Resilience is one of the most important factors in your ability to be successful. It’s the ability to bounce back from hardship, to learn rather than to give up, to bend rather than break. Due to its guaranteed uncertainty, life requires an immense amount of resilience—in every aspect. Without it, we try to control the uncontrollable environment through resistance to change and an understandable—but immature and futile—demand for personal preference.
We can learn a lot about resilience from top athletes in extreme professional sports such as mountain climbers and triathletes. When they are close to the end of their event—when they are exhausted physically, mentally and about to feel the loss emotionally—they know how to center themselves, calm their emotions, create absolute focus and bring forth an extra level of strength from the fumes left in their tank to achieve their desired outcome. Sometimes they win, other times they lose, but they have the resilience to compete at a level reserved for the very few.
1. Cooperation is more powerful than resistance.
Cooperation is about going with the flow and using the energy of that flow to change the direction of the motion at play. This is what surfers do to ride the biggest waves in the world. It’s also what martial artists use when meeting their opponents—cooperating with the energy of movement, stepping aside and using that momentum to redirect the attacking move to their favor.
Cooperation is often viewed as acquiescence or giving up control. But in fact, as martial arts inform us, it is absolute control to cooperate and redirect negative situations into positive outcomes and opportunities. Solid businesses do this all the time, as the popular phrase states: Make lemonade out of lemons. Netflix made this transition when Blockbuster stayed stuck. Now we are witnessing businesses that pivoted and thrived during the pandemic while others went out of business.
How you spend your energy is key to resilience. Do you waste your energy in endless frustration and resistance against things not going the way you planned or the way you wanted them to go or can you adapt, cooperate and redirect your energy for your benefit?
2. Create and use a personal picture of success.
A picture of success is different than a vision statement, even though they are similar and often overlap. A vision statement tells you where you expect to be in the future. A picture of success reflects where you want to be a year from now, but focuses more attention on how you are “showing up differently” to embody who you need to be in order to achieve a transformation.
A picture of success is a valuable resource to lean on so that you don’t get caught in the overwhelming feelings from an unexpected crisis.
3. Develop resilient habits.
Top performing athletes create and practice performance habits that are ideal for winning in their sport. They do this because they don’t want to have to think of what to do when stressed, exhausted or overwhelmed. Habits can be mental, emotional and/or physical. Some examples of commonly used habits for resilience include:
- Practice mindfulness or meditation regularly
- Learn from a mistake instead of criticizing yourself for it
- Practice positive thoughts in the midst of negative situations (i.e., “Everything works out for me in the long run.”)
- Slow yourself down and take a breath to calm your nerves when emotionally triggered
- Create a gratitude list to keep you feeling satisfied rather than frustrated
- Forgive yourself when you make mistakes to move out of self-criticism
- Take deep breaths on a regular basis throughout the day
- Take walks for breaks instead of eating unhealthy snack foods
- Get a full night of sleep so you feel recovered
4. Develop proactive recovery plans.
Once you find yourself in a crisis, you can feel pressured and overwhelmed. In those situations, you may become very micro-oriented to get yourself out of the current discomfort without necessarily thinking about the long-term ramifications of your decisions.
Top athletes, musicians and dancers develop and practice recovery plans before their live performances because part of being prepared is knowing how to quickly recover during the most difficult unpredictable situations.
From a business perspective, this means not only having contingency plans but also knowing how to bring the right support system together, communicate effectively and make effective decisions for different types of breakdowns. One of the best examples of this was demonstrated by the Institute for Nuclear Power Operations when Japan experienced the crisis in Fukushima.
The senior leadership team for INPO called an emergency meeting and reprioritized their top projects to support Fukushima. By the next day, they had members from every nuclear station in the U.S. providing support for Japan. Six months later, during their evaluation, they not only accomplished all of their top priority projects but also received international recognition and awards for their efforts.
Developing resilience is not something to accomplish, but rather an ongoing process of developing and refining our self-awareness, our beliefs, our habits and our recovery plans. As the world evolves, new challenges will surface and that will require all of us to improve our resilience to address those changes.
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This article was first published as a Forbes Coaches Council Post.