7 principles to help you strengthen your resilience and keep going
“Difficulties are just things to overcome, after all”
When it comes to lessons in resilience – how to navigate and endure unbearable circumstances and reach the other side triumphant overall odds – very few stories are as touching as that of the Antarctic explorer, Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton (his story also makes for a good read or watch for anyone stuck for things to do during isolation).
For two years between 1914 and 1916, Shackleton and his 28 crew members of the imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition were completely isolated from civilization after their ship, Endurance, was crushed by the frozen sea. Battling freezing temperatures, drifting on packed ice, sailing through storms and surviving on seal, penguins and eventually their dogs’ meat – it’s a miracle they survived.
In their heroic journey we are shown some of the fundamental principles of resilience:
1. RESILIENCE IS A TRAINABLE SKILL THAT CAN BE DEVELOPED
Good news: our capacity to recover quickly from difficulties can be enhanced as well as our ability to keep going despite any obstacles that come in our way. Just bring to mind some of the most resilient people you know, and you will realise that they are also the ones who have faced unthinkable hardships. This is not a coincidence. They have simply had the “opportunities” to train and exercise their resilience muscles.
If you think of your own experience, potentially the moments of suffering and sorrow were when you built your emotional resilience and learned what you are made of.
In the words of Kelly Clarkson, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”.
2. RESILIENCE IS IN OUR DNA
We are the descendents of the survivors. We have accumulated thousands and thousands of years of resourcefulness, adaptability and creativity from our ancestors.
On the matter of our resilient DNA, Winston Churchil said: “We have not journeyed all this way across the centuries, across the oceans, across the mountains, across the prairies because we are made of sugar candy. Resilience is our shared inheritance, it is the very hallmark of our species. We are creative, we are adaptive and history has shown that humanity somehow always finds a way even when it appears that there is no way”.
3. RESILIENCE IS BUILT IN THE PRESENT & STABLE MIND
The British government had the right idea when they coined the famous slogan, ‘Keep calm and carry on’ during the wartime effort in 1939. Whatever is thrown at us, we have to learn to put one foot in front of another, step by step, without panicing and collapsing down.
Uncertainty pulls the rug from underneath us and can bring agitation to the mind. Therefore it is crucial to have methods to bring stability to the mind. Settling the mind is very different from suppressing thoughts and emotions. Meditation training teaches us how to bring our minds to its natural state – calm, clear and focused. Resting in awareness gives us serenity.
Dr. B. Alan Wallace, PhD, a scholar and practitioner of Buddhism since 1970 shared in this podcast, how a type of meditation called Shamatha is the baseline for a balanced life, when you are no longer a slave of your mind and stress no longer rules and ruins your existence.
4. RESILIENCE IS ANCHORED IN PURPOSE
Let’s face it, facing obstacles is no easy task. It’s normal to feel like we want to give up. But quitting is not an option once you have a strong resolution that is grounded in a meaningful pursuit.
Connecting with what moves us, aligning ourselves with what really matters, identifying our values and having worthwhile reasons to overcome challenges is the northstar of our problem-solving strategy. It keeps us strong in the game.
As the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once said: “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.”
5. RESILIENCE IS A SHARED EXPERIENCE
Facing hardships on own can make us feel small, helpless and hopeless. A lack of connection can lead to depression and even premature death. According to Juliane Holt-Lunstad, one of the leading researchers in loneliness, insufficient social connection can have the same deadly effect as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
Science shows what instinctively and primordially we already know: together we are stronger. Living as a tribe increases our chances of survival and resilience.
Therefore, in times of social-distancing make sure you FaceTime friends and family, take part in live workouts, enrol in Zoom mass meditations, send support to a vulnerable community and share your vulnerability wisely.
6. RESILIENCE REQUIRES ENERGY
A professional athlete rigorously follows a regime for peak performance based on nutrition, exercise, adequate sleep and mind training. They understand that in order to build stamina and increase endurance and resilience, their bodies and minds need optimum fuel, rest and a winning mindset.
Bhakti Sharma, the first Asian woman and the youngest in the world to set a record in open swimming in Antarctic waters (Sharma swam a mighty 1.4 miles in 41:14 minutes, at a temperature of 1°C) says that asking herself “is this the best I can do right now?” is what keeps her moving forward one stroke at a time.
7. RESILIENCE INCREASES WITH A SENSE OF HUMOR
Hardships are not a joke, but if we can keep our outlook light-hearted, look for rays of hope and laugh at the small and simple things of life, then it makes the heavy load lighter.
For further proof, a scientific paper from Harvard Neuroscience Institute shows the crucial role laughing has in relieving tension and stress, boosting the immune system and enhancing our mood by producing serotonin, endorphins and dopamine.
Natalia is a former PR director who left the corporate world to follow her passion for self-improvement and wellness.
Alongside running and expanding the disruptive startup, Form, she is also a qualified meditation teacher who has studied with Buddhist monks and nuns, and been certified by the Google-developed Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute.