According to Wikipedia, “Psychological Resilience” is the ability to mentally or emotionally cope with a crisis or to return to pre-crisis status quickly… Psychological Resilience exists in people who develop psychological and behavioral capabilities that allow them to remain calm during crises/chaos and to move on from the incident without long-term negative consequences.”
The question is: “Can Psychological Resilience be learned or taught?” Psychological Resilience is a skill, and like any skill the more you practice the better you become at it. Just like in sports some people are natural athletes that can pick up the sport easier, while others have to work a little more to develop their abilities. When it comes to Psychological Resilience, some people might be more naturally gifted in this area while others have to work at developing this skill.
Dale Carnegie, in his best-selling book “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living,” examined best practices for developing this ability. His research uncovered 30 different resilience principles that are even more relevant today than when he wrote the book in 1944. For this blog, let’s take a look at the three principles I use most often:
1) Live in day-tight compartments. Dale Carnegie’s book described how life is like a voyage on a great ship and like a ship you must create “bulkheads.” These great iron doors allow the ship’s crew to lock off compartments that have been compromised with leaks and could cause the ship to sink. In life, we need to close the door of the past and put the past behind us to keep us from drowning in stress. For example, when I was doing a great deal of cold calling, I would get people that would yell and curse at me simply for calling them. I did not let these people destroy my attitude or prevent me from picking up the phone and making the next call, I simply closed that compartment (those few minutes) off and moved on to the next call. This takes practice, but the more you do it, the less you obsess about the things that go wrong or are out of your control.
2) Count your blessings – not your troubles. With the polarization of politics, the pandemic, the economy, vaccines, etc., it is easy to get focused on all the problems and troubles in the world today. I often remind myself that no matter how many problems I have, there is always someone that is worse off. I see this in the homeless on the side of the road. I know people that lost their lives in traffic accident. I have friends who have found out their child has cancer. It is hard to look at everything going wrong in your life when you count how many blessings you have. I also find that taking it a step further and helping someone else will take your mind off your troubles and remind you of how good you really have it. Little acts of kindness like giving a homeless person a jacket, caring for a disabled person, or spending time with an elderly person that has no one else will help remind you of your blessings.
3) How to Face Trouble:
a. Ask yourself, “What is the worst that can happen?”
b. Prepare to accept the worst.
c. Try to improve on the worst.
Everyone has had real trouble that they have had to face from time to time. For example, during the pandemic my training business was forced to shut down. I believed the worst thing that could happen would be that I would lose the business and my house. My family and I would be forced to start over with nothing. After accepting that would be the worst thing that could happen, I was able to start improving on the worst. We quickly rolled out new webinars and virtual training programs to meet the needs of our clients. I was able to move from the emotional response side of the brain that caused worry and stress to the logical response side of the brain to be productive again.
These are only three of the thirty principles Dale Carnegie gives us in the “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living” book. These principles can be downloaded in the App store on your smartphone (just look for Dale Carnegie Golden Book). The more you practice, the more Psychologically Resilient you will build. When you practice these principles, you will start to increase your ability to remain calm during stressful situations and recover faster from any mental stress they may cause. Your life will become more enjoyable as you focus on the positive and what is in your control and set aside your old worry habits.