5 Strategies for Becoming a More Resilient Person and Entrepreneur

2020 has been an eye-opening year—a reminder of how quickly and radically the world can change. The rapid spread of Covid-19, the pervasive rise in white supremacy, the steep decline of trust in government officials, and the growing threat of climate change has lead to a global state of alert, with many living in survival mode. Even with government aid and proposed action plans, it has been made clear that we all need to take collective responsibility to look after ourselves and our communities. But in order to do so, we must learn to be resilient. 

What is Resiliency?

Resilience is a psychological quality which determines our ability to adapt to difficult situations. How resilient we are as individuals determines whether we forge ahead or fall apart when faced with stress, adversity, or trauma. Resiliency isn't about being stoic or thick-skinned, but rather, it is determined by a number of factors such as genetics, early life experiences, and luck. While these things cannot be modified, decades of research suggest there are specific, resilience-building skills we can learn. 

The Science Behind Resilience 

Norman Garmezy, a developmental psychologist and clinician at the University of Minnesota, spent four decades travelling across the United States interviewing children with low socioeconomic status and challenging home conditions to learn more about resilience. He is widely credited with being the first to study the concept in an experimental setting, but not the only one.

Through a thirty-two-year longitudinal project, involving six hundred and ninety-eight children, Emmy Werner, also a developmental psychologist, found that several elements predicted resilience. Perhaps most importantly, was what psychologists call an “internal locus of control”, meaning the children who demonstrated the most resilience believed that they, and not their circumstances, affected their achievements. Werner also discovered that resilience could change over time—some people who weren’t resilient when they were little somehow learned the skills of resilience as they grew older, and vice versa. 

George Bonanno, a clinical psychologist at Columbia University’s Teachers College, has been studying resilience for over twenty-five years. His theory of resilience starts with an observation: even though all of us possess the same fundamental stress-response system, some people use it so much more frequently or effectively than others. Why is this so? Bonanno believes it has to do with perception. Some of us conceptualize an event as traumatic while others view it as an opportunity to learn and grow. But the beautiful thing about perception is it can be changed. We can all learn to have a more positive construal, and therefore, become more resilient to the difficulties which lay ahead. 

5 Strategies for a More Resilient Brain

   1. Make Connections 

In the research mentioned above, it was found that children who displayed more resilience had at least one supportive relationship with an adult. Though it becomes more and more difficult to create and sustain relationships the older we get, the support of community is immeasurable. Having a tight-knit group of people to lean on can help us navigate trouble when it arises.  

   2. Learn to Regulate Your Emotions

Stress and negative emotions don't always have to be harmful. Although they can turn toxic and lead to negative outcomes, they can also be useful motivators—pushing us to resolve problems or strive for better opportunities. With proper support systems and coping techniques, over time, our bodies and minds can begin to manage stressors and perceived threats. 

   3. Change the Narrative

While forced positivity can be toxic in its own way, changing our perspective can offer new ways to approach challenges. Life isn't static. It ebbs and flows, for better or for worse, but accepting and even anticipating change can make it easier to adapt. When new challenges arise, changing the narrative to one that is more hopeful can reduce anxiety and help us think in a more productive, optimistic way.  

   4. Be Proactive

Being resilient means facing problems head on rather than letting them pile up. Though difficult, figuring out what needs to be done, making a plan, and taking action, instead of ignoring the issues at hand, will lead to resolve rather than further stress. Although it can take time to recover from a major setback, traumatic event or loss, you can improve your situation if you continue to work at it. 

   5. Practice Empathy 

When faced with a difficult situation, it is easy to get lost in self-pity—fears and adversity can make us feel alone, like we are the only ones who have ever felt pain or sorrow. But that is never truly the case. Practicing empathy helps us recognize that everyone suffers, some more than us, and teaches us to cultivate compassion, for others and ourselves. 

Cultivating resiliency as an Entrepreneur with Adesso Man's CEO, Abdul Ahmed

What does resiliency and perseverance mean to you? 
Someone once said to me that life is a beautiful struggle. The hardships, the ups and downs, and the dark times are necessary for one to appreciate the beauty of this gift that we call life. To me, resiliency is the unwavering pursuit to continue to grow and live despite the circumstances that one may face in life. Failure, hardship, and pain aren't the end, but rather have the potential to shape us into better versions of our self. As a human race, we have survived and evolved into who we are today through resiliency and perseverance. It is the only way, the human way.
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How do you cultivate resiliency in your life? 
For me, it starts with knowing that you don't control everything in your life nor can you ever. Accepting this is the first step. Then, I chose to practice immense gratitude for everything in my lifethe good, the bad, and the uglybecause it has shaped who I am; and taught me so many lessons, which I would not have learned otherwise. The only way is forward. Living in the past is futile and will hold you back so I frame the challenges in my life not as problems but as opportunities to become a better version of my self. To learn, to grow and to work towards my purpose. 
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How do you approach and deal with setbacks?
Problems equal progress but only if you deal with setbacks on two fronts: emotionally and logically. My first priority is to make sure I am in a mindset where I can think clearly, in order to determine a logical and practical solution to whatever problem I am dealing with.
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I have learned that your emotional state can be altered in a few different ways. As soon as I start feeling anxious or stressed, I will work out, go for a run or just jump up and down. As soon as I start moving my blood starts pumping and my physiology changes as endorphins are released. Next, I focus on the things I am grateful for and I have in my life instead of the problem itself. Refocusing your mind from a place of worry, panic, or stress to a place of gratitude is essential. I usually do this through my spiritual practice of prayer.
Lastly, I work on changing the language around the problem so I can reframe the way I think of the setback. A lot of the language we use towards ourselves can be very limiting, focusing on insecurities rather than our strengths. So instead of saying something like "why does this always happen to me?" or "my life sucks", I would say "wow, another opportunity to learn something" or "I can deal with any problem that comes my way because I am strong and capable and I will figure this out." The combination of the 3 practices really helps me get over any hump that I may have to deal with in my life.
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When I look at problems from a logical standpoint, I dig deep to identify the root and both the internal (like your attitude or approach) and external (the economy or political causes etc.) reasons for why the problem exists. When you are able to identify your own weaknesses and strengths, and the external opportunities and threats, you can identify a few strategies to overcome the problem. Ranking these solutions according to a decision matrix can also help you determine which is the best route to take. Then you try and test and learn and keep trying and testing all your options until you find a way through the problem.
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How important is resiliency is in terms of entrepreneurship and small-business ownership, especially during Covid-19?
I apply the same philosophy to my business as I do with my personal life, since they are are both connected. However, I do want to mention that resiliency shouldn't be mistaken for ego. Sometimes we have to come terms with the reality of a situation and let go of something we love and worked hard for. Though a difficult decision to make, sometimes moving on is the only solution to a problem and a form of resiliency.
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As business-owners, we were able to adjust to Covid-19 with optimism and flexibility. We had to be humble in order to understand where we were as a business, what lay ahead, and what resources we had. We were also resolute in our mission and believed this to be a temporary hiccup in a long journey to achieving our professional goals. By being flexible and letting go of our ego, we were able to make hard decisions and sacrifices so we could continue moving forward. I believe all we can do is our best, the rest is in God's hands and I am content with whatever plan he has.

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