In life, we will face obstacles that might challenge our mindset and perseverance. Some of these challenges bring us up or down. That’s why resilience is a crucial ingredient to success in life; it enables us to push forward in our goals no matter how hard things might get.
Here are real life examples of resilience from professionals that we can all learn from:
Professional Problem Solver and Relationship Expert | Author, “Toxic Person Proof: Clear the Confusion and Learn to Trust Yourself“
Getting clarity on one real problem is a step forward
“How do I help them?” I asked myself aloud as I ended yet another phone call.
I’d been talking to women who experienced controlling and toxic relationships, and I could see how stuck they were. They were brave enough to talk about their past, but I knew having these women verbalize their problems wasn’t the same as helping them solve them.
Related: How to Let Go of the Past and Move On
Telling their story was a great first step, but changing their story was what they desperately needed. I knew my purpose was to help them, but if I was honest with myself, I, too, was missing something. I was tired of getting off the phone and crying to my husband because I couldn’t talk a woman into choosing herself.
After the emotionally-infused conversations with these women, I was going back to a life of peace, comfort, and support. They were going back to a life of chaos, control, and confusion.
I remembered living like that. I remembered never knowing what mood someone was going to be in when I walked in the door or answered the phone. I remember carefully articulating every word I would say, hoping that if I said something the perfect way at the perfect time, it wouldn’t erupt into a fight.
I remember thinking that tomorrow would be better if I just got through today. I remember telling myself it had to get better.
Yet, it didn’t.
So eventually, when I couldn’t make things outside myself better, I decided to make things inside myself better. I stopped focusing on who and what I could not change and started focusing on what I could influence.
I took a real look at my life and saw how bad things had become. Making necessary changes, I cut off one relationship and then another and stopped talking to people who didn’t have ears willing to hear. I found a new tribe and relished in fresh beginnings.
I cut my hair, so when I looked in the mirror I could remind myself that I was different now. I also added my middle initial to my name, so I could remember all the changes I had made when I looked at my driver’s license or wrote a signature. I stood a little taller and smiled at a few more strangers.
I started over.
At first, things got a little better, and then they got a lot better. Eventually, I found them when I asked, “What problem are you trying to solve?” I knew what I had done, and I knew I could now help these women improve their own lives if I could just find the words to get them unstuck.
When I would originally say, “Tell me a bit about your story,” it reminded people of their sorrow. It asked them to remember the things they couldn’t control: the childhood abuse, the destructive faith leader, the boss who was a tyrant, or the lover who was anything and everything other than loving.
When I changed my language and instead asked, “What problem are you trying to solve?” people began to remember they were problem solvers. They fired up the neural pathways that had solved other problems in their lives and started thinking strategically. Victims have a past, but problem solvers have a future.
Asking this question changed everything for those women on the phone, and so it changed everything for me, too.
- They began looking toward a future rather than retelling a past.
- They dropped the denial and took a real look at what was going on in the present.
But, what helped the most, was that they were able to face it with a sense of direction. They began to identify it as a problem solver, and we were able to spend the rest of the conversation partnering on solutions rather than lamenting about tragedies.
Asking myself, “What problem are you trying to solve?” has helped me get unstuck in my own life, as well. I used to see my problems as a big clump of spaghetti, interwoven, mixed up, and messy. I couldn’t take action on one problem because that problem was so caught up in my other problems.
Getting clarity on the one real problem I am trying to solve helps me step forward when I am afraid.
It helps me:
- know what the next right thing is, even if the next right thing is scary
- get back up when I get knocked down
- become resilient, and being a resilient problem solver always beats feeling stuck.
Founder & CEO, Mavens & Moguls
With resilience, you increase the odds to pivot, recover and succeed
I started a global branding and digital marketing firm 20 years ago.
For the first five years, I was scared to go on vacation for fear all my hard work would unravel. Then my world changed when my in-laws, father, mom, and stepdad all started to get sick, and I wanted to be there for them. They all lived thousands of miles away, so I began to work less.
After years of decline, they each died about eight months apart (seven people in six years), and I became an executrix, which is like having another job at times. So I had to take very good care of myself, or I would not have been helpful to anyone else.
