Dear Neil: In the past several months, I have lost my job, have been unsuccessful in getting another one—and my house is getting foreclosed upon. All of this has put tremendous strain on both our family and our relationship. I find myself having a hard time staying focused and being productive, largely because I feel like I’m a failure. What would you advise someone in my shoes?
Unable to Stay Strong in Texas
Dear Unable to Stay Strong: I would advise you to find your inner resilience, the art of facing adversity and bouncing back. Things happen to us that cause pain, anguish, anxiety, panic, depression and fear. Events beyond our control can feel enormously deflating. But maintaining a resilient attitude will dramatically help you to cope and get through trying times. Here’s what resilient people do:
- Decide what your goals are, and then do everything you can to make them come true. That means you must persist in the face of obstacles, setbacks and failures—and resist the temptation to give up. It will be useful for you to have the flexibility to change direction and tactics in service to your goals.
- Focus on what you’re trying to create and what you have to look forward to—not on what has hurt or disappointed you, or what you’ve failed at.
- Take life’s ups and downs in stride. Keep your eyes on the big picture and don’t let every setback defeat your spirit.
- Pay attention to the attitudes and emotions that can sabotage you or turn you sour—and don’t give in to them. I’m speaking of behaviors such as lashing out at the people you care about, letting fear get the better of you, permitting yourself to feel defeated and giving up on your dreams. You must find a way to not give in to negativity or defeat.
- Learn from your mistakes, disappointments or losses, and make sure your actions are in accordance with your goals and values.
- Rise to the challenge and do the best you can.
- Make sure you never forget that the most important thing in life is about the quality of your relationships with those you care about—and to do everything you can to keep those relationships engaged, reciprocal, vital, close and connected.
- Empathy and compassion: seeing things from another person’s perspective, not just your own. Being mindful of how your words, actions and behaviors impact others and their feelings. Being able to stand inside someone else’s experience and emotions with a desire to understand why they feel as they do. This skill is essential to keeping your important relationships solid.
- Make sure you don’t allow yourself to get self-destructive with addictive substances or unhealthy behaviors.
- Make decisions that look out for your well-being, happiness and peace of mind.
- Live upright, with honor and integrity. Consistently being decent and doing the right thing.
- Keep yourself physically active, vital and fit.
- Be open to new people, new ways of looking at things and new experiences. Always be receptive to expanding who you are.
- Have an attitude of gratitude and thanksgiving about what you have, what you’ve accomplished, what you are and what you’re becoming.
- Reach out to others, rather than feeling sorry for yourself that others aren’t reaching out to you.
- Look toward the future with hope and optimism.