Scrolling through the personal growth and self-help aisles at the bookstore, you might believe that the only sides of life that are worth talking about are the upsides: the successes, the growth spurts, the wins. Yet, the downsides are just as prevalent and powerful—especially if it means you’re living a life in which you’re regularly showing up for challenging or stressful situations.
Resist the urge to immediately follow the prevalent advice— “Dust yourself off and get back out there!”—and instead, take a moment and reflect. What are the lessons? What’s the message? What can be learned from this? By asking yourself these questions, you can ensure that your eventual “bounce back” won't be adrenaline-based, fear-based, or ego-based, as is often the case when we push ourselves too fast, too soon, all in a quest to “triumph over adversity.”
Below are ten techniques to expand your tolerance and respect for the lessons of failure while simultaneously building your resilience reservoir over time. (And, try this quiz to determine your current level of resiliency.)
Find the Humor
We humans take ourselves too seriously. We expect so much from ourselves, and we allow ourselves very little grace when we make mistakes. Not every mistake is funny, but a lot of them are. Taking a moment to laugh and enjoy the foibles of being human is as important as figuring out what went wrong. With a bit of humor, you can more easily claim the many gifts that failure, adversity, loss, and rejections can offer.
It hurts now, but by maintaining a wider perspective, a downturn can become little more than a blip on the radar. That, or perhaps this moment becomes a powerful turning point. Either way, rather than magnifying your situation, try to zoom out on your larger journey.
Our setbacks teach us something about who we are. None of us are without our faults and shadows. Use your experience to gain a whole picture of who you are. A whole person is made up of shadows, foibles, and mistakes, as well as many gifts and strengths.
See It as an Alchemist Would
If you were an alchemist and your job was to turn lead into gold, would you try pounding on the lead to force it to shine like gold? Of course not! You’d melt it down and then see what else you could create from the raw material. Don’t brush over these potent breakdown times in life. The purpose of a life “meltdown” is to turn what’s become leaden in you (old ways of being) into gold (wisdom).
Remember That Life Isn’t a Contest
There are no prizes or rewards for the fewest mistakes at the end of life. As Maya Angelou said, people will “never forget how you made them feel.” Healthy relationships, joy, rich experiences, and laughter—these are the gems of life, not how much worldly success you had or how many setbacks you faced.
Maintain a Strong Sense of Purpose
Remembering your “why” is a huge boon when it comes to rebounding from a loss. Purpose and vision are what keep us from staying stuck in the weeds too long. If you don’t feel like you have your why, now is the perfect time to go back to the drawing board. This failure could be the exact redirection you need.
Curiosity and an open mind help us maintaining a positive outlook, which in turn fosters resiliency. Rather than trying to ignore, cover up, or downplay a setback, dive deeper into it with the mindset of curiosity.
Follow Resiliency Role Models
Do you know someone who has incredible reserves of resilience? What would they do in this situation? Sometimes, just imagining a respected peer or spiritual leader’s reaction to a situation can help us decide what to do next.
Find Proper Support From Within and Without
Make sure you’re surrounded by people who can sit with you in adversity and won’t push you onward before you’re ready. Talk things out, feel your emotions, and write things down. These activities enable proper healing, and, ultimately, deepen our rebounding ability.
Stay Nourished With Good Food, Movement, and Rest
Resiliency can be home-grown through getting enough rest, exercise, and meditation. Tara Swart, Ph.D, MD, neuroscientist and author of The Source: The Secrets of the Universe, the Science of the Brain, offers these ideas to help support the brains in its ability to be more resilient:
“Start with the physical foundations: Rest your brain with 7-9 hours sleep per night. Hydrate your neurons with half a liter of water for every 30 pounds of body weight. Oxygenate your brain by walking 5,000-10,000 steps per day and doing 150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week. Meditate for 20 minutes a day. Take the supplements that suit your needs. Eat as much oily fish, eggs, nuts and seeds, green leafy vegetables, avocado, olives, and coconut oil as you can. Drink four cups of green tea per week.”
How to Keep Growing Your Adaptability
Just like we do not become wise without times of foolishness, we do not become resilient without adversity. The process of growing, learning, and claiming our gifts is exciting and should be honored; but so should the unravelings, failures, losses, and disappointments.
In times of adversity or crisis, we can do more than just grin and bear it. Instead, we can use the opportunity to grow our adaptability through the ups and downs. True resilience is not a measure of how quickly we get back up after falling down; it’s a measure of the wisdom with which we do it.
Take this quiz to see how resilient you are.