Possessing resilience means you have the ability to bounce back from adversity or failure and respond positively. Studies show that having this trait is absolutely crucial when it comes to being able to successfully navigate life, work and relationships.
To that end, we’ve been studying the “secret sauce” to resilience for decades. Developmental psychologist Emily Wenner has studied resilience in children over the span of 33 years, and what she found is that what consistently sets resilient children apart from the ones who aren’t is a clear sense of autonomy and independence. Even moreso, resilient children possess what psychologists refer to as an “internal locus of control.” Meaning they believe they determine their own fates.
The trait of resilience plays out significantly over a lifetime. Resilient people are able to respond to stressful and traumatic events in a way that construes personal meaning, like Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg managed to when her husband abruptly died in 2015. In fact, Sandberg felt compelled to impart what she learned from Martin Seligman, a pioneer in positive psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, which ultimately became part of her book Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy, about her journey through grief using resiliency and grit.
The good news is that if you have resilience -- great. Your optimism and feeling of self-efficacy will continue to serve you well. And if you’re less than resilient, don’t despair. It’s a set of skills that can absolutely be learned. Seligman has devoted part of his academia to teaching the cognitive skills that underpin resilience, such as changing the way we think from global to specific (“Everything is horrible” to “Today’s meeting went poorly”) and permanent to impermanent (“I will always feel this bad” to “Feeling bad is normal and eventually I will feel better”).
That said, it’s good to know where you stand on the resiliency scale -- and where you could improve. Check out the next five slides to get a gauge on your resiliency strength.
1. When you make a mistake or encounter failure, do you own it?
Resilient people see themselves as the authors of their own lives, and they don’t shirk from making mistakes, according to Forbes. Instead, they are able to respond optimistically to their mistakes and failures, taking ownership and using setbacks as lessons to improve and grow. Failure, to the resilient individual, is merely an opportunity for success down the road.
2. Are you able to work for months or years toward a goal?
It takes a steadfast resilience to reach lofty goals that take significant time to complete. Without a result in immediate sight, it can prove challenging to continue to work toward a goal, particularly when there are unforeseen setbacks, barriers and shiny distractions along the way.
However, resilient people are able to remain focused with their eyes on the prize. They set smaller goals that align with the greater purpose and view setbacks and barriers as part of the learning process that is making them stronger and wiser.
3. When you’re going through a hard time, do you know that it’s not permanent?
In the field of psychology, “permanence” is when you cast negative feelings related to an event as permanent. It's not an uncommon feeling after you experience something upsetting, such as losing your job or a loved one. Sheryl Sandberg had said that following her husband’s death, “No matter what I did, it felt like the crushing grief would always be there."
Resilient people accept their feelings but are aware they won’t last. This understanding is a key part of the process of bouncing back after traumatic events and let downs.
4. When something bad happens, are you able to find meaning and move forward?
Perception is a key element in resilience, according to George Bonanno, a clinical psychologist at Columbia University’s Teachers College who has been studying resilience for nearly 25 years.
While loss and difficult setbacks are hard for everyone, resilient people are able to find a deeper meaning and purpose related to these events. For instance, the unexpected death of a family member or friend is sad and difficult, but for the resilient person it could also lead to a heightened awareness and advocacy in some sort of disease that caused the death or a closer relationship with religion and spirituality.
5. When bad things happen that are outside of your control, do you think it's your fault?
Resilient people are able to attribute the cause of unfortunate events that happen outside of themselves. As Sandberg put it, “Not everything that happens to us happens because of us."
While some things are undoubtedly our fault, there are events that are simply out of our control, such as accidents or the death of a loved one. Externalizing the blame helps the resilient person get past the trauma. Knowing we are not responsible for everything that happens in our lives is, in some ways, freeing.
Each question you answered “yes” to is 1 point. If you scored…
5: You’ve got a black-belt in resiliency. It’s time to pay it forward and take someone under your wing and teach how to approach life’s challenges and offer support in the journey.
3-4: Resiliency is not a fixed trait, so depending on the intensity of the stressor, and whether it’s chronic, your resiliency can waver and embolden. So reach out for some additional support (like Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy by Sheryl Sandberg and Martin Seligman and Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth) and arm yourself to maintain your practice of bouncing back with positivity.
1-2: You need work and ongoing support, and that may come in a group or a community that has your back or one-on-one therapy, but your lack of resiliency is probably hindering your relationships and your work life. Now that you can admit it, you can address it and improve. Reach out to the most resilient and positive person you know in your life -- and ask that person to mentor you. Or, if that isn’t an option, seek out a professional mentoring program. Most people who choose to be mentors are strong, resilient and successful.
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This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com. Minor edits have been done by the Entrepreneur.com.ph editors