Sometimes life just doesn’t go your way. Rejection, disappointment, failure, and hurt feelings are an inevitable part of life. How you deal with such events, though, determines how happy and successful you are in life. That’s right…your attitude, mindset, and actions can turn tough experiences into positive, life-changing ones…if you choose. The key to bouncing back is being resilient.
Psychology Today says that resilience “is that ineffable quality that allows some people to be knocked down by life and come back stronger than ever. Rather than letting failure overcome them and drain their resolve, they find a way to rise from the ashes. Psychologists have identified some of the factors that make someone resilient, among them a positive attitude, optimism, the ability to regulate emotions, and the ability to see failure as a form of helpful feedback. Even after misfortune, resilient people are blessed with such an outlook that they are able to change course and soldier on.”
Bouncing back like this sounds great! Who doesn’t want to be able to turn misfortune into fortune (or at least be able to appreciate and learn from the lesson in it)? But for most people, it’s easier said than done. Here are some ways you can build up your “bounce back” muscle.
Take Responsibility for Everything that Happens to You
The only way you can build resilience is to take responsibility for your life. Resilient people refuse to be a victim. Things don’t happen TO you, they happen BECAUSE of you. This may sound harsh but adopting this mindset is the only way to empower yourself to change your situation, no matter what. To do this, I employ counterfactual thinking. According to Wiki, “counterfactual thinking is a concept in psychology that involves the human tendency to create possible alternatives to life events that have already occurred; something that is contrary to what actually happened.” Let’s say your boss gives you feedback that you disagree with. In your mind, you justify why you are right and she is wrong. You tell yourself that she doesn’t see all that you do and she isn’t worthy of being your manager. You shut down and don’t make any changes. This type of thinking gets you pretty much nowhere, keeping you stuck and unhappy, the opposite of resiliency. If you employ counterfactual thinking, you might ask yourself, “What if she’s right? When have I exhibited this behavior? What do I need to do to change? How can I step up and improve myself? Perception is reality so what do I need to do to change this perception?” Owning it means you can change it. If you want to be resilient, refuse to retreat, deny, ignore, or blame. Remember, things don’t happen to you, they happen because of you. This is key to bouncing back.
Change Your Approach
Once you’ve accepted responsibility for your situation, now you can change it. Analyze what went wrong and why. Come up with a plan to make necessary changes. Then put your plan into action. Let’s say the feedback your boss gave you is that your performance is mediocre. She feels that you only do the bare minimum to get by and that your teammates feel you don’t pull your weight and are becoming resentful. After some self-reflection, you start to see why they feel this way. You never stay late, never offer to help your co-workers, and never volunteer for side projects. Sure, you have a life outside of work, but so does everyone else on the team and they are making sacrifices to be great teammates so why aren’t you? After acknowledging their feelings and apologizing, you decide that if your teammates stay late, so will you. You take on a small side project for your boss so you can start to build her trust. You ask her to give you real-time feedback on your performance and you find a co-worker who will agree to hold you accountable for being a better team player. There’s nothing like changing something that is holding you back to build self-confidence which is key to bouncing back from hard situations.
Build Your Support System
Having a shoulder to lean on makes all the difference in the world when bouncing back and people who are resilient take the time to build a strong network of people whom they can rely on to help them through tough times. It doesn’t have to be a big network, just a strong one. My network includes my husband, my mom, a few mentors, and a few highly trustworthy co-workers. It also includes people who help me stay well such as my massage therapist and acupuncturist. It’s not huge but it has depth. If you don’t have a strong support system, it’s not too late to start. Reach out to a few people you can trust and start to build friendships. Hire a therapist or a life coach. Lean on members of your family. Don’t fall into the trap of telling yourself that you are alone and that no one cares…doing this only weakens your chance of bouncing back.
Do Something That Makes You Happy Everyday
There’s no better way to improve your life than by doing something you love every day. No matter if everything is going right or everything is going wrong, doing something that brings your joy, happiness or satisfaction will increase your resiliency. Read a good book, ride your motorcycle, do yoga, play with your kids…do whatever you need to do to bring a little joy into your life. Feeling lost about what makes you happy? Go for a walk. I promise you, there is nothing better at improving your mood than moving your body and a walk will always make you feel better.
Take a Deep Breath and Let it Go
Letting go is the only way to truly be resilient. There’s no point in holding on to old baggage…all it does is weigh you down. And beating yourself up over and over breaks down resiliency. So do yourself a favor, stop the negative self-talk, forgive yourself and anyone else involved, learn from the situation, and move on. Just take a deep breath and let it go. It is what it is; the most important thing now is doing what you need to do to go forward.
Don’t Give Up
The fastest way to not bounce back is to not bounce back. Giving up is an excuse. You must always keep trying. Yes, you will have to change, grow, and ask for feedback, which isn’t always easy to do. Perhaps you will have to get professional help. But whatever you do, don’t give up…not if you want a happy and successful life. Think of the most successful people you know. Maybe they seem like they just breeze through life but in reality, they, too, have had to overcome setbacks and negative experiences. You must dig deep and summon up the determination to handle whatever life throws at you and to persevere no matter what.
Life takes all kinds of twists and turns. Sometimes it meanders along; other times it feels like everything is right on track. Then again, maybe sometimes it feels like it’s in a free fall towards rock bottom. Being resilient allows you to go with the flow, no matter the situation. Don’t let your mistakes and failures take you down. Look at them as research on how not to do something and bounce back stronger than before.
Like this blog on bouncing back? Check out this one on what I learned while leading through a crisis.