Friedrich Nietzsche’s adage ‘That which does not kill us makes us stronger’ is the idea of rising above adversity in reaching personal development and growth. The challenging part is actually taking the necessary steps to face adversity and rise above it, when life throws a curveball. It is little surprise that resiliency has been linked to greater well-being for a variety of populations, including those of childhood trauma, those in life transitions, and those in team development and skills-building. Yet, developing and increasing our individual resiliency is often avoided or denied because by developing resilience we are required to face often painful challenges that may not want to be faced.
Resiliency theory has posited resiliency as being a trait, a process, a set of outcome behaviors or an interconnected combination of all three which additionally include both internal and external constructs. Internal constructs may include things like having a sense of humor or adapting a positive attitude whereas external constructs may include social support from family, job, friends or group affiliation. Through these combined constructs and processes, a person is said to be resilient when they can bounce back after a traumatic or adverse event affects them.
Much research exists that discusses ways to increase resiliency when faced with adverse life conditions. For example, creating healthy boundaries in interpersonal relationships may help manage the effects of stress. If a life event caused significant pain or grief, being able to say “no” and establish boundaries and personal space are important in addressing growth and resiliency. Similarly, increasing how much sleep you get, limiting alcohol, practicing mindfulness or meditation, taking up calming exercises such as yoga, and reducing compulsive behavioral habits may all help when facing adversity and in increasing overall resiliency.
In addition to the skills and options outlined above for building and increasing your resiliency, here are six specific goals that can help you in creating and reaching the objectives you set for yourself.
6 Goal-Directed Resiliency Strategies
1. Pushing Past Fears
There’s an old saying that talks about how it’s okay to be scared but to not let it stop us. Those who are resilient are looking past their fears and focusing on their personal goals. By pushing through what scares them (i.e. facing toxic habits, dismissing unhealthy relationships from their lives, learning healthy, new skills) they are empowering themselves in recognizing their value and worth. While stopping a self-sabotaging habit or walking away from an unhealthy relationship with family or friends may be tough at first, in the long run it increases inner strength and helps a person grow in self-awareness, both of which are important in building resiliency.
2. Goals and Behavior
When a person chooses to increase their resiliency, they are also choosing to align their values, their goals and their behavior to make sure they are all in sync. For example, if you have a specific goal of increasing your sense of autonomy and self-direction, part of that goal may include a value you have set for yourself such as not comparing yourself to others or in allowing yourself time to build your resiliency. By holding true to your own values, your goal-directed behavior can become a goal you reach.
Similarly, when your values, behaviors and goals are out of sync you may notice that you are not reaching your desired outcome as fast as you hope to. If this is noticed, it may be a time to refocus and make modifications to your goals so that you can once again be on track with where you want to be.
3. Journal to Realign
Sometimes when a person is faced with adversity or struggles they may feel overwhelmed and may not be able to talk about what is bothering them. This often leads to a viscous cycle where nothing is ventured and nothing gained. By journaling, whether it is electronically or by writing in a notebook, you are able to get your thoughts and feelings out on paper which can help you reorganize your needs and help you in creating goals aligned with enhancing your resiliency.
Some clinicians suggest using several methods to journal (emailing or texting yourself; old school pen and paper) as these tap into different areas of creativity and may help you reach your goals faster. Another option is to have a theme or topic ahead of time, and then use that theme for your journaling.
4. Change Your Mindset
When you hear words like “suffer” or “pain” you can begin thinking of yourself as having been victimized or that you are a bystander in your own life. The words you choose to identify yourself and your experiences can affect how you feel and what you believe to be true about yourself. Using positive words like “thriving” and “empowered” can help restructure the lens from which you view your world. By choosing to look at adversity as empowering you are taking control of your life and the choices and goals you set for yourself.
5. Positively Challenge Yourself
Resiliency is about reframing adverse life events as a way of rising to new challenges and conquering them. Those who are resilient often view challenges in their life as exciting or motivating where they begin setting new goals or where the lessons gained from past experience are now taken with them in their lives. By looking at adversity as a personal and positive challenge it can build your inner strength by creating goals that are aligned in overcoming those challenges.
6. Engage in Self-Care
Self-care is more than a trip to a day spa or getting a massage. While these are amazing and can help promote a sense of peace and calm, self-care includes so much more. For example, creating time each day to exercise, to meditate, to meal-plan are often associated with self-care. Self-care may include taking time out to learn how to create a healthy budget where you follow the “30-30-30-10” rule or similar plan that works with your specific goals. Self-care may include talk therapy with a skilled clinician who can help empower you while helping create other goals for you. Or your personal self-care may include becoming more selective on people you keep in your life while strengthening the relationships you choose to keep.
Ardelt, M., & Grunwald, S. (2018). The importance of self-reflection and awareness for human development in hard times. Research in Human Development, 15, 187 – 199.
Hufana, A.,Hufana, M. L., & Consoli, M. (2019). “I push through and stick with it”: Exploring resilience among Filipino American adults. Asian American Journal of Psychology, 11, 3 – 13.
Munoz, R. T., Hanks, H., Hellman. C. M. (2019). Hope and resilience as distinct contributors to psychological flourishing among childhood trauma survivors. Traumatology, 26(2), 177 – 184.
Parmer, L. L. (2019). The relationship between eliminating stressors, developing resiliency, short-term coping skills and team development behaviors. Journal of Organizational Psychology, 19(5), 114 – 126.