The Resiliency Factor - How to Bounce Back When Life Hands You Lemons

Mike and Bill graduated with PhD’s at the same time from the same University.  After hundreds of applications, they started their first real jobs in a one year contract position with the same organization.

Unfortunately, after the year was up, both were not renewed due to major cutbacks and reorganization.

Both of them took the news hard and were extremely disappointed.  Over the next 2 weeks they were feeling lost and unsure of their next steps. Mike immediately updated his resume and started to connect with his network. He told himself, “This is not about me.  The economy is down and the government is making massive cuts.  I am very well qualified in my field.  I just need to look for opportunities.”  He ended up getting 3 interviews and 6 months later, moved into a full-time positon.

Bill was bitter and held a grudge against his past employer.  He blamed himself and thought he was let go because he could not perform under pressure.  He said that it would take years for the economy to rebound and felt hopeless.

Nine months later he was depressed and lost hope of ever finding work.

He had gained over 40 pounds, was turning grey and looked 10 years older than his real age.  He struggled in short term jobs and 3 years later secured a position in another province.

Why are these people so different?  It is their ability to be resilient or bounce back.  Some people are able to get over major hurdles in life such as job loss, major change with work, loss of a loved one or serious illness, while others have difficulty coping.

Generally, over time, most people can adapt well to changing situations.

It involves resilience and a series of steps which include a strategy to keep going.  The following are some bounce back strategies. 

  1. Change is Life – Get over it and go with the flow.  We cannot control what is happening.  Change is like the seasons.  We can fight the cold weather and complain or take up winter sports or if we are fortunate, go for a winter vacation somewhere warm  It is important to understand that change and resiliency is part of the natural process of life.  Learn to accept it and move on. 
  2. Reach Out and Seek Support - Resilience studies show that people are more resilient when they have strong support networks of friends and family to help them cope with a crisis and also support each other in the workplace.  But you can get an even bigger resilience boost by giving support. In a 2017  study of psychological resilience among American military veterans, higher levels of gratitude, altruism and a sense of purpose predicted resiliency. “Any way you can reach out and help other people is a way of moving outside of yourself, and this is an important way to enhance your own strength,” said Dr. Southwick. “Part of resilience is taking responsibility for your life, and for creating a life that you consider meaningful and purposeful. It doesn’t have to be a big mission — it could be your family. As long as what you’re involved in has meaning to you, that can push you through all sorts of adversity.”
  3. Perceptions – We may start out by looking at a situation, from our own point of view and may not see the complete picture.  But as we examine the situation more closely and have discussions with others, we can begin to see things differently.  Keep in mind that perceptions can be difficult to change after our first impression, so flexibility comes into play. By being open to perceptions, or ability to be resilient becomes easier.
  4. Setting Goals with a Specific Purpose – By consciously setting purposeful goals, it gives us direction and focus.  It gives us a reason to move forward.  When faced with a difficult decision, think about what is most important to me?  What am I moving towards?  Does this action take me closer or further away from my goal?
  5. How Significant Will this Event be 5 Years from Now?  Consider what you are going through.  Will this event be a mountain in your life that had a major impact, or will it be a small mole hill?  Will you even remember this event 5 years from now?  While some people tend to dramatize, and overreact to the mole hills in life, we can learn to be more resilient by thinking about its relevancy.  Rather than viewing this problem as an unsurmountable scenario, think about some creative ways to deal with it.
  6. Use Visualization – Close your eyes and visualize what it be like when your goal has been achieved. Make the goal as clear as possible.  What do you see, hear, feel, taste, and touch?  Athlete Peter Vidmar practiced his gymnastics routine in the gymnasium for years as if he was performing in front of the 1984 Olympic judges.  He visualized 13,000 people in their seats and another 200 million people watching on television.  He lived and breathed this scene each day.  However, when the actual Olympics took place, he pictured himself practicing his routine in his local gymnasium like he had done hundreds of times before.  It is not surprising that this athlete won gold!  What does your big life goal look like when you have accomplished it?
  7. Discover yourself – What activities are you interested in or attracted to?  Make a list.  This exercise will give you a chance to figure out what you need to focus on.  Does this change in life help or hinder your movement towards your focus?  When driving a car, we are told to focus on where we want to go to avoid an accident, rather than the object in front of us. By discovering ourselves, we are better able to put our attention on what really matters and bounce forward towards this direction.

By practicing these 7 different strategies, it will help you bounce back even after the most difficult situation in your life.

More details on the application of the Resiliency Factor strategy can be learned during the half day workshop on this topic.

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