9 Habits of Resilient People (No. 8)

This is the eighth in a series of articles on resilience.

The eighth habit is: Resilient people take ownership.

What this means is that resilient people take total responsibility for what happens to them. Another way of putting this is that resilient people do not become victims or succumb to self-pity.

This does not mean that ownership for what happens means that you are always the cause of what happened. It may be (partly) your fault if you lost your job, or your relationship, or got into debt. But you aren’t the reason for an airplane crash, a terroristic attack, or the cancer that killed your mother. But in either case you can decide how you are going to respond.

Let us also make a distinction between a reaction and a response. A reaction is usually automatic and predictable and woeful. A response is something that is planned, thoughtful and focused. Reactions may take any of the following courses:

  • Feeling overwhelmed and powerless
  • Thinking: “Why does this have to happen to me?”
  • Worrying that you won’t be able to cope
  • Blame, guilt and recrimination
  • Having a meltdown

Ownership starts with acknowledging the reality of tragedy in life. I referred to this response briefly in my fifth article: Resilient people are hard realists. Life is full of events that we don’t want to happen but wishing life was different simply adds to your suffering and disempowers you. Just as life is what happens to us while we are busy making other plans, so adversity is an opportunity for you to demonstrate heroism.

A useful phrase to rehearse whenever you are up against it is ‘OK, I got this’. Ownership is right there in that phrase: you’ve got it – all of what happened to you and the capacity to bear with it and your next response. And those responses will be calm, focused, constructive and designed to make things better in some way. Or, at the very least, to avoid making a bad situation worse than it needs to be.

Another way that ownership is revealed is through your attitude to your mistakes and weaknesses. Resilient people don’t try to gloss over their failures; they own them, for that is the way in which they learn. That is why you will hear resilient people say ‘I screwed up, it won’t happen again, or ‘I didn’t know enough about the subject when I wrote that’, or ‘I will do better next time”. When building resilience the emphasis is always about what you can do to make things better, not in dwelling on events in the past which you can no longer change.

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