The first step to increasing resilience: Positivity. Great.

In 2009 I was in a dark place. My dad had just died, I was quickly losing faith in an industry I thought I would be in until I retired, and I hadn’t had a steady paycheck in more than a year. I could no longer afford rent so I was essentially homeless. I was 2,000+ miles away from my family and I didn’t see a light at the end of this long, long tunnel. I was 32 years old and light-years away from where I thought I would be at that point in my life and career. So, I did what I had to do. I quit the soul-sucking job that wasn’t paying me (and prior to completely doing away with my paychecks, they barely covered my bills), packed everything I could into my truck, and got two minimum wage jobs while I crashed on friend’s couches.

What a life! 

Looking back now, I see how I did use positivity to get through it, but if someone had said “Hey! Just think positive!” at the time, you could add “went to jail for attempted murder” to the nightmare I was living. 

I’ve since learned that I’m a very resilient person by nature. I’ve also learned that I don’t have to experience a crisis in order to flex my resilience muscles, that not everyone is naturally as resilient as I am, and that resilience can be learned and developed. You don’t have to be born with it. 

“Positivity: Finding hope and possibility in the midst of difficult situations.”

Hoopes, Linda. Prosilience: Building Your Resilience for a Turbulent World (p. 69). Dara Press. Kindle Edition. 

So why am I writing about positivity? Because it is important both in life and in business. Using positivity doesn’t have to mean you ignore the reality of a situation. Nor does it mean you relax into a sense of naiveté that “everything happens for a reason”. It means you purposefully look for something positive in the situation. Here are some examples of finding hope in even the darkest of times:

  • Did I practice basic self-care today? If not, is there one thing I can do now? (take a bath, drink some water, go for a 5-minute walk)
  • Think of one person I know who loves and cares for me. What would that person say to me right now? Better yet, call them or send them a text.
  • Did I ask for help today? If not, think of something I can ask for help with tomorrow.

Positivity doesn’t always mean finding something good about a crappy situation. It actually works best when we think of something positive we have done. This encourages us to continue to make positive, healthy decisions which in turn makes us feel good about ourselves.

I understand this can take work. Remaining positive during a major change or traumatic life event is mostly not intuitive for people, and honestly, it’s the last thing I want to do when I am justifiably scared, angry, or upset. The best part: there are no rules! Wallowing, being stuck, and seeing only how bad things are is an important part of the process. Acknowledging the gravity of a situation and assessing the effect it will have is vital. However, most people know on some level when they’re ready to shift their mindset and see something (anything!) good in a hard situation. If shifting out of a negative mindset is consistently difficult, I highly recommend a good therapist or coach to help you with the process. 

Positivity is only one part of the resilience equation. I’ll be writing an article a month on each resilience characteristic, and then move into talking more about prosilience: being proactively resilient. Sign up here to have each article delivered directly to your inbox, along with (non-spammy) tips about increasing your resilience and improving your life and work. 

What are your thoughts about positivity and resilience? Let me know in the comments!

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