How to Be More Resilient: The Practice of Bouncing Back 1

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phoenix-bird-image edit2“I’ve failed over and over again in my life, and that is why I succeed.” – Michael Jordan

In the Spring of 2009, I created an offering of four teleseminars.  I put a lot of work into it, spent some money on it, and the result was that one person signed up.  And he didn’t have any money.

I could have just said, “Screw this!”  But I reached out to this man and offered to talk with him for free about the concepts.  It turned out he knew a lot about Voice Dialogue, an emotional process I was interested in, and we spent several weeks Skyping with each other, sharing and learning together.

Over the years I’ve made other efforts in my coaching that had less-than-ideal outcomes.  In the spring of 2013, I decided to niche my coaching practice to focus on men in midlife crisis.  As I write this, I have some concern that I’ll again experience disappointing results, and some days I just want to hide under the covers.  But mostly I’m showing up and plugging away, and you’re reading the results.  Here’s what I’ve learned over the years about resilience, both from my reading of positive psychology, and my experience.

Resilience is the ability to bounce back quickly from setbacks, and to keep engaging with the world and moving forward.  As a man in midlife transition, you might be suffering from the loss of a marriage or job, or you might have found that the life you’ve created over the years no longer fits.  You might be regretting some poor decisions.  You may feel lost and anxious because you don’t know where you’re going or how you’ll get there.  And all of this might make you want to stay under the covers.  The good news is that resilience can be learned.  You can learn to deal with adversity, and bounce back from it.

Please don’t confuse bounce-back, though, with trying to do an end-around on pain.  Avoiding pain or putting on a happy face will only delay what needs doing.  As you move into the second half of your life, you’ll need to let go of your old self, in order to let a more authentic you be born.  It’s painful to let go of your old self, and the only way through this process is to grieve.  As you let go of what no longer fits, you have to spend some time not knowing where you’re going or what your new life will be like.  This terrifies us and can cause us to retreat back into familiar territory, or to become paralyzed.  The skills of resilience help us get more comfortable with the unknown, to stay conscious of the midlife process, and to keep moving forward.

Resilience is not just one skill, though.  It’s a whole set of skills including the abilities to:

  • Grieve what needs grieving
  • Question negative thinking and get radical perspective
  • Learn from adversity and mistakes and see the value in taking risks
  • Be curious and appreciative of whatever is happening
  • Find purpose in our adversity and see the opportunities arising

To help you deal with and get perspective on whatever setback you find yourself facing, I’ve put together thirteen questions for you to ask yourself.  Questions like, What are you learning from your setback?  What’s the gift?  And, what are you being called to become?  You can find the full list at the end of this blog post.

Come back to these questions several times during your midlife transition.  You’ll find the answers evolving as you evolve.  Please don’t just look at these skills and questions when you’re suffering a major setback.  To become truly resilient, you have to make resilience a regular practice.

To get more practice, look back at other setbacks you’ve had and answer the questions for each one.  And as you continue to suffer setbacks and mistakes, even small ones, answer the questions.  Regularly practice also the skills of grieving, getting perspective, questioning negative thinking, and appreciating.  And finally, talk to people you trust about what you’re going through.

As I get ready to launch, I’ve been talking with friends, noticing what’s showing up, and learning throughout the process.  There’s a feeling that I’m on the cusp of something extraordinary, and I need to climb onto the wave and enjoy the ride.  This is what I want for you as you muddle through the midlife transition: climb on board and get ready to discover who you really are and what you really want.  Make resilience a life practice.  When setbacks come again (and they certainly will), you’ll be better prepared to handle them.

I’d love to get your questions and comments below.  Pass on to friends.

Deepening the Practice of Resilience

To help you deal with and get perspective on whatever setback you find yourself facing, answer the following questions.  Several of them are similar, but may provide different answers.  Take some time to answer them all and do some journaling.

  1. What does this situation remind me of from my past?
  2. What judgments do I have about me, others, or the situation?  (Use the Transforming Negative Thinking worksheet on each judgment.)
  3. What am I being called to become (or to become more of)?
  4. What does my soul want now?
  5. What do I need to accept in this situation?
  6. What do I need to let go of?
  7. What am I learning from this?
  8. What’s the gift from this?
  9. What’s going on now from a spiritual journey perspective?
  10. What opportunities are emerging?
  11. What’s a life-affirming and compassionate way of looking at this?
  12. What’s the question that needs to be asked in this situation?  (And then answer it.)
  13. What needs to happen in this situation?

Remember to come back to these questions several times during your midlife transition, and to make resilience a regular life practice.