Why Resilience Matters and How to Build Yours Now

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Resilience Helps Us Deal With Pain in the Neck Events

While dutifully filling up my Kia Rio, rental car my car keys got locked inside.  How I tell you the rest of the story has the potential of causing stress and strain in my body.  Or it can build my capacity for bouncing back from challenges (resilience).  Of course, daily we face choices about how we share information and where we put the focus.  Whether or not we complain endlessly or find the silver lining is the how we can tell just how resilient we are.

Out of the forces of habit and possibly conditioning, I’ve got to be thoughtful and deliberate to restrain myself from complaining.  I could talk about what I think was an electrical malfunction in that car, the slow wait for help and the less than pleasant environment of being stuck at a convenience store on a busy road.  In another time, I may have gone into the troubling details about my bad experience for days afterward.

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Ability to Bounce Back=Resilience

Enter the notion of resiliency, or the ability to recover and rebound from difficulties.  Beginning around ten years ago, a Minneapolis colleague, Dr. Henry Emmons, was championing building up our ability to be resilient.  Still he teaches folks how to do so.  You can read more about that in my friend, Tom Glaser’s book, “Full Heart Living: Conversations with the Happiest People I Know.”  I’m grateful to both of them for reminding me how important it is to regularly practice putting the attention on what IS working and feels good.  When we do so, we are developing our resilience.  This goes hand in hand with the ability to be happy.

We need reminders to focus on what is working in our lives because there’s a primitive part of our brain that is wired for negativity or expecting the worse. It’s called the negativity bias. It was really needed to stay alive.  Even though we’ve evolved, the wiring is still in place.  This is why we need to make a mindful effort to focus on something positive.

So, please let me introduce you to “Angel Don.”  As I waited for the rental car agency to send help, I sat on the small grassy hill at the end of the parking lot.  It seemed like a nice enough place to wait it out.  My Kia was parked at the other end near Super America’s gas pump number 6.  Don pulled up in his tow truck, near my car.  I walked toward him, smiling, thrilled that he’d gotten there so quickly.  My arms were raised above my head, in a V as I called out, “Hi, I’m so glad you are here.”  Reading his puzzled looks, I learned he was just there to get snacks.  He was not, in fact, the person the car rental agency had sent.  Feeling a little bit silly for my grand greeting, I wished him well and went back to waiting for the official locksmith sent by the rental car company.

As he was pulling out of the Super America, he stopped by my spot and called out, “I’m on lunch break.  I can help you get into your car.”

You see why I call this man, “Angel Don.”

Focusing on this aspect of my lock out story, is how I build the neural networks that I want in my brain; those that go toward goodness and satisfaction.  Sure, I could find a few more things to be upset about with this fiasco.  Instead, why not put my attention of this Good Samaritan who kindly and willingly took the time to be of service?  Furthermore, he was inquisitive, informative and just plain friendly. I find that I feel a lightness and sparkle inside as I further reflect on the exchange we had.

Turns out, it actually takes some practice to become resilient, or able to handle the gritty moments with some grace and ease.  There are many ways to train ourselves to be able to see the angels that are part of even hard circumstances.

Take two minutes to get going on increasing resiliency or your ability to deal with life’s tough stuff with some grace.  Ultimately, you’ll be able to handle even more happiness in your life as you become more resilient.  The following short exercise will get you started.

Try this resilience building tool:

Think or write about your day.  You can do this in your mind’s eye or on paper.  Scan your memory of what’s happened.  Look for gestures of kindness.  Call them to mind and then, pause.  Fill in the story of what was good or caring.  It’s okay to make up or expand the details to build a story that is more uplifted!  Take a few moments to try this.  Breathe consciously.  Notice how you feel as you put your attention on the positive aspects of your day.

That’s it!  The more you practice this, the more benefits you’ll get.

As always, you are welcome to share your response to this information.  We’d love to hear in the comments how you are experiencing your resilience today!

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