How do some people keep going after setbacks and hardships? Could there be really a magic formula for picking yourself up? Why does it seem easier for some to deal with what life throws at them? How we explain good and bad events has an impact on our emotional well-being and is linked to resilience.
The names in this story have been changed to keep our lovely and resilient girlfriend anonymous.
A Story of Resilience
I recently had a conversation with Sarah, and we spoke about her inspiring life story. We talked about being resilient through the multiple setbacks and difficult times she had to endure. She’s a mother, wife, and businesswoman who has gone through significant adversity and has somehow been able to keep going and remain positive. Here is her story and her advice to us about being resilient.
Sarah left home at 16. Ever since then, she had been determined to make the best of life, through loving what she does and being authentic. She was a young entrepreneur and had launched her first business in 2012. Her business ventures have been growing ever since.
This success, however, did not come easy. Sarah had endured natural disasters, personal hardships, and some very challenging times. A few years after launching her business, she got married and soon gave birth to a gorgeous daughter. Being a new mom, coupled with the pressures of owning a business, began to take its toll on her. One afternoon, with no idea or understanding of what was happening to her, she experienced a nervous breakdown.
Sarah mentioned that she bravely drove herself to the hospital that day, unaware of what was going on. At that moment, she realised that she had to face her challenges. It would take some real effort to work them through. Being honest and accepting the situation, she took personal responsibility and accountability for her life and took action. She soon started to get better.
A few months later, with her business flourishing, she had the opportunity to purchase a competitor’s business. On the day of the handover from the previous owners, disaster struck!
She received a call from the hospital saying her husband had suffered a heart attack. He was 31 at the time. Sarah mentioned she immediately went into problem-solving mode. That was how she typically dealt with adversity right through life.
“Nothing should be seen as negative, something bad happening isn’t the end of everything,” she said.
Optimism and Resilience
Interestingly, psychologists have identified that how we explain negative experiences has an impact on our resilience. When we see adversity as a specific event rather than a global experience, we are typically more optimistic. Optimism is a factor of resilience.
The optimist believes that bad events have specific causes, while good events will have a positive impact on everything they do. Humans have a tendency to seek explanations for events and there is a constant drive within us to work out the “why”.
In psychology, this need to make sense of and explain your circumstances is referred to as explanatory styles (Buchanan & Seligman, 1995).
Being resilient is far more complex than just thinking differently about a negative experience. Being aware of how we explain good and bad events that happen to us is a significant step in the emotional resilience pathway. Take time to pause and reflect on how you view positive and negative life events.
How you view adversity makes a big difference. Are you able to view it as temporary and see past it? Can you relate to it as a specific event rather than generalising it to the rest of your life?
Sarah ended the conversation by saying that she would not have changed anything. She is the strong-minded, hardworking businesswoman she is today because of her life experiences.
Furthermore, she said that staying authentic, being open, and honest had kept her going. She is passionate about teaching her young daughter and beautiful newborn son the importance of staying true to who you are and believing in what you say, because “the truth will keep you going!”