6 Ways to Be More Resilient

Keep ahead of the curve.

Resilience is one of the most valuable skills to have in business and in life. The Muse names it “the one quality all successful people have in common” and it's a topic discussed at great length by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant in their new book, Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy.

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According to executive coach Jim Kochalka, the capability of adapting to adversity is required, not only for survival, but for growth. “If you’re weight training, you’re breaking down muscle fibers so they can come back better,” he says. “Resilience is the ability to not just survive, but to become stronger.” Fortunately, much like working out, this is a skill that can be learned, honed
and perfected.

We turned to Jim and career consultant Diana Henderson for their tips on bouncing back.

  • 1. Find and replace negative feelings

    “When facing a setback, people need to be able to quickly extinguish their first reaction which could be a very powerful and negative emotion such as anger, fear, embarrassment, shame or frustration,” says Jim. For example, if someone breaks up with you and you feel immediately sad and indignant, take a moment and recognize where you're at. “What distinguishes someone who stays stuck from someone who gets out is the ability to quickly substitute a positive scenario with positive feelings,” he says. “Though not easy to do, it is best to start by asking, ‘What good might come from this setback?’ Consider resilience a set of thinking skills, knowing that the mind influences the brain and that the way we think can create new positive neural pathways,” he says. Conversely, dwelling on the negative will only make you more likely to stay there. "It's like practicing a bad golf swing a thousand times," Jim says. "You wouldn't get better, you'd just strengthen that bad swing."

  • 2. Don’t react; respond

    “Reacting typically comes from a feeling; it can be emotionally charged and is often focused on the circumstance,” says Diana. “Responding consists of calculated thought, and, even if it’s just a pause before an action takes place, is often focused on the outcome.” She personally finds that a response will outlast a reaction and position you for a better recovery in the long term.

  • 3. Stand tall

    Although you may be feeling in a funk, it’s important to not cower in the face of others. Consider the old “fake it till you make it” lesson. “Early in my career, I adopted the phrase, ‘resilience on stage’ and it still governs my professional and personal approaches,” says Diana. “Someone is always watching you and observing how you respond or react to situations. Have an unchanging posture, that no matter what is thrown in your path, you can sustain a constant demeanor. It doesn’t mean that you aren’t affected or don’t feel the pain of what you’re facing, you simply model it well and recover with grace.”

  • 4. Maintain healthy habits

    According to Jim, during times of stress, it's even more important to keep the healthy habits we practice when all's well in order to maintain good psychological and physical health. “Be in environments that are healthy for you,” he says. “Notice when you are doing things that are not helpful, like overeating, over-drinking, eating the wrong foods, and depriving yourself of sleep. When you’re not at the top of your game physiologically, you’re more vulnerable to those old thinking and feeling patterns that drag you into a very un-resilient mindset.”

  • 5. Avoid people who add fuel to the fire

    "Oftentimes, friends who are well-meaning will support the negative narrative in your head. If you just got fired from your job, they might say, 'How could they have fired you? You did such great work!' They’ll unwittingly continue your thinking and experience of the adverse situation,” says Jim. “Even though there’s some momentary comfort to be with another person who shares your point of view, it’s ultimately not helpful."

  • 6. Write down what you’ve learned from
    the experience

    “Documenting the lessons you've learned is a great way to ventilate frustration, heal from the hurt and, most importantly, learn from any missteps,” says Diana. "Every experience is an opportunity for growth and further development. I certainly prefer the mountaintop over the valley, but it's in the valleys that the greatest growth is produced."

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