Developing Resilience

How resilient are you?

Do you know the one trait that is absolutely essential to have in order to live a positive life?

Is it optimism? Gratitude? Friendliness? Generosity?

Maybe, but none of those qualities are what I want to talk about in this blog post.

In my opinion, this is the one trait that we all must have in order to live the most positive life possible:

Resilience.

The Life-Saving Power of Resilience

Why is resilience so important?

Resilience is defined as the ability to bounce back in the face of stress, adversity, or other traumatic events.

Or put another way, resilience is our ability to cope with life’s problems and setbacks.

This is a skill that is critical to master because all of us will experience some pretty horrific things in our lives. Actually, I’m sure that most people who are reading these words have experienced quite a bit of it already, haven’t we?

Not that you need me to tell you this, but living a life completely pain-free is impossible. This is why we need to master resilience.

If you want to see the power of resilience in action, here’s an example that one of our Solutionists recently shared on The Positivity Solution’s Facebook page:

Over the course of my life I have had a disproportionate number of horrific life experiences. Sexual molestation as a child from various people at different times, verbal and physical abuse, abandonment, bullying, death of a husband and worse things I won’t mention. Anyone of these things gives me cause to be fearful, filled with hate, lack of hope, bitterness, self-pity, lack of confidence and self-loathing. But I ain’t having it. The only life I know for a fact that I am guaranteed is the one I am living now and I’ll be damned if I’ll let my past experiences dictate how I conduct myself in the world or steal my joy.”

These are the words of a very resilient woman.

Besides being a Solutionist, more importantly, this woman is a personal friend of mine. She isn’t putting on some sort of act either–she is one of the nicest, most thoughtful, and most joyful people you could ever hope to meet.

As you can tell from her words, she has gone through more personal hells than most people reading this could even imagine, myself included.

So, how does she (and many others like her) find the power to stay joyful after going through hell after hell, while other people act like the world is going to end because they got a flat tire, their dinner order at the restaurant was prepared incorrectly, or their favorite Dancing with the Stars contestant got voted off?

One word.

Resiliency.

The Only Difference Between Winners and Losers

This quote is absolutely life-changing if you fully grasp the wisdom of it:

“The only difference between winners and losers is how they react to losing.”

Think about that for a minute.

Losing is a part of life. People get hurt, sick, and fail more often than they may succeed. Very bad things happen to some exceptionally good people.

There is nothing positive about ignoring these truths. These things can, and most likely will, happen to all of us.

This is why resiliency is so important.

The difference between wallowing in a negative situation for much longer than necessary, or looking at the same negative situation and saying, “this sucks right now, but I’m going to make this better” comes down to one word: Resiliency.

People who lack resiliency will get their heart broken in devastating fashion, and then spend the rest of their lives building a wall around their hearts (which unsurprisingly, keeps out some amazing people too) because they can’t handle the thought of having their hearts broken again.

People who lack resiliency will fail at something, and then take their ball and sit on the sidelines of life, refusing to try again.

People who lack resiliency will have their trust betrayed, and then vow to never trust anyone again.

To me, this is the saddest way to live life.

Unless you live in a cave and have absolutely no contact with the outside world, you will have your heart broken eventually. You will fail at something eventually. You will have your trust betrayed eventually. These are all very real aspects of choosing to live our lives.

However, if we don’t develop the mental toughness to bounce back from those things when they do happen, we could end up looking back on our lives with deep regret about missing out on the best of what life has to offer:

  • Potentially soul-nourishing love that never happened because we were too busy hiding behind our self-made walls.
  • Projects that could have been wildly successful, but were never started.
  • Friendships that slowly faded away because we were unwilling to trust other people.

No one on their deathbed says as their final piece of wisdom, “Put a wall around your heart, don’t try, and trust no one.”

But strangely, many people who are alive and well follow those soul-destroying pieces of advice, when instead, they should be focusing on doing something that is much more meaningful:

Developing resilience.

