By Greg Zlevor of Westwood International
Resilience is a superpower. Many aspire to it and yet it is the people or the communities that choose to be fiercely resolute in the face of circumstantial upheaval that actually manage to achieve it. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), “…the primary factor in resilience is having caring and supportive relationships within and outside the family.” It is the capacity to manage strong feelings that is the underpinning of emotional resilience, and it helps to have external support in order to be successful.
Several months ago, I made a commitment to intentionally cultivate resilience.
The goal has been to deliberately expand my ability to adapt, to become more
flexible in order to meet head-on the inevitable ups and downs that life throws
my way, both on a personal and a professional level. I have been tweaking my
response in order to view life’s obstacles as an opportunity to build my “resilience
muscles”. This means to embrace everything that comes my way and
acknowledge the lessons I would miss if I reflexively judge a situation as
“good” or “bad”. But it hasn’t been easy.
What I am discovering is that resilience draws from the deepest part of my personal reserve. I must continuously recommit to a healthy blend of determination, grounded faith, and values like gratitude and compassion (for myself and others), as well as a willingness to step back and find the higher meaning in what I am dealing with. And it takes practice!
By training to purposely leave my comfort zone, what I have learned so far has
been unexpected: that when we are experiencing fear or anxiety, we are caught
in the future, and when we are embittered by anger or resentment, we remain
tethered to the past. Either way, the script running in our head prevents us from
being present and performing at optimal efficiency.
The most challenging aspect of this exercise has been to pinpoint the message buried in the emotions that hit when something uncomfortable comes my way. Once I consciously shift my perception of the circumstance I find myself in (even only slightly), I can often accomplish what I formerly thought of as ‘impossible’! I am choosing that uneasiness will be the signal that it’s time to begin paying deeper attention, to become more present to what is happening right in front of me, as well as to my reaction. It’s time to bounce back with a new outlook, open to new possibilities. That is the true definition of resilience---the ability to adapt and recover after confronting a stressor. I am changing my emotional fabric to become more adaptable to what is happening now.
I now continually ask myself how I can spring back, not just to my original mental
state, but one that is more awake, more present, more creative…more alive? And
equally important, what do I do when I am stuck? Surprisingly, what I have come to realize is that resilience is about being more gentle with myself, rather than being tougher.
When I slow down my breath and allowed myself to get still, even for just a
millisecond, I am surprised to experience a sense of gratitude for what is
Here’s the golden nugget: If we face life’s challenges with the right mindset, we
not only transcend the problem, we transform ourselves. By using discomfort as a
wakeup call to come into the present moment, we are better able to solve problems,
to be present for our co-workers or loved ones and to see the situation at hand in a
A few important things to note:
Recognize that resilience is made up of dichotomies; the importance of
support and encouragement from your tribe, and the ability to nurture
yourself; the will and determination to get things done and the ability to
replenish your personal stores; the willingness to go through the strong
uncomfortable feelings and the knowledge when it is time to
temporarily put them aside to take care of what is in front of you that
Resilience takes daily practice. How can you fill your reserves of inner
resilience each day, so that your resilience ‘bank account’ is full when
you most need it?
Your angst is your liberation. How can you practice reaching for the
message that underlies the uncomfortable emotions? No matter what
you’re feeling during a challenging time--whether it’s anger, frustration,
disappointment, worry, or fear--there is a message in that emotion. If
you can understand the message, it will help you through the challenge.
Resilience is a mindset. How can you shift, even just a little bit, in your
perception of a setback, to ‘bounce back’ by completely shifting your
perspective--- ask yourself: is there any way that a positive outcome can
arise from this situation? And if you find the yes, how can you make that