I moved up by working out every day. I started planning Me time on my calendar. I became more comfortable with white space in my day and stopped over-scheduling myself. And guess what? My business did not suffer; it has become more assertive. We moved up the food chain and have better clients.
I am so much happier and more productive as an entrepreneur than I ever was working for others. Something good came from something bad. I do not think I could ever go back.
It is all about controlling your calendar. I no longer try to squeeze in more meetings or hit multiple events at night. As an entrepreneur, I can be selective. Less is really more. I’ve chosen quality over quantity. It sounds trivial, but it is true.
I think I have found my purpose because I used to work all the time and life passed me by. I got raises and promotions, but I was all work and no play, and I did not feel fulfilled. I created a platform to do work I enjoy and to feel energized by.
Since starting my business, I have joined boards and volunteered at several organizations. I mentor the next generation of leaders and have helped build a very successful anti-bullying program that >150,000 middle school-aged kids have gone through.
As a marketing consultant, I can write articles, contribute to books and speak at events to share my experience and lessons learned.
Covid has definitely made me and my business more resilient. Pivoting to online meetings, webinars, etc., is a smart and productive way companies can continue to have conversations that educate and inform, build relationships, and move forward during this crisis period.
So first and foremost, I have learned to help small businesses be flexible and open-minded so we can keep working together during the crisis and create more flexible capacity going forward over the next year as the economy reopens.
Related: How to Be Open Minded (9 Examples)
In my experience, resilience is the key trait for entrepreneurial success, which has led me to focus on:
- Persistence/determination — a lot of people tell you “no” (investors, board, customers, etc.), so you have to be driven and learn to say “no” to distractions. You cannot pursue every opportunity, so be selective and concentrate on only those ideas with the greatest potential say “no” to everything else
- Learning — intensely curious and always looking for the next way to make something better
- Listening — to customers, critics, feedback, the market, and your team to show respect for great talent and ideas
- Communication — there has never been a more important time to provide accurate, empathetic communication with transparency, truthfulness, and timeliness
- Strong moral compass — you cannot compromise on ethics and values
- Bonus — great sense of humor and fun to work with
These are what make the most significant difference between success and failure, I think, because the road is always bumpy, and you know you will have to overcome obstacles along the way. With resilience, you increase the odds to pivot, recover and succeed.
Resilience Researcher | Author, “Change-Proof — Leveraging the Power of Uncertainty to Build Long-Term Resilience”
In calm, measured tones, he spoke about the need to move on
When I think of real-life examples of resilience, one name that comes to mind is Monty Williams, the NBA head coach for the Phoenix Suns.
In 2016, when he was a coach with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Monty’s 44-year-old wife, Ingrid, the mother of his five children, was killed. A woman with meth in her system and a dog in her lap crossed the median on a highway in downtown Oklahoma City going over 90 miles an hour, and crashed into the Williams family van.
The impaired driver, Susannah Donaldson, and her pet both died on impact. The three children in the vehicle with Ingrid survived, but she succumbed to her injuries the next day.
Within a week, Williams delivered the eulogy at Ingrid’s funeral in front of his five children and almost a thousand members of the NBA community. Monty spoke for over seven minutes with almost superhuman control without referring to his notes or losing his composure. It was a lesson in dignity and grace under pressure.
In calm, measured tones, he spoke about forgiveness and about the need to move on. Even at his lowest moment, he was living out his resilience. Because that’s what Ingrid taught him through the faithful example, she set for him and their children.
Markers of resilience
The American Psychological Association defines resilience as “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or even significant sources of threat.”
Researchers Dennis Charney of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York and Steven Southwick at the Yale School of Medicine analyzed the resilience of people who had experienced traumatic events like war, sexual abuse, acts of terror or natural disasters. They also asked them simply how they dealt with the awful things that happened to them.
They found that some folks who experienced tragedy eventually suffered from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Others had mild symptoms of trauma that went away after a while.
Still, others had no symptoms of psychological distress or depression. Their research identified the main factors marked for resilience:
- Attention to health and good cardiovascular fitness
- Capacity to rapidly recover from stress
- A history of mastering challenges
- High coping self-efficacy—our belief in our own ability to succeed
- Disciplined focus on skill development
- Cognitive flexibility—the ability to reframe adversity in a positive light
- Positive emotion and optimism
- Loving caretakers and sturdy role models
- The ability to regulate emotions
- Strong social support
- Commitment to a valued cause or purpose
- Capacity to extract meaning from adverse situations
- Support from religion and spirituality
We often think of resilience as something a person has or doesn’t have, but that’s not the case. None of the 14 markers of resilience are genetic predispositions. They’re practical, actionable steps you can take to build resilience before you need it.
Resilience can be learned and practiced. The key is to establish resilience rituals to replenish your reserves before you need to draw upon them.
Jela Begonja Kovacevic, CPCC, ACC, CPQC, MBA
Leadership and Systems Coach | Facilitator, Fierce Courage Coaching
I moved past the anger and disappointment—I made a conscious choice to focus on the things I have
The level of uncertainty and dramatic circumstances we are facing in everyday life now is beyond our wildest imagination.
We have never been faced with such chaos and unpredictability, which has disrupted our lives in more ways than we can imagine, from our work, family life, social life, married life, travel, and leisure time. The list goes on.
I want to remind myself and others that we are always at choice in how we respond to these disruptions, and we design our lives based on how we handle these disruptions.
December is an exciting time of the year. However, this year there was a little twist to the plot. Skyrocketing Covid cases worldwide flooded the news, numbers we have not seen before during this crazy pandemic time.
Early on during the pandemic, I would hear of people I knew who had the virus, but this time it seemed like every other person I knew managed to get hit. Still, I remained calm, optimistic, and very much looking forward to spending time with my family during the holidays.
Then overnight, everything changed for me.
Four days before Christmas, I tested positive for Covid and all of my preparations and planning for the holidays went out the window. I was in my basement, in isolation, away from my family.
My emotions flooded after processing what had happened and notifying all the people I had contact with. I felt guilt and shame — as if I had done something wrong. I noticed myself constantly apologizing as I contemplated possibly making someone sick.
A part of me felt this incredible shame and guilt for disrupting the lives of the people I had been in contact with, even though I knew this could’ve happened to anyone. I felt judged and created a story in my head that they would blame me for what “I had done.”
The next phase of emotions was disappointment and anger. I was so angry that this virus, which has disrupted our lives for the last two years, has now ruined my favorite time of the year for the second year in a row. I kept hearing a little voice inside of my head:
- “why me, why now…”
- “when will this end…”
- “I can’t take it anymore, I’ve had enough…” and so on.
After the anger and the feelings of heartbreak, disappointment, and helplessness subdued, I began to think, “If this was one of my clients, what would I do?” How could I help them deal with this reality without discrediting their feelings while at the same time making them realize that not all was doomed?
As I began to think, I realized something that shifted my energy and perspective. I realized that I did not lose total control.
One thing that I still had was how I would respond and see my situation. I realized that nothing would change the fact that I had to spend Christmas in my basement. Playing the victim, being angry and disappointed would not change anything — it would only negatively impact my health and wellbeing.
Related: How to Recognize and Overcome Victim Mentality
See, I’m not trying to be a toxic positive — the belief that no matter how bad a situation is, you should always maintain a positive mindset. I am not saying we must always ‘stay positive.’
What I’m trying to say is that, even though I found myself in a completely difficult situation, I was angry and disappointed because of what had happened, and staying in that frame of mind would not change my reality. It would not make me feel any better.
So, instead, after expressing and processing my feelings, I decided to do all the things I thought I would put off until after the holidays:
- I caught up on a lot of work,
- Finished reading a book,
- Listened to some podcasts,
- Did yoga, and
- I journaled about my experiences, thoughts, and emotions.
Some of the things I captured in my journal are things I wanted to share in this article. This led me to:
- We always have a choice
Remember, we always have a choice on how we see circumstances and disruptions that life brings. And how we respond to them is our choice.
- Let yourself feel what you need to feel
Let yourself feel what you need to feel, don’t try to suppress or deny your feelings. When you are hurt, angry, disappointed, scared, uncertain, sad — feel it all, vent, scream and do what you need to do in order to express your emotions.
