Building Resilience: How to Shift Mental Gears

If we view challenges as stressful setbacks, there's an opportunity to shift our perspective and grow from our experiences.

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Imagine two equally talented graduates at their first job. Within a year, both are laid off due to downsizing. One becomes caught up in thinking he’s failed: “I was never good enough, my boss hated me.” The other decides, “I wanted this job so badly, I better fix my resume and learn how to deal with a difficult boss better.” Who do you think moves through adversity more quickly?

Our perspective toward whatever we encounter in life fundamentally changes how we experience it.

Redefining Stressful Setbacks

Stress itself can be defined as the perception that something is more than we can handle.   When we frame challenges as surmountable, we more easily surmount them (or at least begin to work our way forward). When we frame them as opportunities for failure, we more easily fail. That may sound like the most hackneyed, clichéd advice ever—but it is a foundation of resilience research.

Resilience relies on how we perceive our lives. So maybe we get queasy watching our child on stage for the first time; anxious and concerned, we start ruminating. Within those thoughts exist layers of assumptions, perspectives, and mental filters: I didn’t prepare her enough, she’s going to embarrass herself, I…