8 Actionable Tips to Help You Build Resilience

resilience Jul 01, 2021
young male athlete stretching outside

It’s easy to celebrate success. Every PR, every scoreboard that resulted in a W, every risky play that landed my team in the lead. The day I bought my house, signed my first client, and launched The Mindset Coach Academy...

It’s a lot harder to celebrate failure. Or at the very least appreciate that it's a part of growing. It's hard, in the moment, to recognize that failing means we are doing something RIGHT. 

We aren’t taught how to do that. Most of us just want to hide.

It's not that we don't know failure is a part of success. We do. But it's still a hard pill to swallow.  I think back on some of my failures; the days I struggled to keep up at practice, the long drives home on the bus after a loss, the missed game-winning shot. That one time I bounced a ball off my foot. Ooof.

As an athlete or high-performer, you will do whatever it takes to avoid failure. And that mindset might serve you for a while. After all, nothing motivates you to run quite like a big bear chasing you through the woods. Fear motivation is real.

That mindset might serve you… until it doesn’t.

Until it keeps you from trying out for that team, starting that business, going on that date, or stepping into your power. 

We’re wired to avoid failure; and that’s not a bad thing in and of itself. It’s our survival instinct doing its job; It’s what keeps us alive. But unless you’re physically running from a bear, failure is not typically a matter of life and death.

And that’s where mindset work comes in. Because avoiding failure means one thing is guaranteed: we are playing small in life. 

As leaders, we have to go first. We have to truly live what we teach; I remind myself of this every single day. So choosing to work on your resilience is not just about you. It's about setting an example and raising the bar for yourself and every one you influence. By leading by example, you have the privilege of teaching your athletes how to fail well.

Because failure is inevitable; especially if you’re trying to do great things with your life. And the more we let fear dictate our life, the more our world shrinks, and the more our perception of threat grows.

But when we learn to be brave, process fear, and move forward anyway, that’s when we can start to build resilience. 

So let's get to work, shall we? 

What is Resilience and Why Does it Matter?

Resilience is a bit of a buzzword; and even though it’s talked about everywhere, it’s a tough word to nail down. It doesn’t mean that we stop feeling fear of failure; or that we don’t feel the same range of emotions when we’re about to do something risky, or that we don't feel down in the dumps when that risk doesn't pan out.

Resilience means that we can anticipate the possibility of failure, and go for it anyway because we KNOW we can bounce back. It’s the process of learning to be elastic; adapting, persisting, and recovering. It’s the ability to feel all of our feelings and still choose to sideline our ego, get back up, and try again.

One of the biggest cop outs in regards to resilience is that you’re born with it. It's a great excuse because we can tell ourselves: it's just easier for some people.

Our genetic makeup does predispose us to certain personality traits. But that's only part of the story. The full story is that regardless of your DNA, resilience doesn't get built unless you actively choose to move toward failure. And anyone can do it. Anyone can consciously choose bravery over safety. It’s something we learn and we strengthen every single time we step outside our comfort zone.

Resilience is a muscle, and the more you practice it, the easier it is to take risks, get back up, and really go for what you want. When you exercise bravery, you’ll see compounding benefits. Because...

When you’re brave in one area of your life, you reinforce your brain’s confidence that you can do it again.

As time progresses, you’ll see the world as bigger, you’ll see your place in it as yours for the taking, and you’ll take bigger risks for bigger rewards.

Signs of Low Resilience

One of the key signs of low resilience is being so scared of failing that you don’t allow yourself to just ‘go for it’. Of course, there are less-obvious symptoms of low resilience as well. Regardless of where you fall on the spectrum, there’s no such thing as iron clad resilience, and you should always work to strengthen your resilience muscle.

Check out some signs of low resilience below and pay attention to the ones that resonate with you.

  • If you think something may not go well, you don’t try.
  • You are preoccupied with looking stupid in front of your peers.
  • You have difficulty bouncing back after making a mistake or ‘failing’.
  • You fall apart when you feel emotional or stressed.
  • You easily become overwhelmed by a challenge.
  • You quit when things become difficult.
  • You blame others.
  • There is one or more part of your life that you want to change but keep putting it off.
  • You struggle to believe you’ll get better with practice.
  • You are way too hard on yourself and expect perfection. 

