Building resilience often includes improving your emotional or psychological strength and developing habits and strategies to maximise your persoanl wellbeing. Making other changes in your life such as decluttering the house, eating more healthily and losing weight, or getting more exercise, can also involve learning to make changes. They also require you to develop the motivation and confidence to succeed, rather than feeling quickly overwhelmed and giving up.
(Decluttering, eating healthily and getting more exercise can be great for your mental wellbeing too, but more on that later!)
Marathon runners usually find that they have better physical strength and endurance than the average person. They often find benefits in other areas of their lives too, such as improved attention, concentration and focus; better immune systems; the strength to overcome unexpected adversity; and the discipline to achieve other goals they aspire to.
In the same way, very resilient people usually find that they have greater emotional strength; can withstand disruption and unexpected change better; have greater immunity to mental ill-health; and are more productive. The good news is that just as a couch-potato can train to become a long-distance runner, it is possible for people with low-resilience or who find it hard to stick to resolutions to ‘build change muscles’. It involves a very similar approach to training to run a marathon.
The Principles of Change and Emotional Growth
If you have never run a marathon (or even a half marathon) you will find it very hard to complete if you are not physically ready. You will probably run for a while, walk for a while and then give up. Best case scenario – you have sore legs the next day and make a resolution to try a different approach. Worst case scenario, you beat yourself up mentally and emotionally and start believing or perpetuate the belief that you will never be able to do it.
Working up to running a marathon might begin with a daily brisk walk round the block three times a week for a month, then a jog, then interval training in the park. Becoming more resilient, becoming a more confident public speaker or whatever it is about that you wish to change is just the same.
Start by setting a few easy to achieve goals for yourself. Achieving them will help you to build confidence and make your ultimate goals appear less daunting and more achievable. Start by practicing being more assertive a few times; eating a banana every day, switching to skimmed milk for a week or getting off the bus one stop earlier and walking further.
Also try doing one scary thing a day that just pushes you outside of your comfort zone. This will give you the confidence to deal with things that make you anxious and will also improve your self-esteem. Maybe try striking up a conversation with a stranger or making eye contact with the man on the bus that you fancy.
Set a routine
At first you might be very enthusiastic and over do it a bit. This can be off putting if it makes your emotional muscles sore. Some people will try for a few weeks, stop for a few weeks, and then may wish they hadn’t spent so much money on expensive running shoes. A better plan is to set a routine that you can stick to, and that stretches you a little but brings you closer to you goal.
Measure your progress
Recognise when you achieve something and WRITE IT DOWN. People who are trying to lose weight get motivation from seeing the numbers on the scales go down. If you don’t measure your progress you are more likely to lose interest and drive and give up. Resilience itself can be hard to measure, but scaling can help. If you regularly encounter things that cause you anxiety ask yourself ‘On a scale of 1 to 10, how anxious do I feel about [giving feedback in the weekly team meeting at work for example]. If you start at 8 out of 10, and can get to 5 out of 10, then you are making progress!
Alternatively go to our ‘Resiliency Assessment Questionnaire’ by clicking here. You can use this assessment to help identify other ways to improve your resilience. By repeating the questionnaire periodically, you can measure your progress.
Remember that just like going to the gym, if you train today and look in the mirror, you are unlikely to see any change. Be realistic about how fast change will occur, but also, KEEP AT IT! A little bit of progress each week will give you an emotional six-pack before you know it.
If you don’t push yourself to run further, you will never reach your goal of completing the marathon. Similarly, you need to set yourself gradual but incremental goals. When you are comfortable in previously anxiety-causing situations, look for something else to take you outside of your comfort zone.
Eat right and get enough rest
Eating right and getting enough rest is as important to building emotional strength as it is to building physical strength. Look after yourself, don’t push yourself too hard, and try to maintain a good work/life balance. Eating regularly and healthily will not only keep your energy levels up and help you to deal with what life throws at you but will also make you feel better about yourself. Health body, healthy mind!
Look for ways to make sure that your motivation doesn’t wane. Try visualisation techniques, find someone to make changes with and support each other, reward yourself for reaching milestones on the way to your goal.
About Hugh Asher
Hugh is an author, practitioner, trainer, researcher and consultant.
He keeps rare breed sheep and cows.
He also shares his house with the world’s largest puppy, called Charlie.
Although he was told from a young age that “Life isn’t fair” he has refused
His vision for a better world involves giving people the skills and