Related: How to Deal with Emotional Pain
While I was in my basement, I cried, screamed, called my friends, my family, and my coach to vent, to complain to express my feelings of being the victim — and then when I expressed what I needed to express, I felt lighter, better, calmer and ready to move on.
You see, we need to express our emotions when we are in a state of pain and suffering. Victoria Tarratt, a clinical psychologist, has said that suppressing emotions can have long-term effects on our bodies, such as the increased risk of diabetes and heart diseases.
She said avoiding emotions will lead to problems with our blood pressure, memory, anxiety, aggression, self-esteem, and depression — and not acknowledging our emotions could actually make them stronger, i.e., it will lead to an emotional outburst.
- Remember to be grateful
I know that sometimes this is easier to be said than done — especially with the current situation surrounding the global pandemic, but in the midst of the suffering, the drama, and the trauma there is always something to be grateful for — being grateful changes the chemistry of your brain.
When we practice gratitude our brain releases dopamine and serotonin, which are two hormones that make us feel happier, said Christopher Littlefield in his article Use Gratitude to Counter Stress and Uncertainty (Harvard Business Review).
Gratitude is an emotion and a feeling that increases happiness and enhances both physical and mental health.
So how do we practice more gratitude?
Well, we can shift our focus to the things that we do have instead of focusing on what we don’t have. Although, I can respect that in the face of grief, uncertainty, suffering this can be harder to do — yet it is still possible.
Another great way to practice gratitude is to keep a gratitude journal and create small habits or routines around practicing gratitude, such as saying one thing you are grateful for when you brush your teeth in the morning or the last thing you say before going to sleep at night.
I could have very well stayed in my negative spiral thoughts as I spent Christmas all by myself in my situation above. However, after acknowledging and experiencing my emotions, I moved past the anger and the disappointment.
Related: How to Get Rid of Negative Thoughts?
Instead, I made a conscious choice to focus on the things I did have — a wonderful family that loved me and did everything in their power to make me feel like I was not alone, I was safe in my own home, relatively healthy, had food on the table and an opportunity to rest, recharge and reflect on all the things I wanted to achieve in 2022.
Remembering all the things I was grateful for shifted my mood, my energy and my perspective about my status quo.
Looking at the current situation surrounding the global pandemic, we don’t know what tomorrow will bring. But one thing I do know is life can be a lot more enjoyable if we want it to be despite the chaos and uncertainty life brings.
So, as you make your way into 2022, remember you are always at choice how you respond to life, acknowledge and experience your feelings — expressing them are vital for your health. And practice gratitude — gratitude will make you happier, healthier, and more productive.
Television Producer | Talent Agent, Ross Shafer
Ignoring danger will add more risk and erase joy
I should have died when a red pickup truck T-boned me broadside. Luckily, my limp 105-pound body was launched across a busy intersection. I say “lucky” because the bike I was riding had become tangled beneath the truck’s chassis and was dragged for three miles.
When my 21-year-old body left Earth, the event was happening in slow motion. Mid-air, I could have sworn a giant hand caught me like a fly ball in a kidskin glove. I genuinely believe that an act of God, “the hand,” cushioned my fall. That’s how catechism colors you.
I landed on the hot pavement and skipped like a river stone to the other side of the street. Implausible but true, a paramedic truck was parked nearby. Everything after that was hazy.
I woke up in a hospital emergency room, surrounded by the scuttle of doctors and nurses. One nurse was scrubbing the right side of my face with an abrasive pad. I didn’t feel pain—but I will never forget the smell of baby shampoo.
This woman’s job was to clean the “road rash” (aka the pavement particles) still embedded in my face. I suffered a severe head injury. I had broken bones, shattered molars, and my skin was shredded.
Piecing it all back together, I had the green walk signal—yet the entire incident was my fault. I was totally distracted by my ambitions. To graduate in 3 1/2 years (with a degree in journalism), I orchestrated a one-semester jump on my classmates.
Obtaining that early diploma meant stacking my classes practically on top of one another. I bought a badass bike to cut down on my time between classes. Feeling fast and furious, I crossed a familiar intersection (without looking right or left) focused on arriving at the Clark Building ten minutes early for my finals.
I would have made it except for… smack! The truck. If I had not been so distracted over saving a few ticks by riding my bike to class, I could have forgone my young life’s most frightening hospital visit.
