The defining moments of our transformation journeys are those moments when we experience a setback or encounter an unforeseen challenge. A vision you believe in and a plan you are willing to follow are necessities to get started, but sooner or later, something happens that has the potential to take the wind out of your sails. Resilience in the face of adversity is what separates those who conquer seemingly insurmountable odds to claim ultimate success, and those who eventually accept defeat and fail to accomplish their goals.
We all know of larger-than-life figures who beat the odds and made history. No matter how many times we are told that they were ordinary people just like us—albeit with extraordinary levels of commitment and determination—it may not be immediately obvious how we could learn from them and similarly develop ourselves to be resilient in the face of external barriers to progress. I recently presented a keynote and conducted a workshop for a professional women’s network on this very topic, and considering how well received it was, I thought I’d share the toplines of my talk with the rest of my network.
Specifically, in today’s post, I’d like to offer six simple questions that will guide you through the process of finding answers that apply to you personally, and six corresponding habits that you can begin to practice to supercharge your resilience to persist and win, even in the most unfavorable circumstances.
Question 1: What is holding you back?
How you answer this question has a profound impact on just how resilient you will be in the face of adversity. If your answer points in the direction of anything outside of yourself, such as other people, circumstances, your finances, things that have happened to you, then you will be disempowered because you will have accepted the false narrative that you are not in charge of your life. This is an opportunity to reframe your thinking and supercharge your resilience.
Habit 1: Accept responsibility
You don’t have to deny the existence of the real barriers that are out there. You don’t have to sugarcoat the fact that someone else or something else may have been largely responsible for where you have ended up right now. But you must also acknowledge that, regardless of what happened in the past and where you are now, only you can take responsibility for getting yourself to a better place. Instead of worrying about why things are the way they are, get in the habit of asking yourself productive questions like, “Why am I tolerating that?” and, “What am I going to do to move forward?” As Dr. Denis Waitely succinctly put it, "There are two choices in life: To accept conditions as they exist, or accept the responsibility for changing them."
For further reading and additional insights on this habit, please see "I Don't Have Time!": A Myth of Disempowerment
Question 2: What are you focusing on?
Most of the time, when we wish our circumstances were different, we get consumed by thinking and talking about things we have no control over, rather than channeling all of our effort and energy toward the few things that we can do to influence the situation. This does nothing but exacerbate the situation and feed our victim mentality, slowly but surely chipping away at our resilience.
Habit 2: Operate within your circle of influence
To paraphrase Shakespeare, “things without remedy should be without regard.” Focus on doing what you can with what you have, not on what you can’t do with what you don’t have. You may be thinking “What about that other stuff? Shouldn’t I be doing something about those?” The answer is that if you can do something to influence them, do it. If not, focus on what you can do. If a problem can be solved, it eventually will be; and if it can’t be solved, then there is no point worrying about it.
For further reading and additional insights on this habit, please see Transforming Your Workplace Culture When You’re Not the Boss
Question 3: How are you showing up?
Have you ever felt the energy, high or low, of someone’s presence without them even saying a word? I think we have all experienced this in others. The way that you show up has a profound effect on how others perceive you, but most importantly, it also affects how you perceive yourself. If you are worried about the future, you show up a certain way. If you are enthusiastic about the future, you show up entirely differently.
Habit 3: Generate yourself
How you show up doesn’t have to be left at the mercy of your automatic thoughts and random feelings that arise based on external circumstances beyond your control. You can intentionally focus on a future of your design and literally change your physiology accordingly, so that you’re standing, breathing, and speaking as if you were living in that future already. Generate yourself according to a future you are excited about, and you will find that others will start getting excited about it too. This isn’t about faking it either. If you are truly committed to the future you are creating, you will be naturally enthusiastic about it. If you feel that you’re having to fake it, then that just means that you haven’t fully connected to the value of the future you are currently working towards.
For further reading and additional insights on this habit, please see Overwhelmed? Try this! It takes less than 1 minute.
Question 4: What do you “know” to be true?
