Aug 18 / Matt Saunders

How to Build Your Resilience in 5 Simple Steps

Learn how to quickly recover from frustrating setbacks in  business and life so you can keep your day on track.
Are you prone to worry, anxiety and burnout as a freelancer? Do insignificant things tend to hit hard, causing you to get upset or angry?

If so the method I share here could help you break the cycle and strengthen your resilience.

You see, solo workers don't typically have a team they can rely on. And whilst some freelancers might have the support of their peers, when you go it alone, ultimately you are the one who bears the brunt of every decision you make.

This means that when things go wrong it can be difficult to shake it off. Sometimes even the smallest thing can ruin our day.

I was once so stressed 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 before the deadline. My anxiety spiralled.

I had no resilience in this situation. I had no tools to draw on to help me through. If only I had known about the resilience method I'm about to share with you back then.

Please take a moment to bookmark this blog post so you can return to it in times of need.

How to build resilience using the ABCDE of resilience method

There is a simple method developed by cognitive scientists in the 70s that you can deploy when a crisis hits. When applied, it will help you to overcome the negativity of the moment and strengthen your resilience with practice. Let's take a look at each step:

A - Adversity (or Activating Event)

Woman stressed at laptop
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). If you're anything like me, any of these things can knock you off track and create stress.

But to build resilience you'll need to become aware of how you feel as a result of these events. You must notice the emotion as it rises up within you. Once you notice it, you can become aware of the following narratives that will play out in your mind, your beliefs.

B - Beliefs

If you lose out on a project, 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 perceived threats, because this has kept us safe during our evolutionary past.

Something as simple as a delayed train can become a life or death situation in your mind as your subconscious extrapolates the situation to its worst possible scenario. "What if I'm late? What if they fire me? What if I can't afford my mortgage and lose my home?"

The logical but totally irrational conclusion your subconscious mind comes to is your own death. The reason your brain plays out these events is to help you avoid them.

But in today's world, being late for a meeting is unlikely to yield the same result as coming into close contact with a hungry tiger, or failing to plant your crops at the right time of year.

And so, when our thoughts spiral we must listen out for them, because thoughts have consequences.

C - Consequences

Dominos being pushed over
Negative thinking is a form of psychological protection, but it keep us in our comfort zone. It keeps us playing small, and as a businessperson, the consequences of this are often a failing business.

In today's economy, if you want to stand out, you've got to be bold. This is why resilience is so important - because it helps you shake off your negative experiences and mental imaginings with ease.

You do not want to allow your subconscious mind to direct your actions. Being able to breathe and relax after you receive a rejection from a prospective client is much better than letting it bring down your day or worse, cause you to lash out.

Therefore, once you have noticed your faulty thinking, you must begin to intentionally challenge it.

D - Dispute

Man thinking against a wall
This penultimate step to build resilience involves disputing 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?
  • Am I just catastrophising?
  • Is there an alternative view on this situation?
  • Can I get information to create a more positive take?
  • What can I do to feel better?

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 the prompts above.

E - Energising

Fist in the air
 When faced with a stressful situation you can literally step through this process from A, B, C, D and finally to E.

Finish by reinvigorating yourself.

Acknowledge how damaging your negative beliefs are then focus on the opposite, more optimistic scenario.

Whatever we focus on expands in our mind. If you focus on a more positive viewpoint it will improve your state of mind and most likely, lead you to a positive place. If you can hold onto a more optimistic perspective for at least 17 seconds there is a high probability of turning your mood around for the better. And once you focus your energy on this, you'll notice a remarkable difference in your overall state. From here you can move forward, rather than dwell in frustrating present, never really breaking your cycle of thought.

So use this last step to fire yourself up, get a new perspective and easily ride out those frustrating setbacks.

How to build resilience in business - watch me walk through the 5 steps in the video below

Don't let setbacks set you back

The truth is that you'll never be completely free of tough times. In fact, I'm a believer that these things are sent to challenge us. Once upon a time, I would fold under weight of daily upsets and my own negative thinking, but having practiced this resilience method over and over, I have created success for myself in business and life generally.

So begin today. Commit to noticing the negative thoughts that arise from a difficult situation, reframe them and get on with your day with a fresh and invigorated viewpoint.
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