Developing Resilience

There are tons of tips and tricks to help you build more resiliency, but below are the two tips that have worked the best for me:

1. Don’t Allow Isolated Incidents to Shape Your Reality

For example, I know many people who have suffered through a few bad romantic relationships and then make blanket statements like, “All men are scumbags” or “All women are gold-diggers.”

Let’s be real. All men aren’t scumbags and all women aren’t gold-diggers, are they?

Interestingly enough though, if that’s what you choose to focus on, the universe will bring you lots of evidence to prove that you’re right. The opposite is true too.

Before I met my wife, I was in a soul-destroying relationship that nearly broke my spirit in every way imaginable.

After I gathered my remaining shreds of dignity and self-respect by leaving that toxic relationship, it would have been very easy for me to start building up a wall to prevent that pain from ever happening again.

Thank God I didn’t go down that route.

I chose resilience instead.

I kept saying to myself, “my relationship with my ex may have been unbearable, but I refuse to let my experience with her to keep me from finding happiness with someone else.”

Today, I look back at 7 years of a happy marriage and the life-altering love of our two beautiful daughters and know that none of it would have been possible if I allowed myself to build that wall.

Don’t give the bad experiences from your past the power to shape your future.

Choose resiliency instead.

2. View Challenges as Opportunities

When I think of all of the things that my friend (who I mentioned earlier in this post) has dealt with in her life, it’s hard to imagine how anyone could walk away from all of that without being a horribly negative and bitter person.

But surprisingly, she’s the complete opposite of that.

She looks at every challenge in her life as a lesson that she can use to make herself into a better person. And yes, that is definitely a skill all of us can learn.

I’m actually blessed to know quite a few people who are just like her.

Besides amazing resiliency, the one thing that these people all have in common is that they believe that every negative incident is a temporary challenge that will eventually pass. Better than that, instead of wallowing in self-pity and negativity, they use those setbacks to make them into wiser, stronger, and better people.

In other words, resilient people make the life-altering choice to be the hero in their own stories, rather than powerless “extras” who won’t even appear in the credits of their own stories when their lives come to an end.

Like I said before, bad things will happen to all of us.

The only question is if we’ll look at these things as challenges that we can learn from, or disasters that will break us.

This is the difference between being a winner or a loser.

Saving Lives, For Real

If you’re reading this and thinking, “yeah, well I’ve been hurt too many times. I’m going to keep my wall up, thanks.”

That’s cool with me. If it’s working for you, who I am to tell you otherwise?

This blog post isn’t for those people anyway.

It’s for the people who want more out of their lives than building walls, standing on the sidelines, and running away from pain instead of facing it.

Resiliency is the key to rising above all of that.

I firmly believe that we’re not on this earth to run from as much pain as we can until we finally die.

We’re here to connect with people deeply, risk failure as we fight for our dreams, and create true lasting happiness for ourselves and loved ones.

And yes, it will hurt along the way. Count on it.

The only way to avoid pain completely is to choose to not live fully.

That’s why resiliency is so important. 

We only get one shot at this life. Tomorrow isn’t promised to any of us.

We have to live fully.

Today.

Now.

No exceptions.

That’s why it is no exaggeration to say that resiliency is a life-saving skill.

We’re all so much stronger than we believe we are, and our resilience is the proof of it.

Now it’s time for us to show it.

Your Turn

Do you believe that resiliency is an important skill to master? Do you consider yourself to be resilient? Jump into the comments below and make your voice heard!

Shola

Shola

Founder of The Positivity Solution
Author, keynote speaker, and kindness extremist who is committed to changing the world by helping as many people as possible to live and work with more positivity.
Shola
Shola

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Comments

  1. I think the Rock group Chumbawamba said it best,
    “I get knocked down
    But I get up again
    You’re never going to keep me down” But the older I get, the slower I get up. It’s been a good life, but not without it’s challenges and stresses, and disappointments. I’m just getting tired. How do you cope with the fatigue of trying? I get knocked down…but I DO get up again.

