3 Steps to Build Your Resilience
Success of any kind takes time, consistent effort, failure and resilience. Take the late Louis L’Amour, for example. He’s regarded as America’s greatest storyteller, with over 60 published novels -- most of them bestsellers.
In his autobiography, Education of a Wandering Man, L’Amour shares his failures like a badge of honor. It was a big badge, too. A picture of his submissions log reveals countless rejections. Had L’Amour identified with his failures, he would’ve quit long before greatness. Instead, he viewed failure as a step to success. And he kept stepping.
“I knew there was going to be failure, I just didn’t know how much," L’Amour said.
If you’ve dealt with some colossal failures in your business, you’re on the right path. Keep going. But if you want to convert those failures to success, you need more resilience.
How I grew resilience.
For my first 24 years, I had about as much resilience as a kale chip. I refused to try anything I wasn’t automatically good at, and I rarely, if ever, put myself on the line. I was so brittle that if I failed, that meant I was a failure. Because of my fear of failure, I was completely dependent on my parents, which only fed the fear.
But in my mid-twenties, I realized that I could only be happy if I provided for myself. So I confronted my demons. I saw just how brittle I had become, and I planned to become more resilient.
In studying experts like Brené Brown and Josh Waitzkin, I learned that resilience comes through celebrating effort, not results. That concept conflicted with my perfectionist attitude. I wasn’t used to coaching myself, and the idea of positive thinking seemed laughable, considering my lack of success.
But what choice did I have? I couldn’t surf couches forever. So I began my own three-step resilience routine.
1. Affirmations and encouragement.
Each morning I looked at myself in the mirror and said out loud all the good things I saw or wanted to be. (I know, this conjures up images of Chris Farley’s motivational speaker character from SNL. But funny as it may be, it worked for me.)
I listed all the things I knew I’d accomplish. I congratulated myself on the effort I gave the day before, regardless of the outcome. And I gave myself permission to fail.
2. I started a daily planner.
I wrote down all the goals I wanted to achieve in a week and gave myself daily directives to reach them. When I checked off an accomplishment, no matter how small, I would flood myself with encouragement for the effort, for the consistency and for the persistence I showed.
Instead of depending on results for motivation, I relied on my own encouragement and the checklist of accomplishments that told me I was succeeding. I chose to depend on the things I could control.
3. I adopted a nightly journal.
I used a journal to reflect on and dissect my daily effort. I praised the energy that I put into succeeding, noting the important thoughts and actions that pulled me through. I reflected on how my attitude affected my efforts and what I could do to change my attitude.
I also wrote about where I didn’t give my best effort. But instead of focusing on the negative, I appreciated myself just the same, told myself how much better I would do the next day and made specific plans to do so. Every directive I came up with through journaling was fed back into my daily planner so that I could improve the next day.
Resilience gave me independence.
My resilience routine obliterated the brittle mindset that had held me back. I took a leaf from L’Amour and started my own rejection list. Each “thanks, but you suck” letter I received meant that I was one step closer to results. So, like L’Amour, I kept stepping. (Unlike L'Amour, I am still waiting on my 60th bestseller.)
Related: 5 Daily Habits to Optimize Your 2017
The more I praised my effort, the more courage I had to step into the arena and face failure. And I failed with style. I got rejection after rejection from all the big websites, including this one. Query letters to new clients went unanswered or rejected. There were even people who got offended at my attempts to succeed. But, unlike my brittle former self, I kept going. I celebrated the failure. Every time I chose to applaud my effort rather than dwell on mistakes, I became more resilient.
Within one year of adopting a resilience practice, I went from a couch-surfing boy adrift to an independent man, a writer -- published on the world’s best sites -- and a contributor to my local business community.
My resilience practice gave me an inner strength that helped me succeed not only as an entrepreneur, but as an athlete, friend, brother, uncle, role model and son too.
Are you where you want to be professionally? Are you able to take risks? If not, start your resilience routine today.
Come up with the affirmations that you need. Encourage yourself from dawn to dusk. Plan out your day, celebrating your efforts as you achieve. And reflect on your day each night with a journal, assessing what you did right and where you can do better.
Encourage yourself. Take risks. Accept failure. And embrace success.