If you relate to any of these, resilience today is only one step away. Do something brave and uncomfortable today. If you fail, make a promise to yourself that you'll do something brave tomorrow because THE SUN WILL RISE AGAIN. You can do this. One day at at time. 

8 Ways to Build Resilience

 Ok, so you believe resilience is important, you recognize areas in your life that would benefit from higher resilience. So... now what?

There are so many ways to build resilience on the macro and micro level; but we collected some of the most straightforward and accessible ways to get started.

Practice Being Brave

Don't wait for bravery to find you. Normalize doing things you're bad at and taking risks. Last year, I took an improv class (not an actor) and the year before that, I tried tennis (not my sport).

Choose something to do that you know you’ll be bad at, and do it anyway!

Celebrate Bravery Over Success

Reward yourself for being brave; even if it doesn’t go as planned. And also celebrate bravery in the lives of the people around you.

Do you influence athletes? Kids? Co-workers? Start paying attention to and celebrating the risks they take over the outcome of their risks. In other words, celebrate taking the last second 3 pointer, even if it doesn’t impact the scoreboard.

Focus on the Controllable and Anticipate Change

Focus on what you can control, and let the rest go. Accept that change is a part of life, and ask yourself “What lesson can I learn from this?”

Reframe Failure

Stop thinking about failure as...well, failure, and start thinking about it as an avenue for success. Adopt a post-competition routine where you look back on your performance and practice critiquing your performance rather than criticizing it. We teach this as part  of our Psychology of Competition™ System

Take Firm and Decisive Action

Don’t suffer in indecision purgatory; take action and make decisive choices. Let your yes be yes and your no be no. Do you hate your job? Take big, bold action towards finding a new one or new career.  Do you love to travel but never make the time? Make the time! Become someone who knows what they want and goes for it.

Remaining neutral can be a form of cowardice.

Use Meditation and Visualization

One of the best ways to rewire your brain to be brave and pursue discomfort is through meditation and visualization. By visualizing yourself taking action and following through, you strengthen the neural pathways that tell you your goals are safe and attainable.

Take Care of Yourself

Every day you don’t take care of yourself, you start your day at a deficit.

As Vince Lombardi said, “Fatigue makes cowards of us all”

Engage in activity that fills your well. Take care of yourself; get more sleep, eat more veggies, drink more water, get outside.

Adopt a Growth Mindset

Carol Dweck has a popular theory about mindset. In her theory, there are two types of mindsets: Fixed and Growth.

  • Those with a fixed mindset believe that they’re inherently good or bad at something, and that those things won’t change in any meaningful way with time and practice. People with a fixed mindset believe that success is a direct result of inherent skill. They often focus only on what they’re naturally good at and avoid failure at all costs.
  • Those with a growth mindset believe that their intelligence and talents can be improved on with time and concerted effort. They see failure as an avenue for success and believe success is as much a result of inherent skill as it is of hard work. They work hard, take risks, and run towards failure.

Be aware of your thoughts and the excuses that you make. Adopt a growth mindset, and remind yourself you’re capable of so much more.


My Challenge to You

Do you feel pumped up? Are you ready to try something you’ve always wanted to do but never quite found the time, money, or courage to pursue? I truly hope so!

One way to start normalizing failure and building resilience is to start talking about your failures; past and present. So with that, I’m going to leave you with a final challenge:

I challenge you to ask someone close to you about their biggest failure.

Dive in deep, and reciprocate by telling them about how you’ve failed. Not only will it remind you of how far you’ve come, it’ll help you see the ways in which your past failures have shaped your life and made you more qualified to lead. It’ll remind you of your resilience.

This is one of my FAVORITE exercises for so many reasons. I do this with my mindset coaching students, and I can tell you firsthand that this is powerful stuff.

If you’re willing to share, drop a comment and let me know about your biggest failure!

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