get into a habit of making comparisons all the time and feeling bad about not being able to “keep up with the Jones’,” this can pull our energy down. And when our energy is down, so is our motivation to keep working toward our goals.

    As with perfection, it’s important to be mindful about how much importance you’re placing on “keeping up” with what you think everyone around you is doing.

    Want to stop sizing yourself up to others? Try the following:

    • Notice the feelings that come up for you when you compare yourself to someone else.
    • Ask yourself, “what information am I really getting from this comparison, and what’s helpful about it?”
    • Keep the helpful bits from that line of questioning and let go of the rest.

    Remember that when you compare yourself to another person, oftentimes you are seeing the potential that already resides within you.[3]

    5. Untamed Inner Monologue

    How do you talk to yourself? Do you tend to say uplifting and encouraging things to yourself? Or is your self-speak often negative? An untamed inner monologue can serve as a great obstacle to many people.

    Many people grow up with the idea that the inner monologue is what drives us to become better people. We get “tough” on ourselves to prevent laziness or sloppiness. If unchecked, the monologuing can quickly become negative and purely critical. Despite our intentions for self-improvement, this constant habit of pointing out what’s “wrong” with what we do and who we are can become a huge energy drain.

    According to the Mayo Clinic, overcoming negative self-talk is good for our health.[4] Some of the benefits of maintaining a compassionate inner voice include lower levels of depression, better immune function, and improved coping skills in stressful times.

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    Activities to develop awareness about your inner monologue and make it more compassionate include:

    • Keeping a thought diary (there are so many great apps for this!).
    • Reframing negative self-statements neutrally or compassionately.
    • Asking yourself what a trusted friend might say to you.
    • Thinking about what you might say to a friend if they were in your shoes.
    • Considering EFT Tapping or saying affirmations.
    • Allowing yourself to follow the inner critic down the worst-case-scenario path (this version might have you laughing at how ridiculous your inner critic’s imagination truly is).

    6. Unclear Boundaries

    So far, we’ve covered several ways that internal boundaries are necessary on the road to success. These include monitoring your fear, limiting your need for perfectionism, lacking clarity about what you want, making unhealthy comparisons to others, or having a mean-spirited inner monologue.

    How about those boundaries we need to clarify with other people in our lives? To be clear, boundaries are not about saying “no” to everything and cutting yourself off from everybody. Healthy external boundaries are about being communicating to others about what you want, how you want to be treated, and what your plans are.

    If we have unclear boundaries with others, success will result only by accident, if at all.

    People pleasers and empaths especially know how challenging it can be to set boundaries with others. The desire for harmony can be so strong for some people that they convince themselves that it is easier to let others make the decisions rather than risk creating conflict.

    The problem here is that no matter how hard we try to avoid conflict with others, we will create conflict within ourselves that results in roadblocks to success. If you have trouble setting clear boundaries with others and you want to be successful, start building your muscles around this skill slowly.

    Here are a few steps:

    1. Identify little things that you like and want.
    2. Tell people about what you like and want in your life.
    3. Notice what happens in your body when you say this out loud.
    4. Identify things you don’t like or want.
    5. Notice what happens in your body when you think about these things. (Your body is really smart when it comes to telling you what you don’t want!)
    6. Tell trusted people what you don’t like or want.
    7. Notice how it feels in your body to say this out loud.
    8. Practice saying “no” to something really small that you don’t want and work your way up to bigger things.

    Without boundaries, it’s like being water and trying to hold a shape without being in a container. You get to create your own container and watch your success take form.

    7. Unreasonable Expectations

    It’s important to dream big. It’s how we allow inspiration and big ideas to come to the surface of our awareness. But if our dreams are not grounded in the reality of our current resources, we might be headed for some disappointment or even worse, the loss of our dreams!

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    Setting reasonable expectations is the bread and butter of success. If you haven’t been introduced to setting SMART goals at this point in your life, it would be a good idea to try it out.

    It might not always be possible to know whether or not something is reasonable, especially if you’re trying out a brand-new-to-you project. If the expectation is for a new project to work without any bumps or glitches, this is likely to be unreasonable. The consequences of this experience could be losing your drive to succeed.

    If the expectations for a new project include the idea of bumps and glitches that hold seeds of learning and growth, then even the perceived “mistakes” will turn out to be a success. This has the positive benefit of fueling your motivation to keep working toward even more success.

    Be mindful of where you set the bar—neither too high nor too low.

    8. Unreasonable Definition of Success

    What is your definition of success? Asked in another way, from what perspective are you seeking success?

    It’s easy to think that success means achieving the goal(s) you set for yourself. But there are so many ways to look at success. You might be missing out on some opportunities to really feel like you are shining in your life.

    An unreasonable definition of success might be one that only allows for one specific outcome. If that outcome is not reached, then success is not the result. But if we allow for multiple definitions of success, we might find that success is much easier to come by than we previously thought!

    To expand your definition of success, ask yourself the following:

    • What would need to happen to make me feel successful?
    • What else could happen to make me feel successful?

    Keep brainstorming all the outcomes you could experience to create a feeling of success.

    Final Thoughts

    Being successful requires overcoming a lot of obstacles, and many people will fail at some point. The key is to tackle these obstacles one step at a time. In the words of Joyce Brothers, “Success is a state of mind. If you want success, start thinking of yourself as a success.”

    More Tips on How to Overcome Obstacles

    Featured photo credit: asoggetti via unsplash.com

    Reference

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