Over your lifetime, you have accumulated thousands of pieces of information that make up your knowledge about the cause and effect relationships in the world around you. You “know” certain things to be true about yourself and others and about what’s possible and about what is never going to happen, and so on. Many of these are indisputable facts, like “fire is hot,” but the vast majority of what you “know” is composed of fictional stories and made-up explanations that you have been holding on to since you were a kid. They were useful to fill the gaps in your real knowledge back then, but most of us have never taken the time to see if they hold up based on what we have learned about the world as adults.
Habit 4: Challenge your assumptions
A great place to start to liberate yourself from false assumptions is to pick a challenge you are dealing with and literally write down everything you know to be true about the situation and the people involved, as well as the future you “know” will result from it. Then, with the help of a friend or a confidant who is willing to be straight and objective with you, separate the facts from fiction and begin to look at the world through a different lens other than the one you have constructed.
For further reading and additional insights on this habit, please see The Analytical Mind: A Blessing and a Curse!
Question 5: Just how committed are you?
We all make commitments that we, at best, will “try” to meet…if everything works out our way, and we have time, and we feel like it. The result is that we end up pretending that we are committed to a plethora of specific outcomes, but we are never really in action to make them happen. This feeds our victim mentality and drains our energy because we are not being straight about being partially committed, so we feel condemned for not doing what we really don’t want to do and condemned for wasting time not doing what we really do want to do.
Habit 5: Be straight about your commitments
Take the approach that commitment is binary. You are either committed or you’re not. The truth is that these conditional and partial commitments aren’t actually commitments at all. As Stephen Covey put it, “Anything less than a conscious commitment to the important is an unconscious commitment to the unimportant.” Sometimes we do genuinely overestimate our ability to get things done, but more often than not, we overcommit just so we can look good to others. If you have set out to achieve a certain outcome, resolve to be all in until that outcome is achieved. And if you are not willing to be all in, then be straight about not being committed, regardless of the consequences. Whether you are open about your lack of commitment or decide to keep up the pretense, the fact is that that outcome is not going to come about, so you are better off using that freed up energy on things that you actually care about. That way you will set yourself free from all of the half-baked “commitments” that are sabotaging your progress on your true commitments.
For further reading and additional insights on this habit, please see The Profound Power of Unconditional Commitments
Question 6: What are you saying to yourself?
The incessant internal dialogue that you are constantly having with yourself is largely responsible for the words you speak, actions you take, habits you develop, and ultimately how your life turns out. This internal dialogue is quite literally the filter that shapes and colors your entire experience of life. Have you ever noticed that most of the time that dialogue is not very encouraging? Unless you address that fact, that inner critic can end up being a Trojan horse to your resilience, sabotaging it from the inside-out.
Habit 6: Transform your language
Speak out loud against your unwanted and automatic thoughts. Behave your way into a new way of thinking, instead of dwelling on the negative thoughts and hoping to turn them around. Interrogate these negative thoughts by questioning the underlying assumptions and sources behind them. Try and figure out if you truly believe what you’re saying to yourself, or if you have just adopted the negative thoughts and beliefs of authority figures in your life. Engage in a positive conversation that will replace the negative thoughts in your head. Remind yourself that, from the point of view of reality, thoughts and feelings are invisible, and only actions truly exist. One way or another, transform the language you use to speak to yourself about your situation and watch it transform your life.
I encourage you to answer these questions for yourself and then identify 1-2 of the habits that you consider to be most applicable to your situation and begin to practice them. You can repeat this process periodically to address other areas that may end up being neglected as other areas become stronger; in that way you will ensure that there are no chinks in the armor of your resilience, so to speak.
About the Author: Amir Ghannad is an international keynote speaker, author of The Transformative Leader, leadership consultant, culture transformation champion, and founder of The Ghannad Group. He has made it his life's work to guide leaders and equip them with the tools, skills, and the mindset necessary to create extraordinary workplace cultures that deliver breakthrough results. Download his free e-book, titled 5 Practical Steps to Make Your Culture Transformation Stick by clicking here.
As always, have a great week! May you Boldly Declare, Courageously Pursue, and Abundantly Achieve the Extraordinary!
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