I was getting pounded by rapid-fire questions. The asker was my doctor, filling in blanks on his computer with each answer I gave.
His questions were designed to reveal my attitude toward adversity, my ability to come back after a set-back, and my willingness to take creative risks in life.
In other words, he was assessing my resilience.
Two Mindset Types – Which are You?
It made me think of Carol Dweck’s book Mindset. In the book, Dweck identifies two kinds of mindsets.
The first is the “fixed” mindset. The one who believes that talent and smarts are innate and therefore not learnable. This person is devastated by adversity. “See? You’ll never be great at this, so give up now.”
The other is the “growth” mindset. The person who knows if they work at it, anything is possible. The growth mindset sees problems as important feedback in the learning process.
And you guessed it. Those who have a growth mindset are more likely to get through adversity and create higher levels of happiness in life.
Turns out, my doctor is also a fan of that book.
So, I told him my deep dark secret…
Unlearning the Fixed Mindset
On the outside (e.g. in my answers to his questions) I look to all the world like I have a growth mindset. I teach and live growth mindset.
But there’s another side to it.
I’m not naturally wired this way. I spent the first half of my life surrounded by fixed mindsets.
Here’s one tiny example.
When I started taking voice lessons in college, my dad told me that those people (meaning, anyone on stage) were born with that ability. (Apparently, I wasn’t.) Lessons weren’t going to help. Seven CD’s and a DVD later – I’m glad I took voice lessons.
This is only one instance. I’ve had a lifetime of training to create a fixed mindset. I’m not blaming anyone here. Merely stating that this has meant that over the years (as I’ve taken more and more “voice lessons”) I’ve had to unlearn the patterns of a fixed mindset.
I’ve had to train myself to be resilient.
Like many people, I don’t do well when things go wrong, when I screw up, when I am not perfect.
And yet, I still move forward. I’ve still created success. (And I’m still in process!)
Resilience is Trainable
This is great news. Being resilient is not – as so many success gurus preach – about some inalterable state that you happily and mightily wake up feeling each morning. Many of us didn’t grow up in an environment where a growth mindset was meticulously cultivated.
But that doesn’t mean it can’t be strengthened.
I’ve learned from in-the-trenches experience and by teaching my clients quarterly, monthly, weekly and daily rituals – that being resilient means you work with the hand you are dealt (your past, your brain, your over-sensitivity, your high-anxiety, whatever) and you create practices that build a deep well of inner resilience.
Then you take intentional action from that place.
Here are three simple practices I use to build resilience…
1 – Create proactive habits that protect and strengthen your energy
In order to create business resilience, you have to learn how to honor your own energy.
That means knowing what (and who) drains your energy and eliminating those things from your schedule, or even your life.
It also means creating rituals that build your foundation. A strong foundation prevents the everyday challenges from taking you down as quickly or as long.
So, let’s take the technological glitch that interrupted your webinar.
Say that it happened at 4:00 in the afternoon – after you skipped breakfast, had a depleting phone call with your sister on the way to the office, and canceled your noon workout because you “didn’t have time”…
And then your webinar imploded. How would that affect you when you are already depleted?
Now imagine the opposite: that you began your day with your morning workout and breakfast, let your sister go to voicemail and spent some time writing in your journal. When the webinar crapped out – you’d be much more likely to see it as a momentary fluke, rather than a life-ending disaster, and recover quickly.
Your energy impacts all of your responses. Protect it, cultivate it, and nurture it.
2 – Go fetal
When something happens, or hurts, or sucks or doesn’t work the way it should’ve… don’t force yourself to be resilient if you aren’t feeling it. Instead, give yourself and your heart the space to hurt. I call it “going fetal.” You can call it what you want.
(And yes, years ago, I let myself crawl into bed, deep under the covers. I’d set a timer and give myself until XXX time to be sad, mad, upset or whatever.) This may not be your jam. But if you have emotions, then allow the space for them. Stuffing them only causes you to binge eat or worse.
NOTE: Be sure not to conflate allowing emotions with dealing with the issue at hand. Allowing the space for emotions – whether by feeling them or expressing them to a friend – does not equate to finding a solution. It is merely creating a space for expression.
3 – Mine for the Expansion
When you peel back the layer of business strategy and look to the soul lesson underneath your choices, you discover the core truth. Every challenge is an opportunity for you to expand. This is the message of resilience.
So, after you have given yourself the space for the reactive emotion, take time to explore the answers to the core question:
How is this experience calling me to expand?
Or, as the Zen expression goes: The obstacle in the path becomes the path.
So let’s say an employee quits suddenly. After you give yourself time to worry and complain, you spend a week rethinking your hiring and training methods. Ultimately you create a better system and hire someone even better. The obstacle became your expansion.
I’ve started two businesses from scratch and coached thousands of entrepreneurs, and I believe that every obstacle holds your soul’s growth in it. In fact, I believe that’s why we even have businesses at all – to expand. It’s also why we have challenges at all. When you take this perspective, everything changes.
This is why resilience is such a key quality, not just in business, but in all of life. And it’s why – even if it doesn’t always feel great inside – you’ll begin to welcome obstacles as harbingers of your next level of expansion.