Susan Fee

Article Summary:

Resiliency – the art of bouncing back from tragedy – is a learned skill. Here’s how to get started to improve yours.

Bouncing Back

At one time or another, most of us will encounter circumstances that seem insurmountable: job loss, relationship break-up, economic struggles, loss of a loved one, physical trauma – the list goes on. They are defining moments in life that can either knock us down or make us stronger. While we can’t always control our circumstances (life’s curve balls are usually out of our control), we can control our responses. Resiliency, or how well you bounce back, is a skill that can be learned and refined. Here’s how you can get started:

Have Reasonable Expectations
The road of life is paved with a few potholes, dead ends, and wrong turns. If you accept that at some point you’ll hit bumpy territory, then you’re better prepared to negotiate it. But, if you expect to live a life without setbacks, then the first bump you hit is perceived as a failure. Those who are best able to recover from adversity accept that it’s part of living a full life.

Change Your Question
Most people focus on how they ended up in their challenging situation. Obsessing about the details of your circumstances will keep you stuck in the same place, unable to move forward. Resiliency means shifting the focus from what happened to what to do next. The best question you can ask yourself is: What can I do for myself right now that will move me forward? Then you can apply what you learned to future situations.

What’s Within Your Control?
Another thought pattern that delays rebounding from negative events is focusing on things you can’t control. Doing so will make you feel incapable, helpless, victimized, and stressed. Instead, focus only on what you can control. Sometimes, the only thing you have control over is how you choose to respond – and that’s big.

Growth Opportunity
While positive events reinforce what we’re doing right in life, our biggest life lessons tend to come in the wake of negative events. Do bad things need to happen in order for us to learn? Of course not, but negative events seem to have a lasting impact that cause us to alter our lives in more significant ways. What can you learn from your setback? How can you use it to improve your life (or the lives of others) in the future?

Assess Your Strengths
No matter what happens in life, there are certain things you’ll always own: character strengths. Each of us has certain traits that make us unique. They can’t be taken away (although sometimes we choose to give them away). Take a personal inventory of what makes you special. Think of personality traits that have been consistent throughout your life and have helped you in previous situations. Are you naturally curious? Are you compassionate? Are you humorous or creative? Highlighting and engaging your strengths gives you energy to rebound.

Susan Fee is a licensed counselor, life coach, and corporate trainer. She is the author of two communication tips booklets that may be ordered through her Website, She is also the author of the college survival book, “My Roommate is Driving Me Crazy! Solve Conflicts, Set Boundaries, and Survive the College Roommate from Hell”(Adams Media). Visit the website for free college survival tips. Susan also conducts one-on-one executive coaching in interpersonal and public speaking skills and teaches individuals how to identify and reach their personal goals. Past clients include Disney, Motorola, and United Airlines.

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