I was able to recover, get back to work and graduate early. I covered the scars on my forehead with my bangs. I nailed down an on-air television job soon after graduation. I was wrong about time being my enemy. Time was what healed my wounds.
Time became my best friend who taught me perspective. I am still busy and ambitious, but I can now recognize when the distraction beast is taunting me. Still, every time I look in the mirror, pull my bangs aside and see the scars, I’m reminded that my worst distraction was me. I nearly got myself killed.
I’m more aware of other motorists now. I actually wrangle with passengers to let me do the driving. Beyond that, I am focused on a thousand potential threats when I’m with my daughters. You know, like kidnappers hiding under cars, driving alone at night, and not engaging with aggressive road rage drivers.
While this might sound a little paranoid to you, the near-death lesson I carry with me to this day is, “Allison, look around. Ignoring danger will add more risk and erase joy.”
Margaret J. King, Ph.D.
Cultural Analyst | Director, The Center for Cultural Studies & Analysis
The entire world is showing incredible resilience
As a cultural analyst, I’d comment that the entire world is showing incredible resilience well into the second year of a pandemic no one really understands. As Winston Churchill put it in the middle of WWII, “When you’re going through Hell, keep going.“
I think that resilience on the global scale might also have a stress-out limit. This is what we see in the news coverage of large-scale protests of government quarantine and masking regulation—from Bulgaria to Australia.
The public perception of repression is really what is making the pandemic a test of mass patience as we enter the third year of resilience-testing on a world scale.
SGA President, McLean High School | Executive Director and Founder, Non-Profit Cancer Kids First
I reciprocated my loss on a larger scale
After losing my grandfather and elementary school teacher to cancer, two of my biggest role models, I battled grief for a long time.
However, their losses also made me realize the number of people affected by cancer. I vowed to honor the kindest people I knew by giving back to kids with cancer. Both of them were teachers and created a loving environment for their students.
I wanted to reciprocate this on a larger scale. And so, the 501c3 nonprofit organization Cancer Kids First was born; I became a CEO and founder at 14.
In 2 years, CKF has grown to over 18,000 members in 45 countries and has donated 15,000 resources to 55 partner hospitals, sent 20,000 cards to patients in 14 countries, and has raised $25,000 for oncology units in low-income hospitals. We’ve also held multiple personalized Zoom events for patients to remind them of the community they have behind them.
Michael O’Brien, PCC
Resilience Expert | Executive Coach, Pause Breathe Reflect
I developed a mindfulness practice and G.R.A.C.E.
“How’s my bike?” That was the question I asked the E.M.T.s. They said it was fine and encouraged me to “try to breathe.”
A speeding S.U.V. just hit me head-on during a bike training ride. My doctors have no idea how I survived, let alone planning to ride my bike across America this summer to celebrate twenty-one years since the day I call, My Last Bad Day.
During my recovery, I developed a mindfulness practice and G.R.A.C.E. It stands for gratitude, reframe, acceptance, community, and energy.
Related: 18 Best Mindfulness Books
It helped me focus on what is working in my life rather than what isn’t. It reframed my perspective from “Why did this happen to me” to “How did this happen for me?“
We all need community. It invited me to accept what happened rather than fight it and helped me see that I couldn’t recover independently. Finally, it focused my energy on the things that truly matter.
Today, when things get tough, I remember the advice from my E.M.T.s. I pause, come back to my breath, and reflect. In my moments of reflection, I embrace G.R.A.C.E. and realize that I can do hard things because I’ve survived one hundred percent of my challenging moments.
I have the strength to rise, get back on the bike, and start pedaling again.
Amy Armstrong, LISW, PCI Certified Parent Coach®
Authoritative Coach and Communications Expert | Co-founder, The Center for Family Resolution
Resilience is creating a new outlook based on all we’ve learned through adversity
Resilience is the number one key to business success, according to Forbes. In a recent study by TheResilience Institute as reported in Forbes.com, depression symptoms went down by 33% to 44% with resilience training.
During the current Covid-19 pandemic, 1 in 3 workers are considering changing careers if they are under 40 years old, and 1 in 5 are considering changing careers among those of all ages, according to a recent article in the Washington Post.
Resilience keeps us in the mindset of knowing we are not stuck or limited by what we have done in the past. This applies to work and relationships, finances, and lifestyle choices.
Resilience is about growth, not returning to normal.
While most people think of resilience as “bouncing back,” I refer to it as creating a new outlook based on all we have learned through adversity. It’s connected to having a growth mindset of possibility rather than limitations.
I work almost exclusively with parents in high-conflict situations, often in custody battles in court. It’s the perfect place to observe how resilience plays out under stress.
I can predict which couples will do well during divorce and which ones won’t.
The ones that get through court without draining their bank accounts and leaving the kids to suffer in the middle of the conflict are the ones that can picture a new chapter for themselves.
They put their energy into being pro-me, not anti-ex, and they look to creative solutions to problems rather than being stuck in blame mode for what has happened in the past.
Howard Rankin, Ph.D.
Communication and Cognitive Neuroscience Expert | Host, “How Not to Think” Podcast | Author, ”I Think Therefore I Am Wrong”
The sooner you accept the reality of where you are, the better
I was a very respected psychologist until eight years ago when I lost my state license after a brief consensual relationship with a former client. My book, Falling to Grace: The Art and Science of Redemption, tells what one has to do in such situations.
The various challenges in these situations resemble the stages of grief outlined by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. To be resilient requires using specific strategies to manage these stages.
Human beings are storytellers, and it’s very common for us to deny that there’s a problem, or in a case like mine, believe you are a victim of other people’s unfairness.
In my almost four decades as a practicing clinical psychologist, every felon I interviewed blamed other people for their predicament. You can’t do that; however, it might be justified by the vagaries of the legal – not justice – system. The sooner you accept the reality of where you are, the better.
Part of the process of dealing with challenges, especially ones you have created, is to believe you can somehow bargain you’re way out of them. Maybe you can, but that is still an unhelpful avoidance strategy.
Managing anger, and other emotions, like frustrations, are a huge part of resiliency. Again, you can be deflected by the unfairness of it all, but that’s a waste of time and energy. It can keep you stuck and prevent you from moving on.
Emotional control is key to resilience.
It takes time to adapt and adjust, and it’s easy to feel that you’re lost and out of control. That’s where planning and support (including professional support) can be very important.
The key to resilience is acceptance, planning, and support, as well as self-compassion, especially if you’re in this mess because of your actions.
Early in my career, I treated a well-known figure in the self-help world. His problem was that he had a wonderful life without any struggles and now, in his mid-forties, just had his first setback. Not only did he not know how to deal with it, but he also blamed himself miserably for it.
Honesty is crucial. Resilience isn’t pretending you didn’t make any mistakes; it’s owning up to them honestly and humbly, and recognizing this is the essential life challenge that we all have to face.
I found my journey to be both very challenging and highly rewarding. I redefined myself and found new outlets for my skills and talents. I have become a coach and award-winning writer and could navigate the challenges that could have easily destroyed me.
Take a step back and prioritize a healthier work-life balance
When I first started my business, my days were very long and stressful, and I often wondered if we would ever see the light at the end of the tunnel.
I was burning out, and I didn’t know if I had much left in me. I didn’t want to become another statistic. But I was inspired by my business partner, and I knew that we could see our business be successful because I wasn’t alone.
We took a step back, and together we decided to prioritize a healthier work-life balance. By making sure I was looking after my physical and mental health, I was able to stay motivated, passionate, and most of all resilient in the face of new business obstacles.
Related: Why Is Work Life Balance so Important in Today’s World?
We worked smarter, not longer. We recently celebrated our one-millionth download, and we have helped our customers save millions of dollars in parking tickets.
My business partner and I are still a team, and because we stayed resilient together, we have managed to become a sought-after company in the legal tech industry.
Author, The Venus Chronicles
I tried to determine what I did wrong
Growing up, I wrote stories to entertain my younger sister. My lifelong dream was to write the great ‘American Novel‘ someday.
I constantly wrote short stories, poems, you name it. Entering contests earned me an ‘honorable mention‘ for select poems. Over the years, I received enough rejection slips to wallpaper my guest bathroom.
