“It’s your reaction to adversity, not adversity itself that determines how your life’s story will develop.” ― Dieter F. Uchtdorf
“I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to be reduced by it.” ― Maya Angelou
The last post ended with a partial list of strategies I use in my life to build mental resilience or mental toughness. Here is a continuation of that bullet-point list, along with more ideas on building emotional resilience.
- I watch no TV. I have not had a TV connection in my home since I was in college, shortly after the last ice age. TV wastes time and offers little to no value, especially considering the time it consumes. We have been told that entertainment is vitally necessary. It is not, and it wastes too much of the precious little time we have been given in life.
- I choose new challenges on a regular basis. Reading into topics about which I know little, learning new skills, taking on projects that I know are at the limits of my knowledge or experience, anything that will challenge me to grow and possibly to “fail forward.”
- Books that have been important to developing mental resilience in me include:
- “The Willpower Instinct” by Kelly McGonigal. Great book on the neuroscience of willpower, choosing, and building brain connectivity, with application to the process of building resilience.
- “The Three Success Secrets of Shamgar” by Pat Williams, Jay Strack, and Jim Denney. Start where you are, use what you have, and do what you can.
- “Endurance” by Alfred Lansing. The nearly unbelievable story of Ernest Shackleton’s 1914 Antarctic expedition. Stranded on the Antarctic sea ice, 634 days with no hope for rescue, given up for lost, daring if not impossible self-rescue, and did not lose a man. A leadership story beyond all others.
- “Leading at the Edge” by Dennis N.T. Perkins. The most widely-read leadership book based upon lessons from Shackleton’s leadership.
5. Expanding emotional resilience is important in that it is usually our emotional response to our situation and surroundings that is the most important factor in to withstanding the emotional difficulties of stress and crises and be useful in supporting others. Emotional resilience is not about becoming hardened and calloused, rather it is developing more useful expressions for your emotions in the face of challenge. If we can appropriately manage our emotional state in difficult times, we can remain strong and true to our purpose and mission. Here are few strategies and ideas I have found useful in expanding my emotional resilience.
- Learn about and understand your emotional make-up so that you can leverage your strengths, manage your emotional difficulties and vulnerabilities, and develop targeted growth strategies. Take a temperament assessment online, such as the DISC inventory, and pay for the full report. Use what you find to understand how your temperament (your strengths and their corresponding weaknesses) impacts your view of the world, of others, of opportunity and challenge.
- Make a list of things you fear and approach them to work through your fears. Afraid of traveling alone? Go on a solo trip. Afraid of public speaking? Join a Toastmasters group. Whatever it is, name it and move toward it. Get help from a friend, and if necessary, get counseling or life-coaching support. If certain activities or challenges are paralyzing to you, see a counselor who specializes in anxiety work. Anxiety is for most people highly treatable with talk therapy.
- Who is on your team? Identify who you can trust to help you overcome your emotional obstacles and enlist them to help you.
- Read true adventure and survival stories, such as “Endurance” mentioned above. Here are a few of my favorites, stories that read better than fiction, but are challenging because they really happened.
- “Lone Survivo,r” Krakauer
- “Into Thin Air,” Luttrell
- “Touching the Void,” Simpson
- “Minus 1480 ” Davidson
- “127 Hours,” Ralston
- “Survive!” Deleo
- Read good books and articles on dealing with your emotions and strengthening your ability to respond well under duress. Here are some of my favorites:
- “Feel the Fear, An Do It Anyway” by Dr. Susan Jeffers. Great section on managing your internal narrative processes, and great book on facing your fears. I read this one three times.
- “On Combat” by David Grossman. The go-too resource on how extreme duress impacts the mind and emotions, and some great strategies for mitigating those impacts. Written for military and law enforcement audiences, but the concepts are widely applicable.
- “Warrior Mindset” by Michael Asken, David Grossman, and Loren Christensen. Great book on developing a warrior mindset, or hardening the will and resolve, strengthening the mind, and firming up the emotions for the really big challenges in life.
- Develop effective coping strategies
- Debrief early and often
- Rest well and often
- Compensatory activities
- Stay connected to important people & processes
- Manage self-talk – use “mantras” like “I got this,” or “You can do this.”
- Learn to breathe in a crisis
- Remember to be grateful in all situations – practice it
- Look for opportunities to grow and thrive in your setbacks
Everything in these lists I have read, studied and implemented. These have been invaluable resources for me and have been instrumental in moving me into a much greater level of resilience in all quadrants of my living – physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. In the next post, I will unpack strategies for expanding spiritual resilience.
“Note to self: every time you were convinced you couldn’t go on, you did.” ― Unknown