Sometimes it seems like some people are just naturally and inherently more “tougher on the inside” than others. The reality, though, is that psychological resilience is a skill that can and should be purposefully cultivated over time.
After all, we’re each built with innate psychological resilience from the get-go. Think about it: as toddlers learning to walk, each time we fell down, we just got back up and tried again until eventually we could walk.
Over time, however, we start to hesitate about getting back up when we’re struck down at work and in life. Sometimes it’s because we simply feel so overwhelmed that we forget how to pick ourselves up again. Other times, it’s because we’re stuck in the past or too fearful of the future to brush ourselves off and get right back to it.
Fortunately, since psychological resilience is a skill, it’s also something you can keep on cultivating until you attain mastery of it. Here are two ways to do just that.
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More often than not, the reason we get so stressed out during crunch time has less to do with the actual piles of work lying on our desks. Instead, it has everything to do with feeling overwhelmed and overrun by the amount of items on your task list for the day, especially during peak season, or simply if you’re running multiple projects simultaneously.
Here’s the thing: no matter how worried you feel about being buried alive under an avalanche of work, none of that worrying will help you get anything done.
In fact, the more you entertain those worries endlessly, the more it paralyses you and makes you feel helpless, as though you’ve lost control over yourself and your ability to work hard and thrive in the workplace.
In such situations, the best thing to do is to just focus on the next doable step or action that you’re going to take, regardless of how small it may be. Shawn Achor, bestselling author of “The Happiness Advantage”, refers to this as “The Zorro Circle.”
By focusing the bulk of your mental and emotional energy on that next immediate step, you’re hedging against that feeling of being overwhelmed by reminding yourself that you’re in full control and that you’re handling things one step at a time.
Two of the greatest obstacles to coping effectively in rough times is our tendency to hold on to the things we can either no longer change or know for certain.
Indeed, expending time, effort, and mental and emotional resources to ruminate about the past or worry excessively about the future isn’t just counter-productive—it’s self-destructive.
The future belongs neither to those who allow themselves to persistently ponder the “what if”s or the “what could have beens”, nor to those allow their anxieties about the future to paralyse them time and time again. In contrast, having the mental presence to live richly and fully in the present doesn’t mean that you don’t revisit the past or wonder about the future at all.
Rather, it means that you’re able to think about the past and the future while linking everything back to a teachable or actionable moment in the present.
In other words, you can let go of the past while knowing what you can learn from it. Similarly, you’re also able to think about the future in ways that allow you to plan proactively for it now, rather than just getting worried about it.