For many of us, life will be full of successes, as well as setbacks, perhaps even tragedy. Because adversity is a fact of life, I believe a good part of living well involves cultivating resilience. In some cases, difficult experiences can even generate growth and transformation. When we move through hardship and reach the other side, we may discover in ourselves strength, courage, gratitude, compassion, perspective, and connection.
Below are questions meant to stimulate your own thinking on the subject and to help you to develop resilience. But first, what is resilience? It is more than endurance or perseverance. After all, we can surmount hardship, only to break down after it is over. Resilience is an ability both to move through adversity and to preserve our capacity to continue to face all of life with its ups and downs.
Although resilience is not a linear process, it may be helpful to think of it through the lens of time – past, present, and future – and to consider some of the elements that influence resilience within this framework.
How we relate to the past?
Acceptance: Do we accept the hard truth of what has happened? Or do we avoid or resist it?
Interpretation: Do we interpret events accurately? Or do we tell ourselves that things will never get better, that the blame is entirely ours, that we are failures when we fail, or other falsehoods that erode resilience?
How we experience the present?
Perception: Do we recognize that uncertainty and change are a part of life? Do we perceive our experiences as opportunities to learn?
Emotional range: Can we navigate our emotional flare-ups? Do we have the capacity to
experience difficult emotions that accompany hardship and loss? Or do we tamp them
down or numb ourselves with distractions?
Self-care: Do we exercise, eat well, and get enough sleep? Do we have a community of
family or friends we can celebrate with in good times and lean on in hard times?
How we imagine the future?
Purpose: Are we able to find purpose in adversity, a focus greater than ourselves?
Possibility: When adversity closes off some possibilities, are we able to enlist our
imagination to identify other opportunities and our resourcefulness to execute them?
Resilience can be cultivated through attention and practice. These questions can help you to notice how your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors affect your capacity for resilience and to identify areas that may require additional attention. Organizing some of the elements of resilience by timeframe may help you to see patterns that promote or erode resilience in your life and work.