An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. We’ve all heard the phrase and we know it’s true. It’s better to prevent something bad (cancer, terrorism) than it is to try to cure it after the fact.
But life is full of risks and we can’t prevent all of them. What happens when you can’t prevent something bad from happening? How well do you bounce back? It’s a question of resilience – our ability to manage stress rather than allowing it to manage us.
We aren’t resilient by nature; it’s not an inborn trait. We learn (or don’t learn) resilience through experience and practice. I’ve been reading up on resilience in a number of different articles (click here, here, here, and here). Here are some tips.
Cognitive reappraisal – we all do dumb things or fail at certain endeavors. Failures can leave lasting scars. We think of a dumb thing we did – even long, long ago – and we conclude that we’re just not up to snuff. The next time we do something dumb, it just shows how mediocre we are. We don’t bounce back effectively because, …. well, we’re just not good enough.
But we can also revisit and reinterpret our failures. For instance, I once wanted to be a baseball player. I was a good fielder but I couldn’t hit well. Ultimately, I failed and for a while I was crushed. Looking back on it, however, I realize how lucky I was to learn the lesson early. I refocused on my studies and did reasonably well. More recently, I’ve reappraised my baseball failure. Now when I fail at something, I think, “Well, maybe it’s like baseball….” That helps me bounce back more quickly.
Make connections – all the resilience research I’ve read says it’s easier to be resilient when you have a close network of friends and family. When I’m having a bad day, I sometimes just want to withdraw. But I find that I bounce back better when I’m around other people. Build your network early; you’ll need it sooner or later.
Think positively – it may sound trite but it works. If you think of yourself positively, then a failure is the exception, not the rule. Even a very stressful event isn’t really about you. Your self-image provides a protective layer. A bad thing happened but that doesn’t make you a bad person. If you still perceive yourself positively, it’s easier to bounce back. A major blow can even provide the motivation (“I’ll show them”) to bounce back strongly.
I’ve picked up some other tips about resiliency and I’ll cover them in future posts. What I’m really looking for, however, is the link between resiliency and creativity. I’ve noticed that some of my more creative moments come soon after a setback, a failure, or just a very bad day. I think that resiliency can contribute to creativity but I don’t know quite how. If you see a link between the two, let me know your thoughts.