    • Hey, I remember that song! I feel you Ken, it can be exhausting to keep getting up after we get knocked down. But when I’m on the ground and feeling too tired to get back up to face life’s challenges, I ask myself, “do I really want to stay here?” That’s usually all of the motivation I need to dust myself off and get back up 🙂

  2. You are right on the money, Shola!

    If anyone has any doubts about the power of resiliency, they need only look at any successful, positive or enthusiastic person they know. The only way people get to be successful, positive or enthusiastic is by failing and then bouncing back.

    I’ve done it. Every strong person I know has done it. It is what keeps us going long after sheer will power has gone away.

    Happy Monday, Shola!!! Thanks for the powerful message!

    hugs,

    kathy

    • Thanks Kathy! I’m 100% with you. I think that resilience is the “secret sauce” that binds together every successful, positive and enthusiastic person I know. I honestly believe that people who lack resiliency will never experience the fullness that life has to offer, because pain is inevitable. And as you said perfectly, resilience is what keeps us going through the pain after sheer will power has gone away. Nicely said!

  3. So true Shola, life is about learning from our experiences and trying to become the best we can be. When life knocks me down, I get up wipe off the dust and try again. Resilience, it is that which brings us back for a better day. Happy Monday!

    • There it is, Gloria! When we trip and fall on the sidewalk, we don’t stay there forever, right? We should look at all of our challenges in the same way. Happy Monday to you too!

  4. Shola,

    Thanks for reminding me that there is light if we pull up the blinds. I am in awe of people like your friend…nothing more I can contribute.

    Bless you,
    Kat

    • I’m with you, Kat. When I’m struggling and starting to pull out the balloons and streamers for my pity party, I think of people like my friend and others who are like her. I know that I can choose resiliency and she is proof that I have the power to overcome life’s challenges when I’m feeling my weakest. It wasn’t easy for her, and oftentimes it isn’t easy for me either, but the fact that she did it has given me the strength to keep pushing forward 🙂

  5. ” I firmly believe that we’re not on this earth to run from as much pain as we can until we finally die.”….AMEN! 🙂

  6. TGIM: Thank God It’s Monday. Time for my weekly positivity fix! Shola, your posts help start my week with my head screwed on straight. I appreciate today’s topic, and my heart goes out to your good friend and anyone else who has had so much suffering. My own childhood unfortunately was the same. I would say I was a pretty resilient child, but as I entered adulthood, and went out on my own, bad things kept happening to me, and I started to wear down. At the time I didn’t realize the way I was raised had not prepared me properly for how to get along in life. Gradually, as I learned everything the hard way, and worked on getting on track, I came across a bit of wisdom that really helped. That was the suggestion that the things that happen to you are not the story of your life. Many things can happen that are bad, that you are powerless to avoid, yet that does not have to be “All She Wrote”. It’s really up to you to take it from there. I don’t know if anyone else will be inspired by that comment, but I’m putting here in hopes that they might. My attitude and resilience improved on the spot when I read that. One of those “Aha” moments. Stuff happens, that’s life in general. It’s up to you to write the story of your own life. Good topic for today, Shola.

    • Donna, it is such an honor to know that I get to play a tiny role in helping to start your week off right! I am constantly in awe of people like you and my friend, because I have no idea how I would have survived living through situations like that. That piece of advice that you received was priceless. It’s true–the things that happen to us do not have to become our identity. It really is up to us to take it from there. That is SUCH an “A-ha” moment, and I can’t speak for anyone else, but it hit me like a ton of bricks. As always Donna, thank you so much for sharing your wisdom!

  7. “On particularly rough days, when I’m sure I can’t possibly endure, I like to remind myself that My track record for getting through bad days so far is 100%, and that’s pretty good.”

    • That’s one of my favorite quotes, Peter! As long as we’re alive and breathing, that means that we still have a perfect track record 🙂

  8. I truly believe that resiliency is the key to survival. It’s what makes some people be able to get through the hard things and come out stronger while other people simply can’t. I know someone who lost her father to a heart attack and the very next day her mother died the same way. She was in her twenties and the loss was more than she could take. Things didn’t go well for her from there (I won’t post details about someone else) and it wasn’t until many years later that she finally started to turn her life around. I’ve often wondered what makes one person lose it like that while someone else would be devastated but okay. Resiliency is the answer. We need it to survive, to move on, to make it through…

    Have a great week Shola!

    • I LOVE LOVE THIS POST!

      You are absolutely right, I do not know anybody who has lived a completely charmed life, and without resilience we would not learn all of life’s lessons.
      All be it sometimes the hard way, to ensure we keep on moving on past the pain barrier into a better, stronger and more humane, Human being.
      I absolutely believe in the power of prayer and in some circumstances going below the surface of the water to the calm and allowing the storm to pass over head, and not always engaging in battle.

      Even the strongest of worriers have battle fatigue and so I am working on ensuring I am completely nourished, with all that makes me feel good, from the basics, sleep, food, good people (like yourself & positivity partners), good friends and good fun and then I can be more ready for the next challenge. Be it my Goliath or just my teenage sons next tantrum.

      Thank you again for raising our awareness Shola and keep on reminding us of the essential tools needed to keep living a Great Life!
      Bless You …..

      • Thanks Sharon! You are so right–even the strongest warriors experience pain and fatigue. The key is tapping into our inner strength to keep us moving forward instead of succumbing to the pain and fatigue. And as you know, whether it’s a huge issue or your teenage son’s next tantrum, it’s resilience that will get you through it. Thanks for reading!

    • Whoa Spring, that is intense. I cannot even imagine the pain of losing both of my parents without warning in back-to-back days, and I’m sure that would mess up almost any twenty-something year old person. I’m glad to hear that she as able to turn her life around, because I’m sure that it was quite a struggle. Just like you, I’ve always wondered why some people seem to be born with tons of resilience, while others aren’t. One thing that I do know is that without resilience, pain and fear will control our lives, instead of the other way around. Thanks so much for sharing!

  9. Thank you Shola for creating this beautiful space. I was raised by a mother with a serious mental illness. My father was a criminal who left us in severe poverty. I have been beaten, raped, severely ridiculed, even denied food and water. We do go through a lot of pain here in The Earth School. But for every person who sought to harm me there were a thousand angels who came forward and gave me help. A school bus driver. A kind neighbor. A teacher who taught me to read. Parents of a friend who unknowingly “fostered” me. Through all my trials I stubbornly refused to give up. You HAVE to be optimistic. Even if you have to be irrational about it !! I made it here. I am now a successful standup comedian telling my truth on stage and I am happier than I ever thought possible. Our thoughts become reality. Believe in your heart you will pull through. Believe in good. It Works !!

    • *STANDING OVATION* Stef, you are such an inspiration to all of us, and it’s because of people like you that I write this on blog each week. You are a shining example of the strength and resilience of the human spirit, and I am in awe of your perseverance. You’re right, we do have to irrational about our optimism sometimes, and we do need to find hope where there isn’t any readily available. Props to you for finding your truth and helping to bring joy to the lives of others. I’m in awe of you and your resilience!

  10. I know I’m a bit late on this topic, but I just have to thank Shola and the other members for the inspiration of words that has helped this 46 year old today. The majority of my life has been spent on resentment, bitterness, anger, pain and number one…fear. Afraid to move on, take risks, speak up for myself against the people I love, or just simply say, “No” instead of always saying, “Yes.” to keep from worrying about what someone may think or feel about me afterwards. I’m tired. I do feel I have resilience, but I don’t put it into play immediately. No, I’d much rather wallow a day or two, then try and bounce back. I’ve given away my power. I’ve helped so many people along the way to succeed and achieve in their lives, leaving mine undone. I see people using my advice or doing things the way I’d do it and come out on top. I don’t know how to follow my own advice. I’m tired Shola. Any advice.

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