Make Your Own Luck: Create a Resilient Life

Can you think of someone that always seems to have good luck, always coming out on top? It’s possible that they’re good at acting and have everyone fooled, or they’re in a state of denial. But for now, let’s say it’s really true; they quickly recover from life challenges. Why is that?

On the same day two women—Sally and Anita—have two separate but similar car accidents. Neither suffered serious physical injuries, both had a relatively easy time processing the damage and both are ready to start driving again the following week. However on the first day back in the car Sally finds herself obsessively thinking about the accident and incredibly anxious about driving. Her thoughts are spinning, her breathing becomes short and rapid, her heart beat increases, her hands feel sweaty, and she has to pull over. But when Anita begins driving she thinks about the accident a little bit, notices some apprehension, takes a deep breath, and moves on. Over time Sally finds herself changing her routine, asking friends to drive her to work, and eventually barely driving herself. Anita notices thoughts about her accident when a friend of hers gets in a fender bender, but otherwise her experience fades into the background of her life.

Research suggests the difference in these women’s experience is “resilience.” Resilience is our ability to bounce back to a normal (or pre-stressor) level of functioning when we encounter a setback or challenge. Every experience, positive or negative, contributes to our resilience. This means every day, every moment is another opportunity for us to become more resilient. Maybe your situation feels hopeless. You had a difficult childhood, or you’ve faced many challenges as an adult. It seems no matter how many positive decisions you make, you still take awhile to recover after a setback. Take heart in this: researchers studied child soldiers in war-torn countries and found that some of the children had high levels of resilience.

Want to improve your resilience? Call a friend, help a neighbor, go for hike, join a community group, and ask for support when you need it.