Resilience is not a quality some people are born with and some not.
The creative, entrepreneurial process requires a relentless commitment to solving complex problems and resilience must be learned.
Resilience is developed by applying consistent effort, exerted day after day, over a long period of time. It is a necessary pre-requisite to creating something worthwhile.
There is no such thing as success without a significant amount of trial, tribulation and a sprinkling of luck.
Resilience is something that starts early in school, is influenced by upbringing and is a core part of who you are. It is not something you opt in or out of being on any given day.
School forces you to do things you don’t like but are important. I hated maths at school. I never understood how adults could stand the boredom of writing a novel. But school forced me to learn to deal with solving maths problems and writing essays.
I still remember crying and crying at home, being forced by my mum to do long division and finish yet another 11+ test so I could get into a good school. This was my first memory of a time I had to muster mental toughness and dig deep for my 11-year-old self.
I still think about what it means to be resilient.
It means finding the strength to do something you know is important, but is not easy to do.
It means turning up and doing the job you’ve committed to.
It means you keep going for a cause you believe in, just when you want to give up most.
What does Developing Resilience feel like?
It’s a case of following the next logical step and having faith that your decisions will take you in the right direction. It’s about leveling up and improving, one bit at a time. It is about chipping away at a huge project, day in, day out. This is what progression and developing resilience is.
No-one is immune from setbacks or rejection. If you are living life to the full, these experiences are all too common. We open ourselves up to criticism and judgment from others whenever we put anything meaningful out into the world. We can either wallow in self-pity and feel wounded and scarred. Or we can remind ourselves of our inherent self-worth, independent of the beliefs of others, and get back up and try again.
How to Build Resilience Over Time
I have been served my fair share of shit sandwiches and have had to learn out of necessity how to deal with problems, overcome stress and roll with the punches. Here is what I try to do:
1. Cultivate healthy habits. When times get tough, continuing with healthy habits preserves your energy so that you can quickly recover. It can be very easy to find yourself in a downward spiral if something goes wrong. Without healthy habits, we can end up feeling even worse.
2. Recognise discomfort and uncertainty as growth. Being scared is not a sign of weakness, as long as it doesn’t stop you from doing something important. Being brave is about feeling scared, but doing what you need to do anyway. As an entrepreneur, you have to find a way to drudge through the drudgery and make progress, even if it’s just a little bit, each and every day.
3. Get into situations when there is a strong likelihood of rejection and criticism. These are high risk but potentially high reward. Many people hate the idea of failure so much that they never try at anything. We all have felt the pangs of embarrassment and some people let it scar them and it becomes a mental barrier to trying anything else new. But others accept that sometimes they will fall flat on their faces. But it never kills them. You will win eventually, and you will win big.
4. Feel what you need to feel in the heat of the moment. And let it go. Don’t let it consume you. Though a set back can feel all-encompassing at the time, it is not the be all and end all of life. When you believe you are not good enough, it’s a slippery slope to behaving as if it’s true. You don’t enjoy your life as much as you could. There were many days I didn’t feel like doing anything at all. But you have to find the energy to start small and begin again.
Choose to Change
You would be superhuman if you always felt confident and self-assured, 100% of the time. Those are very rare people. Instead of giving into feelings of inadequacy and de-motivation, think instead about how you can find the energy to start small and push forwards.
If you find yourself in tricky situations, don’t let these days paralyse you into inaction. A good starting point is to think about the times you did well. What were the circumstances? How did you feel? Is there any way you can replicate those circumstances now?
Think about the things you are recognized for being good at, by other people, and from your perspective. What things do you like most about yourself?
Resilience shouldn’t be confused with stamina and the testing of our physical and mental limits to breaking point. Resilience is more than that. It is about refusing to lose your shine, even in the face of adversity.
To be truly resilient is to be safe in the knowledge that no matter what happens, you will get back up, lick your wounds and try again.
Overcoming Imposter Syndrome
“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.” – Bertrand Russell
New entrepreneurs are particularly susceptible to imposter syndrome. You have to act authoritative and with credibility, like you know what you are doing, even when you are just starting out.
But just because you don’t have the experience doesn’t mean you are going to fail. Life is more fluid than that. You can learn along the way. If you have the foundations right, you can try your hand at most things and not die.
If you find yourself swimming in self-doubt, remember this quote from AA Milne’s Winnie the Pooh:
“You are stronger than you seem,
Braver than you believe,
and smarter than you think you are.”