What do you do when you get punched?
I’m not talking about a physical beating. I’m talking about the metaphorical pummeling you sometimes receive courtesy of life’s circumstances.
Let’s take an American mythological hero and use his example metaphorically. Let’s take some lessons from the legend of Rocky Balboa (spoilers ahead if you’ve been living in a bomb shelter for the last 40 years and haven’t seen Rocky).
At the end of Rocky, the hero doesn’t win the fight. His opponent, Apollo Creed, is declared the winner. But Rocky—his face battered and eyes swollen shut after a grueling battle—is elated.
Why? Because despite the countless punches he took, Rocky accomplished what he set out to achieve: to prove to himself he wasn’t the “bum” other people called him.
As psychiatrist Viktor Frankl pointed out to us through the creation of logotherapy, we may not be able to control what happens to us, but we can control how we react to what happens.
Rocky chose to see his fight with Apollo as a victory, because he met his own conditions for victory. He had created a clear idea of what he wanted to accomplish, and decided it was worth the struggle.
Rocky’s goal of going toe-to-toe with a powerful opponent for 15 rounds gave him the resilience to keep fighting.
Resilience, and How to Build It
According to the American Psychological Association, resilience is “the process of adapting in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress.”
And just like physical exercise builds your body’s resilience, you can also build your mental and emotional resilience.
The discipline of positive psychology outlines a number of ways to increase your ability to bounce back from traumatic experiences. A primary method is Dr. Barbara Fredrickson’s “broaden-and-build” approach. It focuses on balancing negative emotions with positive emotions.
In other words, it means developing a strong habit of seeking the proverbial “silver lining.” For Rocky, his silver lining in the face of loss was the achievement of a different goal.
When difficult situations arise, here’s some steps you can take so you don’t get overwhelmed and give up (be sure to download the Build Your Resilience Worksheet):
- Take a good look at the negativity: don’t ignore, suppress, or be ashamed of your negative feelings. They’re a natural part of life. Let yourself experience them. This makes them less intimidating and more manageable.
- Look for potential benefits/positive outcomes: think about what you could learn from your circumstances. At the very least, you’ll be wiser and stronger when it’s over.
- Remember past accomplishments and acknowledge y0ur power: think about other difficult times in your life and how you overcame them. Acknowledge your power to rise above life’s challenges.
- Focus your energy on a solution mindset: instead of dwelling on the bad, turn your thoughts toward finding ways to solve of your current situation.
Remember, it’s not about blindly thinking “everything is just fine.” It’s about respecting the role of the positive and negative.
Ultimately, resilience is about acknowledging the bad, using the good for balance, and the healthy perspective that a full life includes both sides.
Real True Grit
Resilience is often referred to as grit. However, don’t confuse grit with some macho garbage about being hard and uncaring. You can have grit and still be receptive and open to others. As a matter of fact, another resource for resilience is cultivating strong relationships.
Resilience isn’t about just taking the punches life throws at you. It’s not about become grizzled and tough to the point of becoming apathetic, unfeeling, and closed off to the world.
Resilience is about how you respond, how you bounce back. It all boils down to your attitude of elasticity!
Here’s a list of additional resilience resources: