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5 Simple Ways Anyone Can Hack Resilience

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Anytime we suffer a gut punch, it’s easy to lose track of the goal and zero in on what went wrong, “why me” thinking, and everything we’ve lost along the way. To bounce back, we have to change our mindset from “shoulda, coulda, woulda” to one that is forward-focused.

These five hacks below can help you achieve that elusive quality called resilience:

1. Be grateful

When you shift your perspective, you completely change your experience of the world around you. No matter what your situation, your mindset will always shape your reality. We all have challenges but if you look around, you can usually find someone who is dealing with challenges worse than your own. So to begin, we can be grateful for our challenges – they are teaching us how to deal with adversity, they are making us stronger, and in most cases they could be worse than they are.

Start by asking yourself, “In this moment, what am I grateful for?” Depending on your circumstances, your first response might be, “nothing.” If that’s the case, start with the smallest most basic thing you can think of and go from there. Recognizing your circumstances are fluid and identifying what you already appreciate creates a mindset for abundance. Being grateful for what you already have is the first step to hacking resilience because it allows you to open yourself up to receive even more.

2. Head butt adversity

Resilience isn’t just our capacity to stand there and take the slings and arrows of life, it’s the power and agility in which we respond. It turns out, we don’t have a limited amount of resilience and that’s good news because when bad things happen, over and over, layered on top of each other, our resilience doesn’t have to tap out.

We can build unlimited strength, agility, and speed in our response by learning to effectively “bounce,” and we can do that even before adversity hits. A situation only has the meaning you give it. You get to decide if it is something that will stop you in your tracks or if you will frame it as a challenge that offers a opportunity to learn and grow.

For every negative or difficult event that happens to you today, reframe the meaning you give it in your life. The circumstance itself has no power over you, but your response to it does. When a difficult situation arises, ask yourself these two questions: How could this be an opportunity in disguise and what does this make possible?

See yourself as the one in charge of your own fate, and seize that opportunity. Even in the difficult moments, by deliberately choosing the meaning you give to those moments and the power they have over you, you can build resilience and thrive.

“Do not judge me by my success, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.” – Ernest Hemingway

3. Cut yourself some slack

We get discouraged about our life when we compare it to others, something that has become especially toxic in the age of social media. What people post on Facebook is their “highlight reel.” The rest of their life is pretty ordinary so if you’re comparing the totality of your life with the highlight reel of others, you’re bound to feel a little alone and discouraged when bad things happen.

The truth is, we all have setbacks. Every single one of us with no exception. Allow yourself a little breathing room when adversity hits. Breathe deeply as often as possible, and give yourself a little time to catch your breath, lick your wounds, and come back swinging.

4. Discover the lesson

Everything that happens in our life is an opportunity for growth. If we allow every life event to shape us in a positive way, we will gain something, even from circumstances that seem to have no redeeming qualities whatsoever.

Viktor Frankl was a Swiss psychiatrist who watched many of his fellow prisoners in Auschwitz commit suicide after losing their entire families to genocide. He too had lost his family and even contemplated suicide until one day he had a vision of himself on stage, speaking about how he survived, and he knew he still had something left to do. It gave him hope and the will to live, to survive and thrive, and discover meaning in the moment.

When we frame adversity as an opportunity to learn something about ourselves, it gives meaning to the suffering. This allows us to see put the suffering in context and no longer feel that our challenges are pointless.

“When we are no longer able to change a situation – we are challenged to change ourselves.” – Viktor E. Frankl

5. See the opportunities

A family member’s protracted illness may bring other family members closer as they team up to take care of their loved ones. Being let go from a mediocre job may lead to an opportunity you never would have seen if you were still working.

When bad things happen, we tend to assume that everything about the circumstance is negative. But this isn’t really true. No matter how terrible things have become, there is always something good that will come out of something bad. Always. The problem is we don’t usually see it in the moment, because we’re just not looking for it.

For every negative event you experience, the sooner you choose to seek and embrace the good that could come out of it, the quicker you will move forward and experience the resilience you never thought possible.

What do you do in order to overcome the struggles in your life? Let us know in the comments below!

Dr. Ann Vertel is a Business and Success Psychologist, keynote speaker, corporate trainer, and 20-year Naval Officer. She’s worked with thousands of high-performers including Doctors, Lawyers, Entrepreneurs, C-Suite Executives, and U.S. Navy SEALS, helping them achieve their highest potential. She also consults with corporations on leadership and personal development, helping them grow leaders who think bigger, act bolder, and take charge of their success. Learn more at AnnVertel.com.

Life

What Les Misérables Taught Me About Our Values

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Who am I? The ultimate question many of us try to answer. When I think of values, I think of Victor Hugo’s 1862 book, “Les’ Miserables”. In Hugo’s book, Jean Valjean, is used as a protagonist to highlight the power in redemptive love and compassion. Valjean goes into prison for stealing a loaf of bread, entering as a simple and decent man. His time in jail seems to have an unrepairable effect, where he emerges from the chain gang as a tough, bitter criminal who hates society for what it has done to him. (more…)

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7 Ways You Can Increase Your Concentration Right Away

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In today’s world, an overabundance of information and a large number of distractions is making it increasingly difficult to concentrate on performing the necessary tasks. In this article, I propose 7 simple methods that will train your ability to concentrate, while not taking you from your usual activities. (more…)

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5 Simple Hacks to Help You Develop the Habit That Will Transform Your Life

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It’s excruciating when we know what’s killing us but we can’t do anything about it because as you know, it is not easy to pull the brake on a high way. According to Napoleon Hill, “remember this always – the best (and one might say the only) way in which old habits may be removed is to form new habits to counteract and replace the undesirable ones”. (more…)

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Why Do We Have An Unconscious Bias and How Can We Manage It?

