How to Build Resilience
Resilience can be defined as the ability to overcome obstacles on the way to a goal, without being distracted or overcome by the things that happen along the way. It means having an inner calm to return to, even when things are stressful. It means being able to fully enjoy both success and failure, but not to be knocked off course by them. It’s the ability to put one foot in front of the other, no matter what happens.
How does one develop resilience? Some might say that it just comes from life experience. That it’s an innate trait. But in reality, like most other mental skills, resilience can actually be deliberately cultivated and developed.
Meditation is a great way to go about it. Before we dive into the specific meditation technique, let’s first take a closer look at success and failure. They’re two sides of the same coin—and your internal reaction to them forms the foundations of resilience.
Success and Failure: Two Sides of the Same Coin
How you react to success and failure is a big part of resilience. In fact, most of success comes from failure. The people who’re willing to fail more are those who ultimately succeed. Michael Jordan missed over 9,000 shots in his career. Edison tried over 10,000 filaments for the light bulb. The trick isn’t to not fail—instead, it’s to not let it affect you. To resiliently keep moving forward, until you eventually reach your goal.
Resilience, then, is the ability to remain centered during failure. What’s more, it also means learning to stay centered during success—as a person who is emotionally attached to success will stumble that much more when they fail.
In other words, resilience is the ability to continue taking action, without letting success or failure derail the process. You’re experiencing success and failure as an observer. You allow the experiences of success and failure to happen, and you allow them to flow through you. You observe them and fully experience them. But you don’t attach self-worth to it, and you don’t try to avoid or cling to any experience.
In a way, that sounds a lot like meditation. Doesn’t it?
A Meditation for Building Resilience
How do you use meditation to build resilience?
You do so by meditating on the feelings of both success and failure. Then, practice observing yourself – without attachment and without aversion. You just let the experiences pass through your awareness.
Here’s a specific meditation you can use for practicing being centered during both times of success and times of failure. Start by taking one minute to just settle in. Focus your attention on your breath. Let yourself land into the current moment, and into your body. This meditation will take about 15 minutes.
Meditating on Failure.
Bring to mind an experience where you felt like you failed. An experience where you failed to hit a goal. An experience where you might have let yourself or others down. Bring this experience to mind vividly. Now, observe your body. What sensations do you experience? Now gently practice observing these sensations as just that – sensations. Don’t attach meaning to them. Instead, just let the sensations be, and just observe. See if you can stay in this observer mode, without trying to avoid the sensations and without attaching blame. Stay in this meditation for four to five minutes.
Meditating on Success.
Take a deep breath. Clear your mind and body of the failure meditation. Now, change gears into meditating on success. Like before, bring to mind a specific experience where you felt a sense of success. A time when you achieved or exceeded a goal. Let yourself fully experience this experience. Now, observe the emotions and physical sensations this experience creates. Again, practice just observing – without attachment to the experience of success. Just observe. Stay in this meditation for to 5 minutes.
After you’ve done both meditations, sit for an additional two to three minutes. Clear your mind of these visualizations and just observe your mind and body. When you’re ready, open your eyes.
This meditation will help you develop more resilience to both success and failure. That means you’ll be able to steadily move toward your goals without being put off by failure or intoxicated by success.