Turning Life’s Trials into Triumphs: Practical Techniques for Resilience

Posted On: January 15

Life doesn’t get easier or more forgiving. We grow stronger and more resilient. But how do you do that?

Here are a few techniques.

The first is to realize when you’re telling yourself a negative story.

Another word for this would be catastrophizing. This is tied to your “explanatory style.” People with a negative explanatory style say to themselves when something goes wrong: this is bad, it’s going to last a long time, it’s going to affect all of my life negatively, and it’s my fault. Resilient people tell a different story. They say to themselves: this is not that bad, it won’t last very long, it only affects part of my life negatively, and it’s not my fault. Of course, this depends on the severity of the issue. Perhaps it is a truly bad situation. But often, people take a small problem and build it into a major catastrophe.

Another technique is to think about a time in your life when you failed – but it turned out to be positive.

For example, I failed out of college on the first try. It was devastating. I thought it was going to ruin my life. On the second try, I graduated in the top four in the United States in my major. I was hired to work in a private foundation for Winthrop Rockefeller. Three years later, at 26, I was named CEO of that foundation. Had I not failed out of college on the first try, my life would’ve turned out completely different. That failure led to great success.

A different approach is to think of a time when you overcame a challenging situation.

In 1992, I lived in Miami, Florida. My house was just a few hundred yards from the ocean. That year, Hurricane Andrew barreled through South Florida with winds of over 160 miles an hour. My home was destroyed. I lost everything I owned. I lived in my truck for months. It was hot. There was no electricity. It was tough to find water. It was very challenging. But I made it through and came out on the other side much stronger. That incredibly grueling time in my life is now a touchstone for handling other difficult situations with confidence. I tell myself that if I could make it through Hurricane Andrew, I can make it through just about anything. 

When things get hard, ask: Is it really so bad? Could this lead to good? Think of past challenges you’ve beaten. You’re stronger and more resilient than you think.

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