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When I hear someone using my name once in a while throughout the conversation we are having, I cannot stop myself thinking “this person must have read Dale Carnegie’s books or must have been influenced by someone who read them…” Have you just recalled a similar moment and it felt nice?

As Dale Carnegie famously said, “Remember that a person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and the most important sound in any language”. Why did Dale Carnegie highlight the importance of an individual’s name to that person in his “How to Win Friends and Influence People” book published in 1936?

Each and every one of us wants to feel special and unique. I guess he recommends using the person’s name in the conversation because that is one of the easiest ways to grab that person’s attention so that we can enhance the chances of getting our point across. However, I am more interested in this from the other side; hearing our names directly addresses our individuality, our need or desire to feel special and unique.  

Let’s park this one for now and we will come back. 

Categorization is essential to our survival

There is countless scientific research telling us about how our brains recognize similarities and put things into categories, which has been crucial to our survival in evolution and still helps us with a lot of things from learning new things to coping with the continuous influx of massive amounts of information through our senses. 

The continuous influx of information is mostly handled by our subconscious mind rather than conscious. It is estimated that our brains receive about 11 million bits of information every second through our senses, of which only 40-50 bits can be processed by our conscious mind. We process more information than we are aware of. The magic here is the subconscious mind.

An example is when you are at a very loud party where you hear a lot of words flying around without you recognizing each one of them, then suddenly, you immediately catch it when you hear your name. Your subconscious had been processing all of those words, without your awareness, but informed your conscious mind when your name was out there because it was relevant to you.

In order to most effectively process this much information and inform the conscious mind with only the relevant ones, our subconscious employs categorization as one of its strategies.

When our ancestors encountered some deadly predators in the African savanna, their subconscious prompted their conscious mind to immediately fight or flight by categorizing the information gathered through their senses into “predator / life threat / take action”. Most probably we are not descendants of the ones that were frozen rather than fighting or flighting! 

Although it is a completely different situation, the same strategy applied in remembering lists. Let’s look at the below two lists.

  1. lion, eagle, shark, leopard, hawk, whale, panther, falcon and dolphin 
  2. lion, leopard, panther, eagle, hawk, falcon, shark, whale and dolphin

The second list is easy to remember because it is reordered into relevant groups even though the content of the both lists are identical.

Subconsciousness is the magic and categorization is one of its key strategies. It is essential to our survival, learning new skills and processing information as well as bringing back the information we had processed and stored. 

This amazing skill has its drawbacks

As a result of our brains’ categorization strategy, we also categorize people, especially if we don’t know them as well as our closest ones.

Imagine I am sitting at the table next to yours while you are having your favorite coffee and working on your computer or reading your novel at your neighborhood coffee shop. I stand up, very calmly grab your bag, and start walking away. Your reaction might be quite different depending on my outfit. It could be much more vocal and harsh if I have a dirty T-Shirt and a pair of torn jeans on. However, if I have some navy colored, 3-piece suit and well-pressed white button up shirt on, you might even say something like “Excuse me, you might have picked up my bag by mistake”. (There is an experiment done by social psychologists which reported similar results)

Similarly, I would not be surprised to hear that my co-worker’s spouse is very skilled and knowledgeable in English grammar and literature because he is an English teacher. However, I would not expect it from my co-worker herself because she is an outstanding chemical engineer.  

This is defined as unconscious bias or stereotyping, as a result of our subconscious brain’s categorization strategy. The outfit I have at the coffee shop impacts your response to my action, because it puts me into a different category in your mind depending on my outfit. My co-worker’s and her spouse’s backgrounds make me put them into different categories, which might mislead me sometimes.

Just like we categorize things, it is very natural that we categorize people.  

The key question here for me is; how do we truly treat people as individuals so that they feel unique, just like as they would want, while we know that our brains categorize people

We can overcome unconscious bias 

Leonard Mlodinow, in his enlightening book “Subliminal”, suggests that “if we are aware of our bias and motivated to overcome it, we can.” That doesn’t mean that we need to fight our brain’s categorization strategy. We just need to employ our conscious mind more when we are working or dealing with individuals. 

Our unconscious bias might tell us scientists are bunch of technical nerds who cannot understand abstract concepts that marketers are talking about or it might say that marketers are some daydreamers who need to be grounded by scientists to the real world all the time. I am an engineer and I love thinking in abstract terms and I worked with quite a lot of marketers who thought primarily in factual and concrete terms. 

Spending some effort to learn more about individuals will help overcome unconscious bias. Gathering more information and qualities about them will make it easier for us to treat them as individuals rather than a member of the category we put them in our minds. 

The moral of the story here is to recognize the fact that our brains do categorize, and it is essential; but also, to recognize that every individual wants to feel unique. When we appreciate these two and keep reminding them to ourselves, we are one step closer to figuring out our own way to overcome unconscious bias and treat people more like individuals. 

What was the most interesting part of this article for you? Share your thoughts below!

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