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How To Build Resilience and Thrive

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‘How to build resilience’ is a hot topic that is receiving global attention these days.

Do you know of ordinary people who meet with a challenging life event such as a job redundancy, an unfaithful spouse, a personal illness or the loss of a cherished family member and seem to bounce back fairly easily?

Do you know of others who experience similar challenges, go to pieces and don’t seem to be able to recover fully? Is it the physical environment, or personal capabilities, or economic situation that makes the difference?

What is this THING that people who bounce back from challenges quickly have that others do not? Psychologists call this thing ‘Resilience’. Some questions come to my mind.

  • Are we born with resilience, or is this something we learn?
  • How does one know if they are resilient?
  • Can we build resilience? Can we build resilience at any age?

So many questions. My curiosity to learn more about this topic led me to sign up for this Resilience course. I learnt SO many cool things in my two-day course and I am going to share some of the really simple things that we can do everyday to build this thing called Resilience.

So join my mailing list, if you haven’t, to get blog-posts like this one. It is important to get useful stuff that is free, isn’t it? 😉

What Is Resilience?

build resilience

Psychology Today defines ‘resilience’ as “the psychological quality that allows some people to be knocked down by the adversities of life and come back at least as strong as before.”

Highly resilient people do not just cope with change, they are able to grow through change and learn through challenging events.

Change happens everyday and it will probably turn up without any prior warning. If being resilient means I get to survive and thrive in this one life that I have, I definitely want to have this thing called resilience. You want it too, don’t you?

Resilience is not a thing

So can we all build resilience? The happy answer to this question is a resounding YES!

First, know that resilience is not a THING. It is not something you have or don’t have. What can help you build resilience? Resilience is something that you build by doing stuff on a regular basis. Below are 3 bite-size tips about what you can do regularly to build resilience.


Build Resilience Tip 1: Ask Yourself Better Questions – avoid the Big Why

build resilience

What questions do highly resilient people NOT ask?

Resilient people rarely ask themselves the Big Why question. Why did this happen (to me)? The Big Why question is a past-oriented question. There is usually no good answer, and having the answer will not change what has already happened in the PAST. So why do some people keep asking the Big Why question?

They might be hoping that asking the Big Why question repeatedly may lead them to an answer that they could accept about the challenging event, or one that makes them feel better about the challenging event. In reality, the Big Why question is likely to make them feel worse and might cause them to spiral downwards into anxiety and depression.

Or they could be thinking that the Big Why question will allow them to learn from the event and become better. If seeking improvement is their positive intention, hey would be better off asking a better question, and not the Big Why.

What questions do highly resilient people often ask?

Resilient people ask themselves better questions instead of the Big Why.

What is a better question? A better question is one that is future-oriented. It generates answers that increases our possibilities and choices, enables us to feel positive feelings and moves us forward. It keeps us focused on things that are in our control and how we can grow from the learnings of this event.

Some of the better questions to ask will sound like this:

  1. What challenge(s) am I really trying to overcome?
  2. What am I learning from this event?
  3. What is within my control and what is not within my control?”

People have often to said to me that it can be quite difficult to know if they are asking themselves better questions and where could they learn to do so. I often tell them – invest in a coach. You start learning how to ask yourself better questions by listening to the questions that your coach asks you as your thinking partner and guide during a coaching session. Experience how your thoughts and feelings transform positively when your brain responds to better questions. This is how we all learn to have better conversations with ourselves.

Build resilience by asking yourself questions that make you think about future-oriented answers and feel positive feelings.


Build Resilience Tip 2: Know what you can control – set small positive goals

build resilience

What is in my control now?

Some of us think of goals as being something Big, Hairy and Audacious, like switching careers, climbing Mount Everest, or earning your first $50 million dollars. This is great in normal times.

However, when adversity strikes, there will be a number of things that are out of our control including Big Hairy and Audacious goals. All of a sudden, our life as we know it to be, comes to a halt. We might find it difficult to get out bed. It is the fear of being out of control that is the Big Scary Thing. This fear creates anxiety and stops us in our tracks.

During challenging times, being able to set small positive goals help us regain control over our life and move forward day by day. When we set small positive goals , our brain starts to do productive work thinking about how to help us achieve your goals. When our brain is helping us achieve our goals, it does not dwell on negative thoughts and feelings.

Small positive goals give us control over the things we can control which in turn reduce anxiety and negativity.

What are small positive goals?

Small positive goals are simple repeatable things that we do on a day-to-day basis. Things we do not usually classify as goals. For example:

  • Planning what to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner
  • Sticking to an exercise routine
  • Drawing up a house-cleaning to-do list

In times of adversity, it might be difficult to even set small positive goals and perform daily tasks such as doing the laundry. To build resilience, start seeing the routine tasks and activities that you perform in your daily life as small positive goals. In this way, we practise using this ‘mental muscle’ regularly.

My friend who is nursing her son through a life-threatening illness copes by focusing on small positive goals every day. She plans, prepares and cooks a variety of meals for her family every day. She tries new recipes, shares her cooking and baking on social media. She continues to read, exercise, shop and watch Netflix. If you didn’t know her, you wouldn’t know that she is looking after a young child that requires her attention 24/7. People say that she is very strong and resilient. They wonder how she does it. I can tell you that she does Tip 1 and Tip 2: avoid Big Why questions and focuses on the things she can control.

How to set small positive goals?

There are many resources available on the Internet about goal-setting. Many of you have probably heard of the SMART goal-setting model. I used this model when I was in the corporate world.

These days, I use a different goal-setting model called the Well-Formed Outcome (WFO) that works better for me. I also teach this model to my coaching clients who want to try using a different goal-setting model.

To build resilience, start setting small positive goals today to activate your brain’s learning so that this way of thinking becomes a habit.


Build Resilience Tip 3: Build a memory bank of good times – associate into those good feelings

build resilience

When the chips are down, it could become harder and harder to start recalling good positive feelings like relaxation, joy, happiness, calm, confidence, love. Yet it is in challenging times when people need to remember and access good feelings to help them survive and thrive.

One of the ways to build resilience is to develop a memory bank of good positive feelings, and practise triggering those good positive feelings whenever we encounter a minor setback, or an unpleasant situation. You could do so using several ways. For example:

  • bring up a visual image that makes you feel relaxed
  • listen to a piece of music that makes you feel happy
  • touch something that makes you confident
  • taste food that makes you feel loved

Imagine now that you are talking to someone who is getting you very hot under the collar and you want to trigger some positive feelings. What feeling would that be and how will you access this feeling easily? There are simple techniques that I use to help myself and clients access good positive feelings very easily. If you are keen to know how, do reach out to me.

To build resilience, practise triggering positive feelings in your daily life.


Book a chat

If you like to know how coaching can help you build resilience, please feel free to contact me here or email me at maggiesim@holdingspace.sg .


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