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.

9 Habits of Resilient People (No. 7)

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

The seventh habit is: Resilient people spend time with resilient people

In article No. 4 in this series I mentioned that resilient people actively ask for help when they need it. The people they ask will most likely be people who are as resilient as themselves. For who better to ask than someone who knows how to deal with a crisis? For that reason resilient people will notice resilience in other people and will recruit them to their network of friends and supporters.

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9 Habits of Resilient People (No. 6)

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

The sixth habit is:

Resilient people practice self-renewal.

By self-renewal I mean that resilient people are never satisfied with the status quo; they are always looking for new horizons. Another way of putting this is that resilient people are continually re-inventing themselves.

Many of you reading this article may recall someone you know who mysteriously gave up their lucrative job in banking, or law, or in industry and went on a trip round the world (or went on a retreat in India, or built a house, or started a charity, or retrained as a teacher, etc.). I can guarantee you that that person is well-equipped to handle life’s disasters. For one thing they have shown already is that they are able to give up their attachments and start over again.

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9 Habits of Resilient People (No. 5)

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

The fifth habit is: Resilient people are hard realists.

Another way of putting this is that resilient people see things the way they are, not as they wish they might be. In a crisis they deal with facts rather than worries and similar fantasies.

People who don’t practice mind control can get lost in thoughts about the past (wish it was different), the future (hope it doesn’t happen) and about problems (wish they weren’t there). Resilient people live in the present and, mostly, focus on making the present work. For this reason resilient people tend to be very clear-sighted; one reason why other people tend to go to them for advice.

When crises come round resilient people will do a number of inter-related things first:

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9 Habits of Resilient People (No. 4)

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

The fourth habit is: Resilient people know what to do with their emotions.

Another way of putting this is that resilient people are emotionally intelligent. That is to say: resilient people understand what emotions are for, pay careful attention to their own emotions, and practice speaking up about them. I referred briefly to this trait in the first article in this series: Resilient people tell it the way it is.

Emotions are largely related to your own self-preservation and your relationships with other people. If you are following the wrong path in life and doing things which are not right for you then your emotions will warn you about that. If you are in the wrong type of relationship then your emotions will warn you about that too. Similarly, emotions are there to guide you through a crisis.

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9 Habits of Resilient People (No. 3)

This is the third in a series on the characteristics of resilient people.

The third habit is: Resilient people exercise mind control.

The opposite way of saying this is that people who get stressed, anxious and depressed are not in control of their minds. Rather, their minds control them. Their heads are filled with a constant stream of thoughts which dictate their feelings, behaviour and activities – even their brain chemistry.

To use an old cliche about fire: the mind is a good servant but a bad master. The secret to making your mind work for you is to be selective abut which thoughts you pay attention to. Because thoughts are not real; they are only versions of reality, like paintings are. Some are stupid, shoddy and ugly; others are clever, inspired and life enhancing. You should only be looking at the latter sort.

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9 Habits of Resilient People (No. 2)

This is the second in a series of nine articles on resilience.

The second habit is: Resilient people have solid boundaries

A common source of what some people call stress is to become over-loaded with demands from other people. Another, equally common is to become so isolated that you have no one to turn to when things get bad.

Knowing when to open up to people so that they become your friends and supporters, and when to say ‘No’ to people when you can’t take on any more is what ‘boundaries’ are for. 

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