Aug 18

How to Build Your Resilience in 5 Simple Steps

Learn how to quickly recover from setbacks to keep your day on track
Solo workers don't have a team. Some freelancers might have a support network of peers, but when you choose to go it alone, you are ultimately the one who bears the brunt of every decision you make.

This means that whenever things go wrong - which they tend to do - it can be difficult to shake it off. Sometimes even the smallest thing can ruin our day. I was once so stressed out about work that when my internet connection dropped it felt like the end of the world. I started telling myself that I would never get the project done. I worried what the client might think if I didn't email them in time. I had no resilience to this situation, no team and no tools to draw on to help me through.

The ABCDE of resilience method

When adversity strikes there is a fantastic and simple method developed by cognitive scientists in the 70s, which you can deploy in times of crisis. When applied, it will help you to overcome the negativity of the moment and strengthen and build your resilience over time. Let's take a look at each step:

[watch] how to Build resilience in business

A - adversity (or activating event)

This first step is the trigger. The event that sets everything in motion. Something like this might happen during your day:

  • A prospect tells you they have gone with another supplier
  • Your laptop crashes, losing hours of work
  • The train is delayed
  • A client gives you some negative feedback
  • You accidentally miss an important meeting

When these triggering events occur, they create a problem for you (adversity). To build your resilience, you'll need to become aware of how you feel as a result of these events.

B - your beliefs

If you lose out on a piece of work, receive negative feedback or wait endlessly for public transport, you will probably start telling yourself stories. These stories are often overwhelmingly negative, because that's how the human brain works. It is attuned to threats, because this has kept us safe during our evolutionary past.

You might say things like:

  • "my proposal must have sucked" / "the client is dumb"
  • "I won't ever be able to make the client happy"
  • "I'm going to be late for work and my todo list is already too big and I have emails to reply to and..."

When our thoughts spiral into negativity based on some external adversity, we must listen out for them, because thoughts have consequences.

C - Consequences

Negative thinking is really powerful. It's a form of psychological protection, and it keeps us in a lower state: our safe zone. The consequences of this can harm our ability to be resilient. Moreover, negative thinking can have real world impact: if you believe you're proposal must have sucked, you might think twice before making another proposal in the future, believing you will fail again. Do you see how this can drag you down and keep you there? Overcome negative thinking by challenging your thoughts.

D - Dispute

This penultimate step to build resilience involves challenging your negative thinking. You need to give yourself a fighting chance to overcome your setbacks and harmful beliefs. Here are some question prompts:

  • Is there any evidence for this belief? Is there evidence to the contrary? Am I just catastrophising?
  • Is there an alternative view on this situation? Can I get more information to get a more positive take?
  • What can I do to feel better? Can I go for a walk or distract myself?

To overcome setbacks and defeat our little monkey mind, we need tools and processes to deal with adversity as it arises. Notice your thoughts, then challenge them using some of the prompts above.

E - Energising

When faced with a stressful situation, you can literally step through this process: A, B, C, D and finally E. Finish by energising yourself. Acknowledge how wrong your negative beliefs are, then focus on the opposite. Whatever we focus on gets bigger. If we focus on an alternative, positive viewpoint, it will improve your state of mind and most likely, lead you to a positive place. Use this last step to fire yourself up and get over those frustrating setbacks.

This technique has come to my rescue time and again. It's one of the contributing factors that helped me build a successful design business, and I hope it helps you too!
Want to learn how to build your resilience? Check out The Freelance Business Builder
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