Setbacks can set you back or sling you forward, depending on how resilient you are. The ability to bounce back and become mentally stronger is something everyone would like, but it’s one of the most prominent “easier said than done’s” in existence.
It’s worth the effort because of the impact that resilience (or lack thereof) has on our behaviors, attitudes, outcomes–and even health. New research from BetterUp (an online leadership development company) has found that people with low resilience are four times more likely to experience burnout. Beyond that, workplace stress results in 120,000 premature deaths per year and related treatment costs account for five to eight percent of total annual national healthcare costs.
On the other side, being able to bounce back from setbacks is associated with everything from higher job satisfaction and engagement to organizational commitment.
So, what makes some people more resilient than others?
First and foremost, the research found that super-resilient people are six times more likely to do one thing: force themselves to have an internal locus of control.
In other words, the more you believe that you have control over the outcomes of your life (and that you can cope with less than optimal outcomes), the more resilient you are. In contrast, according to the researchers, “The more external the locus of control, the more people tend to feel victimized by the events of the world and the less likely they will be to help themselves.”
Playing the victim is the most devastating form of disempowerment because the core underlying belief is that “I’m powerless.” This leads to a learned helplessness and avoidance of action.
And worse yet, it’s something you do to yourself. The truth is, you only get to be a victim once. After that, you’re a volunteer. So when it’s time to cope, to bounce-back in the face of adversity, ask yourself, “Do I just want it to change or do I want to change it? The former is how a victim thinks, the latter indicates you’re ready to make your victim mentality a victim.
No one said this was easy though, so here are four more ways to ramp up your resilience.
1. Increase your self-efficacy.
This means you must have confidence that your abilities will help you handle a challenging situation, which will lead to you approaching that situation with energy and vigor rather than withdrawing/retreating from the challenge.
I’ve learned through experience that this absolutely becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy (BetterUp’s research backs this up too). Once you leverage your self-belief to help you ram through a challenge, it leads to more self-belief which makes future challenges less daunting, which leads to more success, and so on.
2. Change your cognitive appraisal.
This means that how you view the meaning or significance of an adverse event impacts the way in which you respond to the stress of it. And you can choose to view a setback as a challenge instead of a threat.
A cognitive appraisal of challenge focuses on the possibility that growth or some good can/will come from adverse situations, and that it comes with the perception that you have the capacity and resources to cope with the situation.
In contrast, threat appraisals mean you’re viewing the situation as beyond your ability to cope with it, triggering fear, anxiety, and anger and leading to fight, flight or freeze reactions. Energy is derailed away from problem solving to emotionally coping.
3. Don’t bypass the role of physical health.
Proper sleep, nutrition, and exercise ensure the body is adequately nourished, producing mood-supportive neurochemicals and keeping the immune system running well. All of this bolsters resilience.
In fact, BetterUp’s research shows that those getting adequate sleep are 4.2 times more likely to be resilient. Those who experience good physical health are 3.5 times more likely to be resilient.
4. Lean on your support network.
Your support network will help you manage stress, solve challenges, and find new opportunities–all leading to greater resilience. In fact, extroverted individuals tend to be more resilient because they’re more likely to reach out to others when they need support. Asking for coaching as part of that support network is proven to build resilience as well.
It’s hard to move the needle on resiliency because it involves the intersection of mindset, belief, courage, and conviction.
But right there in the middle of it all lies you, who doesn’t have to take adversity lying down anymore.