Some days I wanted to give up, then found myself writing something else. I read writing magazines, trying to determine what I was doing wrong, and vowing to follow the various tips.
One day, something happened that changed my whole life. It was the day I realized I was wearing the worst bra I owned. Where one strap slipped off my shoulder, pushing it back up, the other one slipped down. Adjusting it to be more comfortable, one of the underwires poked out. Unable to poke it back in, I pulled it out altogether.
That day, I felt lopsided and felt like folks noticed it. On my lunch break, I jotted down what happened in a humorous way and emailed it to a colleague. She asked if she could share with her sister and mother. Other funny day-to-day issues became The Venus Chronicles.
This led to articles in my university’s faculty/staff magazine and other magazines. It took nearly 40 years, but I finally did it. I became a writer and hadn’t looked back since.
Look for the brighter side during tough times
One notable example that I think is good to portray resilience perfectly is how Filipinos react during calamities.
As I have seen in the news, when some regions in the Philippines have been affected by any calamities, they are still capable of smiling and laughing, most especially in front of the cameras and interviews. That’s how resilient Filipinos can be during tough times; they still find a way to look for the brighter side from a deadly situation.
I think this example is a very great projection of resilience that millions of people have witnessed around the world.
Co-founder, Himalayan Writing Retreat | Author, “The Bad Boys of Bokaro Jail“
I rebuilt my life using my experience
I was 42 when I landed in jail. I had had a great corporate career, which included CEO-level roles. Besides, I am honest – so jail wasn’t an expected part of my career path. But jail didn’t break me. In fact, I rebuilt my life and completely transformed it using that experience.
I had moved back to India in 2007 after seven years in the US, having earned my MBA from the Kellogg School of Management. We’d started a family, and professionally the sky was supposed to be the limit.
I had multiple setbacks soon after my return. In 2011, the start-up board I was leading laid me off. The following job I took landed me in jail for a month – I was the fall guy for a case against my employer.
Determined to turn that terrible experience into something positive, I started writing about everything I saw around me. That handwritten scrawl then became a book that Penguin published in 2014 as “The Bad Boys of Bokaro Jail.”
I returned to corporate life after my name was cleared, but I couldn’t connect with the artificiality of it all. The work, the goals, and the sugarcoating all felt false. Because of my conditioning and social pressure, I went through the motions, but my heart wasn’t in it.
Not surprisingly, I was laid off again.
I didn’t care about the stigma or the resume this time around. I knew that another job wasn’t the answer. I wanted to pursue my dreams and transform my whole family’s life for the better.
City life in India came with another curse – my six-year-old son had started wheezing because of the terrible air quality.
The Urban-rural divide is stark everywhere, but particularly so in India. My partner, our two kids, and I packed our bags and left the city for a little village in the Himalayas. Power and internet connectivity was patchy at best. There was nowhere to eat out.
Our rented Himalayan home was one-third of the size of our city house. And imagine not having heating in a place at the altitude of Durango, CO.
The move sounds romantic, but for me, it was tough. I was in a professional vacuum, without a job or income. I enjoy writing, so I started blogging about the move and our experience.
The vacuum also allowed me the freedom and space to experiment with all that I loved – writing, teaching, entrepreneurship, and much else. One of the experiments was to offer a writing course in the Himalayas.
The fact that Penguin published me (Thank you, jail time) helped. My degrees were in Business, so I taught myself writing in earnest. They say the best way to learn something is to teach it, which definitely worked for me. The course was very well received, and we started doing more workshops and slowly building a physical retreat.
Viola Desmond continued advocating for their rights even after the event
Viola Desmond is an incredible example of real-life resiliency.
In 1946, Desmond took a stand for the rights of black citizens in Nova Scotia. During a visit to the Roseland Theatre, she purchased a ticket for the main floor, but the ticket seller handed her a ticket to the balcony instead—the seating generally reserved for non-white customers.
Unknowingly, Desmond made her way to the main floor seat, but the ticket taker challenged her, who informed her that her access was for an upstairs seat and that she would have to sit up there.
Desmond tried to exchange the ticket, but they told her she was not permitted to sit on the main floor due to her skin color. She decided to take a seat on the main floor anyway and was eventually taken to jail.
She continued advocating for black Canadian’s rights even after the event shook her and participated in a trial for her case.
