Like Abraham Lincoln, do you have a resilient thinking style?

Resilience is good. But how do you achieve it? Photo: Public domain

WASHINGTON, March 11, 2013 – Being resilient results in your living a more productive life, personally and professionally. But how do you build more resilience, or build the capacity to be more resilient in your life? 

First, what is resilience? 

Resilience is the ability to overcome challenges and adversities and turn them into opportunities. Resilience is seeing stepping stones instead of obstacles. It is seeing options and possibilities instead of dead ends. Resilience is learning from mistakes and failures and not staying within the failure or developing a negative mindset. 

Yes, give yourself permission to be human. It’s okay to feel badly or negatively when things do not work out the way you planned. It is a resilient thinking style, however, that enables you bounce back in a reasonable amount of time and shifts your unproductive thoughts to productive thoughts so that you can move forward. 

Anyone can build resilience into his or her life. Resilience is not genetic. For example, think of exercise. The more you work out the more fit you become, mentally and physically. Think of resilience as a muscle. Exercise your resilience muscle.

While one technique used in resilient people is the ability to rapidly bounce back—which is how most of us think of resilience—it is our thinking style that is a major component of resilience. How we see things and how we analyze events depends on the thinking style we have developed since childhood. Our thinking style determines our level of resilience and this is what causes us to respond emotionally to events. Our thinking style is the lens through which we view the world. Because everyone sees the world from their own lens or perspective, our thinking styles are biased by our experiences. Therefore, we develop our patterns of behavior and habits based on how we think. 

So how do you build more resilience into your life? By understanding the way you think, and by building on your strengths, you are building your capacity to be more productive and to live a healthier life. 

In their book, The Resilience Factor, Dr. Karen Reivich and Dr. Andrew Shatte note that the four techniques or uses of resilience are: to overcome, to steer through, to bounce back, and to reach out. 

To overcome something in your life means you have to use your resilience to put behind you what is not working and to move forward with what is working.

Second, you must steer through any adversity so that it does not negatively impact your productivity or wellbeing. 

Third, and the most well known, is the ability to bounce back when you have stumbled. Learn from the experience, pick yourself up, and move forward in a reasonable amount of time. The longer you “stay down,” the harder it gets to pick yourself up. Moving forward does not have to be a grand leap. Take a baby step and keep moving forward so you do not get overwhelmed and stuck in a rut. 

Finally, if you desire to have more meaning and purpose in life, if you want to try new experiences and challenges, reach out to others who can support you so that you can achieve all you are capable of achieving.

Applying these resilience techniques will help you lead a more productive and healthier life. 

Resilience is an essential part of how happy and successful we are. A few great examples of resilient people are Abraham Lincoln, Michael Jordan, and Babe Ruth. 

Abraham Lincoln did not win a truly significant political race until he won the presidency. Nevertheless, he went on to make major changes in our history. He did not focus on regrets. 

Michael Jordan didn’t make his high school basketball team. Instead of wallowing in self-pity (the key word here is “wallowing”), he used his resilient attitude to bounce back and practice that much harder. His success on the court is still regarded as one of the most amazing professional careers ever. 

Babe Ruth was baseball’s home run king for decades. Babe also led the league in strikeouts. Where did Babe choose to focus?  With a resilient thinking style, he chose to focus on what he was contributing to his team—the home runs—not the strikeouts. 

Resilient people realize they have a choice in how they think, and that choice is about options and possibilities. It is about turning hardships into challenges, failure into success, and thriving from that success. As Thomas Edison once said, “I failed my way to success.”

How do you apply this to your professional life?  Simply learn from your mistakes and move forward. Steer through any challenge or adversity so that your productivity or well-being is not negatively impacted. If you fall down, get back up. Believe in yourself and what you are doing, and do it well, whether it is in the boardroom or the living room. If you want to take life to the next level and discover your life purpose, reach out to those that can support you so that you can achieve whatever it is you are meant to be doing. 


Susan Commander Samakow, PCC, CPCC

Certified Business, Life & Leadership Coach & Speaker
Focusing on Life and Career Transition, Business & Leadership, and Confidence and Resilience Strategies
Community Content Producer, WUSA9 TV 

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Susan Samakow

Susan Commander Samakow, PCC, is a Certified Business, Life and Leadership Coach. Susan focuses on life and career transition, business and leadership, and confidence and resilience strategies. Susan is also a speaker and facilitator, as well as a Community Content Producer for WUSA 9 TV. She is the former president of the ICF Metro DC Chapter, the largest in North America. Susan’s clients are individuals, any size business and the government. Visit Susan’s website: Susan is on Facebook, Twitter, and Linked In.


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