Why do some people get frustrated when dealing with life challenges, while others face them with ease and resilience? What makes someone optimistic when faced with adversity?
Earlier, I mentioned how important it is to integrate our emotions with the rational side of our mind. The outcome of this integration is tremendous, and it shows itself in a restored sense of balance in our lives, resilience, and our overall well-being.
Now, when speaking of balance, I am not referring to the use of one’s time and whether it is scheduled in a balanced way between commitments, responsibilities, and leisure. While it is true that so many people find an over-scheduled life stressful and feel a lack of balance between work and rest, what is equally important — is knowing how to think and use our mind in a balanced way. This way of thinking helps prevent the feeling of overwhelm, in the first place, and address it efficiently when it does happen. That is why we spent some time talking about a balanced integration of emotions and logic.
But what does this kind of balanced thinking have to do with resilience? Here, we will explore exactly why this is a key component of resilience.
Have you noticed that some people get frustrated when dealing with life challenges, while others face them with a sense of ease and optimism? Why is that? How are these people different?
We may think of such people as tough and resilient. This makes it sound like they have a special personality trait, something they were born with and we were not. When we don’t see this attribute as a skill, we rob ourselves of the opportunity to learn how to be more resilient in our own lives. What I would like you to know, however, is that resilience IS a skill.
Resilience is something we can learn. It has less to do with courage or adrenaline and more with the balance of one’s mind.
We may erroneously believe that to develop resilience we need to throw ourselves at life and call out “Bring it on! I am not afraid of you!” Facing our fears like warriors in superhero stories may look like a lot of action on the surface, but unfortunately, it will not make us more at ease with life’s problems.
In fact, sometimes, we may need to do the opposite — withdraw from action into thinking and reflecting. It may be difficult at first to direct all the action-prompting adrenaline into a quieter but more powerful energy. Nonetheless, it is worth the effort. Thinking about what we can do allows us to see what options we have given our situation. Resilience is based on our sense of resourcefulness and being able to solve problems that came our way.
Ultimately, it is not what we are facing that makes us resilient, but the way we go about it.
Most of the time, frustrations around whatever we are dealing with in life can be attributed to the absence of internal harmony. But a sense of balance we feel inside — because of the way we think about life’s challenges — is not easily tipped over by various external circumstances. Some of these life events may shake us more than others, but it is our ability to either a) remain calm and composed or b) to re-establish a temporary loss of balance, that will determine how we face life in general and whether we end up feeling beat up by it.
The more balanced we are in our way of assessing how we feel and what logical steps we can take, the more open-minded and receptive we become. Being open-minded, in turn, continues to feed that sense of balance because of all the new possibilities we begin to see. The more open-minded and balanced we become, the more resilient we feel over time because of our increased ability to solve challenges. This is because through direct experience we learn that more often than not things tend to turn out OK, if we approach them in a thoughtful and measured way, rather than in a chaotic and irrational manner.
Resilience is built on optimal mental functioning and emotional regulation. This balanced way of functioning is achieved through integration of reasoning and emotions.
If we can understand that resilience is built on the repeated experience of approaching life in a balanced and open-minded way, then it is easy to see that it has a lot to do with the way we process information. How much are we driven by logic and how much by emotions? Do we tend to look at the big picture or the details of the issue?
Since everyone’s thinking and feeling is unique to them, we will each develop our own personal approach to achieving balance. Whatever it may be, it needs to incorporate both the emotional response (“How do I feel about this?” “What do my feelings tell me?”) and the reasoning aspects (“What do I know?” and “What do I think about this?”).
At the same time, we need to find a balance in the perspective we take — considering both the big picture and the details. We may ask questions like “What is the goal here?” or “What is the purpose of this?” (i.e., the big picture view) and “What do I need to do to get there?” or “What are the steps?” (i.e., consideration of details).
A similar process applies to finding a healthy middle ground between abstract vision and concreteness, between optimism and realism, between other people’s point of view and our own, between decisions that matter and those that do not, between action and inaction, and so on. A balanced and healthy approach is to weigh in things that matter and sort out those that do not.
Balanced thinking increases the ability of our brain to function to its potential, therefore leading to better problem-solving and fewer frustrations.
That way, we are more likely to make decisions that work for us. We are also more equipped to sort out why certain things did not work and make the changes we need to make. This approach, of seeing challenges as series of actions and adjustments, rather than failures, builds a well-functioning resilient individual. If you are curious about specific examples of how this applies in tough real-life scenarios, I recommend this book.
Instead of being crushed by circumstances and getting drowned in emotions, such an individual uses the initial emotional signals to fuel thinking. By collecting available data he can make an assessment of the situation that is closer to reality. And, when it’s time for action, it is based on the reality of the situation rather than on beliefs and wishful thinking. Such approach is more likely to bring desirable outcomes.
Above all, by staying at the center of the intersection, where logic and emotions are equally considered, we develop an openness towards uncertainty. This, in turn, leads to flexible thinking and builds higher tolerance for frustration — all of which are the tools needed to become a resilient person.