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Resilience: How To Overcome Adversity and Create Success!

Updated on April 5, 2017

How to Overcome Adversity, Build Resilience; And Create Outstanding Results in Life and Work!

In bad times, and good, building resilience, and dealing with and overcoming adversity helps you produce results that matter--in life, work, and relationships--even when the going gets tough.

After just one day of adversity response training, for example, my mentor Paul Stoltz reports, elite NCAA swimmers improved their ability to bounce back after a set back. They also swam faster.

After similar adversity-embracing programs, realtors increased sales by 250% to 320%! Life insurance sales people nearly doubled their productivity!

Couples and team members who develop adversity coping skills report increased communication and cooperation—and have more fun together

Clearly, resilience and the ability to deal with adversity give us an edge. But not only that, it makes our lives happier, and more fulfilling.


Resilience, the ability to cope with adversity, overcome stress, and have the ability to bounce back from diffiulties and setbacks, will be prized in the years to come.

A worldwide poll of 20,000 people showed that 98% predict a difficult, changing, even chaotic future. The recent realization that human beings cause much of global climate change, and the financial chaos of October 2008, suggest that their predictions are accurate. Individuals, families, organizations, and businesses all face accelerating change and increasing adversity.

But, we are naturally resilient. We have the potential to bounce back from setbacks, to get back up when we are knocked down by adversity. But, if we don't use it, we lose that ability over time. And, when multiple adversities stack up on us, we get rigid, less flexible, less able to bounce back.

But we can increase our ability to overcome adversity and to produce awesome results—even in difficult circumstances. Learning to cope successfully with failure and adversity can make us successful, now, and in the future.


Learning to deal creatively with failure is a key to building resilience.

“Suppose you have tried and failed again and again,” said the actress Mary Pickford. “You may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing that we call failure is not the falling down, but the staying down.”

The distinction is important. There is a great difference between failing to achieve a result and the conclusion you draw from that. Those who stay down make a judgment that they have failed, not just their attempt. Moreover, they often generalize from their “failures” to illogical conclusions such as, “I am a loser,” and “I will probably always fail. My life will always suck!”

Therefore, they assume, there is no point in getting up. So they quit, give up, seek a comfortable niche, lose themselves in alcohol, other drugs, shopping, or overwork, where they can avoid facing what they consider failure.

But there is a point in getting up.

Old wisdom says that the sooner we make our first 5000 mistakes, the sooner we will learn to do anything well. New wisdom talks about “rapid prototyping”—try many things, fail fast, and often, learn lots, quickly.

Take small risks. Make many small, instructive mistakes. Try, try again. That is how you learn quickly, in art or business—and life. It is also the fast track to success.

In art, work, love, and life, there is no failure, just feedback!


To cope well with adversity, it is important to stifle the tendency to blame yourself, circumstances, or other people. When you blame, you not only give up your responsibility for your own results, you give up your power to create them.

Also, don’t focus primarily on the adversity, and why it happened. Instead, focus on a clear vision of the results you truly want—in spite of the adversity—and ask yourself these kinds of questions.

* Do I truly want this result? Am I willing to work for it?

* What skills, talents, contacts, assets, and other resources to I have that work in my favour? What, if anything, do I lack?

* What actions can I take to get started, and to make it happen?

Stoltz says that the origin of the adversity is not as important as taking ownership for the results you want, in spite of who or what caused the adversity.

I once had to give an important speech before a large crowd, and the public address system quit. Instead of blaming the techs for "screwing up" and putting off the speech, I chose to stepp down off the stage, into the crowd, and shout my 45 minute speech. The crowd loved it; they loved me. I felt great! I'd overcome adversity, shown resiliency, and created the result I wanted -- in spite of the challenging circumstances.

You get more creating power if you “choose” the results you want.

Try this: First say to yourself, "I wish I had…" and then add a result you want. And notice how you feel.

Then, say to yourself, “I choose …”, and add the result. Notice how choosing shifts how you feel.

People usually report that choosing results empowers them. It energizes them. It gives them a clear sense of direction, commitment to their result, and the power to take action, learn from mistakes, and follow-through to completion.


What many call "self-sabotage" is just you talking yourself out of choices and action. Pay attention to your self talk, that continuous stream of chatter that runs through your mind, often without you noticing it.

Psychologists call it roof brain chatter, ticker tape talk, or gremlin thoughts. Whatever you call it, self-talk is the almost constant flow of thoughts, beliefs, stories, judgments, and conclusions you tell yourself.

We usually don’t know we’re doing it. And we do not realize how much it affects our moods and actions. But we chatter away to ourselves about our lives, our actions, other people and their actions, and what happens to us.

We also make judgments about what happens, and about what we think we (or they) shoulda, coulda, or woulda” done, and so on. Unfortunately, this nattering happens mostly outside our awareness.

So, the first step in building resilience is to notice your self talk, and make it more supportive. Self-talk affects your moods and emotions, and your actions are motivated by your emotions. “Emote,” means, “to move.

Unmonitored, self-talk and the emotions it generates, move you in ways you don’t want to move. But changing your self-talk changes your actions—and results! If you make a call and are rejected, your self-talk might sound like this: “I screwed up. I’m no good at this. I’ll never get it right. What’s the point?”

Does such talk get you pumped for the next call? Not likely!

So catch negative chatter and change it. Say something like," Okay, that didn’t go the way I wanted. Next time, I will emphasize benefits before I describe features. Besides, it’s just one call. On to the next one.”


If adversity knocks you down, get up. Most of success is found is in getting up and keeping going--in spite of difficulties, problems, and circumstances.

As Woody Allen said, "85% of success is just showing up everyday."

Success guru Napoleon Hill say: “Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit."

What do you say about the adversities and setbacks you encounter? Be careful, what you say could make the difference between giving up and quitting, or taking responsibility for the results you want, and bringing them into being.

Learning to learn from failure, taking ownership for results you want, and making sure your self-talk supports success will help you overcome adversity and build resilience. It will also help you create the results you truly care about—regardless of the adversity you face.


Adapted from the ebook Emotional Mastery: Manage Your Moods and Create What Matters Most – With Whatever Life Gives You! by Bruce Elkin.

For more of Bruce's writing, please visit his HubPages Profile.


Resilience In Stressful Times

Building Resilience in Times of Crisis

Reading For Resilience and Overcoming Adversity!


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