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Team Intellect

How do I build resilience and “bounce back” from difficulties more easily?

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Table of Content

Table of Contents

Everybody has to reckon with setbacks—it’s a fact of life. But if there’s one thing that’s within our control, it’s how we build resilience and adapt to these challenges.

According to Alicia Yoon, client solutions and consulting lead at Intellect, there are two routes when facing setbacks. The first is to ruminate deeply on these, which may impede your ability to act. The other is to think about these positively—acknowledging the challenge and asking yourself what you can learn and do to overcome it. 

How you respond to these challenges relies on your level of resilience, or your ability to learn and “bounce back” from difficult experiences. 

Many think that resilience is a personality trait you’re born with—a hit or miss in the genetic lottery. But resilience is context-based; it’s influenced by different factors, like your upbringing and lived experiences at home, in the workplace, or within society in general. And even if these external factors have contributed to a relatively low level of resilience, it’s not the end. By changing your mindset and with enough practice, you can turn things around.

Six green flags of resilience

Several signs indicate your level of resilience.

1. You have a survivor mentality 

You see challenges as opportunities for growth. Just like in reality shows or movies, the last man or woman standing is the one who didn’t succumb to the challenge—they used the skills and talents at their disposal to figure creative ways out of a sticky situation. Because they know that there is always a way out of a sticky situation! 

2. You can regulate your emotions

People who can manage their emotions better tend to have better resilience. They still get upset or angry, but they can stay calm and respond constructively even in face of overwhelming emotions. At the end of the day, there is no positive or negative emotion—we go through a spectrum of emotions in our day-to-day lives. 

3. You feel in control

Feeling a sense of control over your situation is a marker of resilience – you know you can do something to change your circumstances or perception of them. On the contrary, if you think that “bad things always befall you” and you have “no agency over what happens next,” such thought patterns reinforce the belief that you are helpless; a passive character in life’s greater plot. By focusing on what you can control, you’re empowered to take charge of your own story.

4. You focus on problem-solving

Being resilient doesn’t mean you always know what to do when faced with a challenge. But a resilient person won’t just sit back and do nothing; they get curious and explore different solutions, like reaching out to individuals who have experienced a similar situation and come out of it stronger. 

5. You have self-compassion 

It may surprise some that being resilient is also being kind to yourself. People tend to be harder on themselves than on other people, but beating yourself up over “failings” you can’t control does little for personal growth. By practising self-compassion instead, you see yourself more positively and build your self-esteem. 

6. You have social support 

Last but not least, social support is key to resilience. A strong support system can help you discover solutions you wouldn’t have thought of when you’re in a rut. Additionally, it keeps you from having tunnel vision and being stuck in unhelpful thought patterns. 

How to build resilience

There are three tips for building resilience: develop mental agility, cultivate compassion, and build mindfulness practices. 

1. Develop mental agility

There are two key parts when it comes to developing mental agility: identify and reframe. Identify an unhelpful thought, and reframe it as a helpful one. You can apply the three Cs here: catch it, check it, change it. 

To catch it, familiarise with a few unhelpful thinking styles: 

  • All-or-nothing thinking. You think in black and white. When your manager says you’ve been underperforming lately, you consider yourself as a complete failure rather than recognise that there is room for growth.
  • Jumping to conclusions. You assess events based on your view of yourself rather than concrete evidence. When you see your colleagues whispering to one another, you assume that they must be gossiping about you.
  • Over-generalisation. You apply your learning from a single event to all contexts indiscriminately. If you grew up with parents who gave you the silent treatment every time they were mad, you may misinterpret your manager’s lack of response for disapproval.

Caught it? Great. Now, you can reframe a difficult situation as an opportunity. Here are some examples:  

  • Unhelpful thought: “I always make mistakes. Why can’t I get things right?”
  • Reframed thought: “I didn’t do a perfect job, but I have the chance to learn and improve for future opportunities.” 
  • Unhelpful thought: “My manager must think I am incompetent and I will never get promoted.”
  • Reframed thought: “I am confident in the work that I have done so far. Just because my manager wants to speak with me doesn’t mean it’s bad news.”
  • Unhelpful thought: “I’m worried if I speak up to my manager, it will affect my performance review.” 
  • Reframed thought: “Only if I speak up can my manager know what I really think.”

2. Cultivate compassion

Ever heard of the saying, “hurt people hurt people”? Cultivating self-compassion not only helps you to manage stressful situations, but it also improves your relationships with others. This is because self-compassion cultivates a growth mindset and promotes self-acceptance. When you show up as your real self, you implicitly give others’ permission to be authentic, too.

Self-compassion is the process of turning inward and choosing to be kind, not critical, when you inevitably make a mistake. According to Neff’s theoretical model, there are three components to self-compassion: 

  • Self-kindness: Demonstrating kindness to yourself as you would to others.
  • Mindfulness: Paying attention to and grounding yourself in the present moment. 
  • Common humanity: Acknowledging that all of us suffer and go through similar hardships.

3. Practise mindfulness

Mindfulness is the awareness of the present moment brought about by focused attention. It enhances mental agility because it allows you to pause and identify an unhelpful thought before it escalates into a vicious cycle. Instead of judging yourself for a “good” or “bad” thought or feeling, you see them more clearly and for their transience. They are simply thoughts, not truths. 

Here’s how you can practise mindfulness:

  1. Sit down in a comfortable position
  2. Close your eyes or softly gaze downwards so you’re not distracted by your surroundings
  3. Put your hands on your lap
  4. Listen to your inner voice without judgement 

Ready to build resilience? 

How resilient are you? Find out where you stand by taking Intellect’s Personal Insights Quiz. If there is room for growth, don’t worry. Everyone’s gotta start somewhere, and we’ll provide you with a personalised self-improvement plan to do just that. In fact, our platform has helped employees in Singapore and Hong Kong raise their levels of resilience in just 24 hours. Learn more about that here.

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