My employee kept working despite the loss
One of my employees is a freelancer who works as a scientist in pharmaceuticals. They lost their spouse to addiction in 2020. Despite that loss, they kept working to the point that they significantly contributed to the FDA approval of a revolutionary oncologic drug at their previous company.
Now they are working at a new company for almost 80% more pay and have started to look to extend their freelance work into a business with several world-renowned clients.
We’ve done it all and kept going
As a small business owner, I would dare say that resilience is second nature to myself and my fellow small business owners, especially after the shutdowns and setbacks of the last two years.
Coming up with creative solutions for staffing issues, trying to stay open during mandates and lockdowns, finding new ways to pay the bills, we’ve done it all and kept going.
The definition of resilience is “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties,” and I would say that every single small business owner that made it through the pandemic still standing embodies that definition.
Owner, Build A Head
Out-of-the-box thinking saved many businesses during the lockdowns
For inspiring stories of resilience, I would urge one to look to the countless small businesses that managed to make it through the lockdowns without having to close their doors permanently.
Many of those business owners spent their personal savings on keeping their business afloat during the shutdown, some trying to run their business out of their homes as they had no other option.
This out-of-the-box thinking saved many of these businesses and is the best example of resilience I can think of.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can resilience help my mental health?
Reduced stress: Resilience can help you cope with stress and adversity, reducing the risk of stress-related mental health problems.
Increased positive emotions: Resilience can help you develop a positive attitude and find meaning and purpose in your experiences, increasing positive emotions and overall well-being.
Improved coping skills: Resilience can help you develop effective coping strategies to better manage difficult emotions and situations.
Increased self-esteem: Resilience can help you develop a sense of mastery and control over your circumstances, boosting your self-esteem and self-confidence.
Better social support: Resilience can help you build strong social networks that can give you emotional support and a sense of belonging.
Can resilience be developed at any age?
Yes, resilience can be developed at any age. Although the ability to build resilience may be influenced by childhood experiences or genetic factors, resilience is a skill that can be learned and strengthened at any stage of life through various therapeutic modalities, self-help techniques, or other forms of education.
It’s never too late to start building resilience—in fact, many people develop resilience later in life after they have had difficult experiences. It may take longer as we get older, but improving our resilience and overcoming adversity is still possible.
With practice, anyone can cultivate the resilience they need to overcome life’s challenges and emerge stronger.
What are the most common misconceptions about resilience?
Resilience is about being tough: Resilience is not about being tough or invincible but rather about being able to recover from setbacks and adapt to change.
Resilience is a fixed trait: Resilience is not a fixed trait but rather a skill that can be developed and strengthened over time.
Resilience means ignoring negative emotions: Resilience is not about ignoring or suppressing negative emotions but instead learning to manage them effectively and finding meaning and purpose in difficult experiences.
Resilience is an individual effort: Resilience is not just an individual effort but can also be fostered through supportive relationships and social connections.
How can technology help build resilience?
Technology can help build resilience by providing access to resources and support networks. Below are some ways technology can help build resilience:
Online support groups: Online support groups can provide emotional support and a sense of community for people facing similar challenges.
Mental health apps: Mental health apps can provide tools and resources for managing stress and building resilience, such as mindfulness meditation exercises and cognitive behavioral therapy techniques.
Teletherapy: Teletherapy can provide access to mental health professionals for people who have difficulty accessing in-person therapy.
Educational resources: Online resources and educational materials can provide information and guidance on building resilience and managing mental health.
How long does it take to build resilience?
Building resilience is a continuous process that takes time and effort, and the duration may vary from person to person. It may also depend on various factors, such as:
Your starting point. If you already have some level of resilience, it may take less time to build on that foundation than if you are starting from scratch.
The intensity of the experience. The more challenging the experience or adversity, the longer it may take to build resilience.
Your motivation level. The more motivated you are to develop resilience, the faster you can build it.
The resources available to you. If you have access to supportive relationships, psychosocial resources, and other tools and resources, it may be easier and faster to build resilience.
For some people, progress can be seen after just a few weeks or months; for others, it may take longer. The key is to be patient, persistent, committed to building resilience, and seek support and resources as needed.
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