Sometimes life throws something unexpected that requires you to be more resilient, more pliable, and tensile. It calls you to come up higher, and you just have to figure out how to.
I had one of these recently. I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes, requiring me to transform life habits and diet overnight. It’s not an uncommon complication—many people have gone through it—and by no means the hardest thing someone could ever face in a pregnancy, though severe consequences are possible.
Since living with the diagnosis, the number of internal dialogues in my mind has gone up. It goes from being fine, feeling guilty, discouraged, hopeful… all cycling multiple times a day. It seems to me like something that needs resilience, a virtue that combines patience and endurance, as opposed to a one-time event that I can get over. There’s a time element to it, and the way to face it requires small forms of courage every day.
I’d be remiss to not learn something about resilience from this experience. So here are some of the things I’m learning, and have to tell myself often, on how to be more resilient.
1. Resilience Requires Obstacles
No strength can be built without resistance. This is true in every realm of life: physical, emotional, mental, intellectual, spiritual, professional. We grow because we face challenges. There is a desired amount of misery that is good for our life education.
So the first step to resilience is to realize the necessity of difficult situations and obstacles, to not resist but embrace them.
Sure, the diagnosis sucks, and it may take some time to accept your given situation. But as a student of Tim Ferriss, I have to believe—and I am, in fact, convinced—that every disadvantage can be turned into an advantage. I’ve read all these books and blogs. Now it’s time to practice them.
The obstacle becomes the teacher, the tool, the stepping-stone to go higher. They’re not necessary evil. They’re just necessary.
2. Keep Your Eyes Forward
Keep your eyes and mind on the thing you need to overcome. Resist the temptation to look around.
It’s easy to compare yourself with others and with you didn’t have to go through this challenge, envying what others have instead. This is not helpful and it doesn’t change reality one bit. It will weaken your spirit instead. Focus on the path forward and embrace its uniqueness.
3. Take Time to be Quiet
Another temptation is to multiply the company for your misery and complain to every ear in sight. Resist this impulse too. There’s strength to be gained by simply being quiet. Keep some of your challenges to yourself. Don’t cheapen the experience by complaining or over-sharing. Sure, talk to your trusted few, but no one’s really entitled to know every single thought and feeling that you have. They probably don’t want to know. Too much talking may weaken your resilience. So don’t discourage yourself by your words.
4. Be Open to Advice…with Limits
Those with whom you share will undoubtedly have an infinite amount of advice. And the probability of all of that advice being correct is a big fat zero. They mean well, of course, or they just want to self-affirm.
Regardless, be open to what people say. It’s going to be tempting to be defiant: “You don’t know what it’s like.” But don’t do yourself a disservice by being too stubborn. Listen, take what you can, and discard the rest. Don’t fight advice, but don’t accept everything. Receive help, as long as it is helpful.
5. Your Path is Yours Alone
Ultimately, you are on the path to resilience alone. No one else can strengthen your muscles. You may have company and others’ support, but our human experience is ours along to bear. No one else will understand completely your thoughts, feelings, and motives. And that is how it should be.
If you were to be more resilient, you alone are responsible in developing that strength.
6. Ask the What-If Question
Because resilience is about strength over time, it’s not a bad exercise to ask the what-if question. What if this challenge persists forever, if things won’t ever change? What if I can never eat a Nutella crepe ever again?
Sometimes we can develop strength momentarily, when we know a certain situation is finite. But sometimes, there is no guarantee that it will be over. What then?
If we could make peace with a persistent condition, then maybe we would have learned something about true resilience.