The Three Step Plan to Build Resilience
Resilience is a muscle, and just like any other muscle, you can learn to build its’ capacity with intention, focus, and a few daily habits.
In today’s ever-changing world, resilience is becoming a must-have skill. Perhaps no skill is needed more. It allows us to demonstrate more flexibility and ease when dealing with increasing uncertainty and complexity. Resilient people are better able to tolerate (even transcend) higher levels of stress and change enabling them to perform better. Additionally, resilience allows us to tap into more internal resources like flow, creativity, and innovation.
How do I know this? About six years ago I wiped out on stress and had to figure out a way to get out from underneath how I was feeling. What I realized, at that time, was no one was going to get over a loudspeaker and tell me how I could improve the way I experienced life. I had to figure it out and forge ahead on my own.
Five years and 10,000+ hours later, here are some basics of what I’ve learned about building resilience:
I. Build Your Biology — 70% of resilience comes from having (or building) a biological foundation for resilience. (For those who would like a deeper dive into this kick-ass science, check out self-directed neuroplasticity, physiological coherence, vagal-tone, and epigenetics). New science emerges daily that challenges what we have traditionally thought humanly possible. Some of these discoveries are nothing short of jaw-dropping. What we now know is, building our biology through mindfulness, breathing exercises and visualization is a sure-fire way to create more emotional intelligence, resilience, and flow. Thousands of scientific studies confirm this.
How to do it? The quickest way is to practice an intentional calming of your nervous system on the daily. Here’s a (bio-relevant) example:
1. Close your eyes (slows brain waves to alpha or theta, easier to move from the conscious to the subconscious mind).
2. Place your hand on your heart (releases hormone oxytocin).
3. Breath slower and deeper than usual (activates/strengthens our parasympathetic & relaxation response).
4. Visualize breathing in ease, compassion or gratitude (releases the vitality hormone DHEA and increases physiological coherence).
5. Rinse and repeat daily.
This type of daily process will start to download a new personal OS — one that defrags your nervous system and patches in resilience. How does it work? When you intentionally relax the nervous system you are creating a new “state of being” in that moment. You interrupt an old pattern to start a new one. Over time, you begin to create and travel upon a new path while the old one gets overgrown and eventually disappears.
This is a simplified exercise and explanation, but if you practice some type of daily mindfulness you will bake resilience into your biology. You’ll learn how to eradicate stress from the nervous system and how to power it up with “adaptation energy”. If you practice in a way that creates “inner balance” and is measurable you will accelerate gains. Feel free to reach out and I can explain what that means.
II. Build Emotional Awareness & Agility — It has been said, emotions are the great captains of our lives. They are life’s hidden soundtrack. Since our energetic, emotional tunes can range from the inspirational riffs of Rocky to the foreboding notes of Jaws doesn’t it make sense to try and cultivate a greater sense of awareness? Just like the background music in movies, our emotions influence how we perceive, relate and behave in the scenes of our life. And if our emotions leave us feeling stressed or anxious, they can cloud judgment, produce sub-optimal thinking and we can get stuck in dis-empowering and unhealthy ruts.
Rocky feelin' those self-empowered vibes!
The good news you can learn to become more aware of your emotions and even learn to accept and make peace with them. From there, it is easier to shift to a more empowered mindset or to a place where you can respond rather than react. Check-in with yourself and try to tune into your emotional energy. How is it affecting your performance and your thinking? If you experience a depleting emotion, you can “name it to tame it”. The more we can describe what we are experiencing, the more likely we can consciously unhook from a dis-empowering emotion. This creates the space needed to be the observer (not the actor) and gives us a fighting chance to bypass self-defeating thoughts and behaviors.
III. Improve The Frequency of Your Perception — Our brains are naturally tilted to work against us. In Rick Hanson’s book, Buddha’s Brain, he notes that our brains are like Velcro for life’s negative experiences and Teflon for the positive ones. We are much more likely to ruminate over what is going wrong in our world than to express gratitude for what is going right. This survival mechanism has gotten us to where we are today, but to build more resilience we need to tilt our brains back so that they are working for us not against us.
The best way? Gratitude, in my opinion, is the greatest life hack there is because it wakes us up to the beauty and magic of everyday life. But we have to choose it. It’s a conscious choice and a practice we need to repeat deliberately and daily. It has been said, that if you want to find happiness, find gratitude. It is the most efficient antidote to our constant dissatisfaction.
How to do this? Create space for a simple, daily routine of gratitude reflection. Spend time each day recognizing three things you are grateful for. If you do the work, the benefits start to show up in profound ways. For me, I journal gratitude every morning while I sip a cup of hot, delicious, hand-ground coffee (all which I’m grateful for). I list three things that made yesterday great, three things that would make today great and another three things I am generally grateful for in life.
These three steps are a great foundation to start to build resilience and if you put in the time, it becomes a force multiplier for things we need more of in the world. I honestly cannot think of a higher ROI for anything else. Resilience increases virtues like connection, compassion, and greater understanding. It opens us up to experience more of our internal resources like flow, creativity, intuition, and innovation. Resilience changes our state of being and improves the way we experience life.
Resilience optimizes personal and professional outcomes and it compresses the amount of time it takes to get from point A to point B — no matter where you want to go.
At the end of the day, resilience is about coming together, both with the people around you and within your own Self.