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How to Learn Resilience: The Stress Buster
for the Decade

by Susan Dunn


“If we always listened to our intellect,” wrote Ray Bradbury, “we would never have a love affair." We’d never have a friendship. We’d never go into business, because we’d be cynical. Well, that’s nonsense. You’ve got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down.”

There are many times when we have to go ahead when we’re not sure how we’re going to do something. One thing studying Emotional Intelligence (EQ) does is prepare you. It gives you the confidence to try new things, because you know you’ll know how to build those wings when the time comes. We study the THEORY, so we can APPLY it as needed. You never know what kind of wings you’re going to be needing, after all, and when you’re pushed, rather than jumping by choice, it can be even more challenging.

That’s when you need resilience, an EQ competency. Lots of things can come along that can throw us for a while – a setback, loss, adversity, rejection, an accident, getting fired, death of a loved one, or other tragedy. Learning resilience means learning the skills for coping with adversity and bouncing back without bitterness. It means bouncing back with hope and optimism for the future. Some things take longer than others, but as long as you eventually bounce back and are not bitter and cynical, you have been resilient.

How do you study resilience? Take courses, read books, work with a certified emotional intelligence coach, study people who are resilient and internalize the qualities. All these ways are good, especially in combination. Developing your emotional intelligence is a lifelong proposition that is win, win, win, and win some more. You can count on adversity entering your life sooner or later. No one is exempt. It’s also helpful, because increasing any of the emotional intelligence competencies increases all of them, and increases your overall EQ.

Resilience has been called the stress-buster of this decade. Why? Because the stressors will come. We know that. Building your resilience means getting the tools and skills you need, which gives you the confidence. It’s hard enough to go through adversity without compounding this by not having any idea what you could do to make it better under the circumstances.

One of the hardest things about coping with adversity, people tell me, is when it’s suddenly all new. For instance, if you break your leg for the first time at the age of 40 you’re going to be faced with a lot of new things – limping, elevating your foot, hobbling, using crutches or a wheelchair, having to check the floor in front of you all the time for rugs that might slip, or spills of liquid, taking the pressure off your foot, not having the use of your hands … There is no learning curve, and you must override many years of habit. One minute you are walking on two feet as you always have. The next moment, you have only one useable foot and must not put any weight on the other one.

But you aren’t helpless. Although you’ve never learned this thing before, you have learned other hard things before. There are many things you learned how to do for a first time in your life, if you think of them that way. One day you had never been to college before. The next day you were in college. One day you were single. The next day you were married. How did you cope with those events? What did you learn that you can apply to this new situation?

You can also think back on adverse events that have happened. With the wisdom of hindsight you can filter out what worked and what didn’t. One of the most important things we learn from past adversities, is not to compound the original problem with a new one. For instance if your fiancé rejects you and you handle it by drinking, one day you’ll be over your fiancé, but then you’ll have to deal with the drinking.

Or let’s say you’re having trouble at work, so you come home and take it out on your spouse. Then you add relationship problems to work problems and each makes the other worse, neither gets solved, and you are digging yourself into a deeper hole.

Toddlers cope with things like, well, toddlers, and give us stark examples. I was watching a little guy the other day. His mother wouldn’t give him more pudding until he finished his meat and vegetables, so he swept his arm across the high chair tray throwing everything to the floor, including the pudding, and so he was left with nothing at all.

So consider how you can cope with your current adversity and frustrations. Best to cope in ways that will allow you to move forward in the most beneficial fashion, and not have either another mess to clean up, or nothing at all.

Resilience is very beneficial to learn and to keep learning. You never know when you’re going to need to build a quick set of wings!


The Author


Susan Dunn, MA, is the EQ Coach, . Susan provides coaching, Internet courses, and ebooks around emotional intelligence for your personal and professional success. E-mail for free ezine. Become a certified EQ coach. Email for info on this fast, affordable, comprehensive, no-residency program. Training coaches worldwide.

Many more articles in Emotional Intelligence in The CEO Refresher Archives
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Copyright 2004 by Susan Dunn. All rights reserved.

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