As a mental toughness coach using the MTQ48 mental toughness framework I work with individuals on how to become more resilient and recover from setbacks and failures. Sometimes these setbacks are large single events but for most people, most of the time, it is being able to positively manage their ‘daily grind’ of friction and interference.
Within the MTQ48 framework you can build resilience by developing better routines and habits around control of your life, your emotions and your commitment to setting and meeting goals and targets.
I was interested to read another perspective on building resilience through making good choices and developing good habits by American writer John Beckett.
He questions the definition of resilience by the respected US journal, Psychology Today, that “Resilience is that ineffable quality that allows some people to be knocked down by life and come back stronger than ever.”
He continues by saying that “Resilience is not some mystical substance some of us are born with and others aren’t. Resilience is a virtue, and like all virtues it can be cultivated. Resilient people don’t “come back stronger than ever.” They survive and they keep moving. Sometimes what doesn’t kill them really does make them stronger. Sometimes they buy time till they can make a change. Other times they adjust their goals to a new reality.
“Resilience is doing what must be done, no matter what.”
He then acknowledges that while some people are more naturally resilient than others, everyone can build resilient systems and processes into their day-to-day lives.
Build a resilient life
I’d like to live in a society where the Walmart worker who becomes injured in a car crash has the same level of medical and financial support as a professional athlete who blows out his knee on the football field. I support policies and candidates that move us in that direction, even though it means my taxes will go up, probably a lot. But I’m not optimistic about seeing much movement in that direction in my lifetime.
If society won’t build resilient structures, build your own.
Obviously, this is easier for some than for others. If you’re born to a wealthy family, it’s easier than if you’re born poor. If you’re young and healthy, it’s easier than if you’re old and sick. Resilience is not a panacea. But if you can build a resilient life, do it.
Choose a suitable career
Until the arrival of universal basis income (don’t hold your breath) you’re going to have to make a living doing something. How much do you need to live the way you want to live? What are you good at? What’s in demand now and likely to remain in demand for the foreseeable future? Having an in-demand career in something you’re good at (and thus better at than most of your competition for available jobs) makes it more likely you can survive the fluctuations of an uncertain economy.
Avoid debt and hoard cash
57% of Americans cant cover a $500 unexpected expense. Where do they go? Credit cards if they have them, payday lenders if they don’t. Either one can begin a downward spiral into financial ruin.
If you’re young and just starting out, there are a lot of things you need… and a lot more things the advertising world tries to convince you you’ve got to have. Say no as much as you can. Once you have a decent cash reserve, then start looking at investments.
None of this guarantees you’ll have a good middle class life, much less that you’ll be able to live like the people on TV tell you you’re “supposed” to live. But less debt and more cash make it more likely you’ll be able to handle an unexpected emergency without grossly impacting your life.
Build a family and treasure your friends
Another unhelpful American myth is the rugged individualist, who goes it alone and never needs anything from anybody. Nobody can get through life alone. You need a human support system to provide financial support, logistical support, and emotional support, and there are others who need your support in return.
Or don’t – but make that decision consciously
Your only dream is to be a full-time musician. You really really want to be the witch living deep in the forest, and if your cottage is a beat up travel trailer, so be it. You think the whole system is immoral and you want to devote your life to building something radically different.
It’s your life – live it the way you choose. But make those decisions consciously and in full understanding that what’s doable when you’re 35 and in good health won’t be so easy when age catches up with you.
Whether you have a resilient system supporting you or not, dealing with adversity is hard. But there are ways you can cultivate resilience in your life.
Have a vision for your future
What is it that you want most of all? Growing up, I wanted a nice middle class professional life. That turned out to be not very satisfying, but when I was suffering in the fundamentalist church, with the restrictions of childhood, with typical high school garbage, or with any of the many things that made life difficult for me and countless others, that vision kept me moving. Play the games, mouth the words, and dream of a day when things will be better.
It worked. The vision kept me going when I wanted to quit. Eventually I had to find another vision, and I did. This one is much more satisfying… even though it keeps pushing me further and further into areas where I’m not comfortable.
Have someone else in your life
It’s one thing to say “screw it, I don’t care anymore” when you’re the only one who’s going to suffer because of your lack of resilience. It’s another thing if you’re responsible for someone else too.
Learn from your failures
I do not believe “everything happens for a reason” and certainly not for some “you’re being guided toward something you can’t see” New Age reason. But if something bad happens, the least you can do it learn something from it.
What did you flat-out do wrong? What did you overlook that you should have seen coming? What did you have no way of knowing would happen, but that might happen again?
Assigning blame – to yourself or to others – is not helpful. Figuring out what to do differently next time is essential.
Because while bouncing back from failures is a good and necessary thing, avoiding failures in the first place is better.
Life is easier if you have a resilient system supporting you. So build one, and work to build a society that provides one for all. But never forget you are a part of a universe that includes Gods and spirits. Never forget you have ancestors who made it through times even harder than yours.
While I don’t subscribe word for word to John’s views I subscribe to his approach to taking responsibility for building your own resilient life systems.
For more on resilience and building mental toughness contact us.