Do you know any rubber-band people?
Chances are you do. They’re the people who, no matter what happens to them, always seem to bounce back. They may experience an illness, a family tragedy, or a run of bad luck, but it never seems to keep them down. Life can stretch them to their breaking point, but – like a rubber band – they always find a way back to their original shape.
Would you like to know their secret?
Resilience is the ability of an object to return to form after it’s been bent, stretched or compressed. Think about the stress balls you see on some office desks; no matter how hard you squeeze those things, they always return to their original shape. They have resilience.
People can have resilience too. In fact, I’ve been in leadership a long time, and of all the traits I’ve learned as a leader, perhaps none has been as useful to me as resilience. The ability to bounce back from a setback often makes the difference between losing and winning. As the saying goes, you only lose if you quit!
According to the American Psychology Association, there are several key factors in resilience. The first is healthy relationships – having a community of people who love and support you is an important key to bouncing back from disappointment. This, above all, has the most impact on a person’s level of resilience; the larger the network of support and care, the more able a person is to be resilient.
There are other factors as well. The ability to create and execute realistic plans for the future helps minimize the sense of being stuck in our pain. And on those days when you’re tempted to believe you are worthless, the ability to have a positive view of yourself as well as a healthy self-confidence can keep you from falling further into depression. It’s often helpful – and not at all shameful – to talk through problems with a credible counselor. And learning to manage those times when our emotions threaten to overwhelm us plays a huge role in our ability to heal.
But resilience isn’t easy to learn; first of all, the learning process requires something difficult to happen to you. You might lose a business deal. You may develop a devastating illness. You may lose a loved one or a close friend. Second, you have to choose to overcome the setback. That requires a level of personal commitment and discipline. You have to get up every day, face your setback, and determine to not let it beat you.
It’s not an overnight process. In fact, it can take quite a bit of time living on the razor’s edge. But it can be done.
So how do you develop resilience?
Here are four ways:
There is no setback so severe that you cannot recover in some way, but it takes a certain mindset to make that recovery possible. I speak often of failing forward—learning from mistakes in order to become better. That same mindset is critical for resilience. You cannot let your setbacks defeat you; you have to look to them for lessons, along with insights into yourself and your circumstances. It’s hard – especially when the setback is something you didn’t cause – but you can find wisdom in even the most difficult circumstances.
Commit to Growth
This is a natural outcome of choosing to fail forward. When you start looking for lessons, you set yourself on a path for personal growth. As you learn about yourself in your struggles, you also learn about the people around you. You begin to reflect on what you want from life, and what it would cost to get you there. The best leaders already have a commitment to personal growth, but it’s easy to lose that drive when life disappoints you. You have to commit again to growing each day – and then focus on getting better one day at a time.
Recognize the Value of Adding Value
I have long quoted Zig Ziglar, who said, “If you’ll help others get what they want, they’ll help you get what you want.” Usually when I talk about adding value, I’m inviting people to invest in others, to give in order to help others succeed. But I don’t often talk about the second part of Zig’s statement. There are times in your life when what you need most is for others to add value to you. When you experience a difficult setback, those you’ve invested in will want to return the favor. Let them. Let the value you’ve given to others return to you and help you through your dark hours. You’ll emerge stronger – and more committed to adding value to others in the future.
Find Strength Beyond Yourself
I’m going to address an area that may not be of interest to some readers. If that’s true of you, you can still take away a lot of value from my previous points, and I hope you do. But for me, when things get to their most difficult, there is only one place for me to turn—and that’s to God. Sometimes life is filled with challenges that stretch us so far that we fear we may never snap back. You may find yourself struggling to make sense of your emotions, your thoughts, your very place in this world. Times like these require more than human strength. In the dark moments, I encourage you, bring your pain to God. He knows not only how to comfort you, but to bring you through the pain and into a new and better life. And if you reach out to Him, He will bring you through.
Life has no shortage of difficulties, but the good news is that no matter how difficult things may get, you can bounce back. That’s the beauty of resilience. No matter how many setbacks you’ve faced in your life, it’s never too late to cultivate resilience. You too can grow to become a “rubber-band person,” someone who bounces back from setbacks every time.