More Thoughts on Resilience

I’ve written several times on resilience and how to achieve it, starting here and continuing through here. Now I’m doing it again. But this time I’m focusing on some of the benefits of resilience and some of the characteristics you can cultivate to strengthen your ability to rebound from setbacks and difficulties – which we all experience from time to time.

Yes, of course, in many ways resilience is its own reward. When you’re resilient, you’re obviously stronger and more formidable, better able to overcome obstacles and to reach your goals. All by themselves, those are good enough reasons to cultivate resilience.

But you’ll find benefits at deeper levels, as well:

Acceptance of Challenge

Resilience gives you more than just the ability to bounce back from adversity. It helps you see the world as a set of challenges rather than difficulties.

The difference is profound: Difficulties and challenges may call for the same amount of work to overcome them, but they carry entirely different emotional overtones.

Difficulties are almost entirely negative. They tend to be simply burdens, quagmires, and/or avalanches of drudgery that contribute nothing to the world, and instead reduce or eliminate the pleasure you could otherwise be feeling.

Challenges, on the other hand, are far more positive. They offer opportunities for improvement. They entice you to fully engage, to expand your skills, knowledge, and capabilities. They allow you to rejoice when you finish the challenging task, project, or goal.

Seeing the world as a series of challenges generally brings with it multiple opportunities for excitement, growth, and fulfillment.

Acceptance of Commitment

Because resilient people are less easily discouraged and more optimistic about their chances for success, they are more often willing and able to make larger, longer-term commitments to whatever they are trying to accomplish.

These commitments give more meaning and purpose to their lives, and lead to attitudes of anticipation and excitement that help motivate resilient people to greater levels of productivity and success.

Rather than feeling driven by external forces they can’t control, resilient people tend to feel inwardly attracted by the projects and opportunities they’ve chosen for themselves. They tend to feel every new day’s effort builds on the past and leads steadily toward a desirable future.

Internal Control

Resilience also gives rise to a feeling of self-control over the direction your work and your life is taking, and personal choice about what you do as well as when you do it. This happens because – after events knock you down – your resilience not only helps you bounce back to your feet, it brings you more clarity regarding your choice of how you will respond and what action you will take next.

What’s more, resilient people tend to feel they have more flexibility and a wider range of options and strategies for moving forward. This attitude not only reflects their resilience, it is also nurtured by it, in a kind of virtuous cycle that feeds on itself.

The result of feeling more “internal control” tends to be greater positivity, deeper happiness, more willingness to take on challenges, and higher overall levels of productivity and success.

More Optimism

Another benefit of resilience is a more pronounced feeling that difficulties and obstacles are going to be short-lived, not permanent.

In part because they feel the future is likely to improve, resilient people tend to more willingly tackle problems, even seemingly intractable ones. They also engage much less often in discouraging self-talk, along the lines of: “I’ll never get this right.”

Part of this feeling no doubt comes from having successfully overcome numerous difficulties and obstacles in the past. But another part of it comes directly from the resilience mind-set.

Readiness to Silo

A fifth important benefit of the resilient mind-set is a reluctance to generalize from one bad experience. For resilient people, a run of bad luck in one field of action won’t lead them to expect problems in a different one. For example, they won’t expect a bitter confrontation at work to bleed over into their personal life, or challenges with one vendor or customer to expand into wider issues.

Resilient people are simply better at compartmentalizing the separate areas of their work and their life. As a result, they can more easily conserve their various capabilities and energies, directing and focusing them like lasers where they’re needed most.

Resistance to Insults and Injuries

“Why does this happen to me?” is a question you’ll rarely get from a resilient person. The truth is, most of what happens is not aimed at you, personally. The piano just fell, it didn’t intentionally fall or get pushed on you. The traffic accident just happened. Nobody purposely tried to smash up your new car or ruin your day.

This attitude gives resilient people a great advantage, because they avoid wasting time, energy, and emotion on dissecting causes and detecting malevolent intentions that probably don’t exist.

Overall, resilient people can not only bounce back more quickly from difficulties and setbacks, they can more readily solve problems and cut through obstacles by putting their time, energy, and emotion directly into useful next steps.

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