A Simple Formula for Resilience

charliedepressedIt was a beautiful spring day and I was 11 or 12 years old, humming a song as we set off on the three-hour drive home from a state piano competition that I hadn’t won.

“Why are you singing?!” my mom demanded. To her, it was unthinkable that I could be cheerful in the wake of such a disappointing result. Didn’t I realize the ramifications for my future as a world-famous concert pianist?

Apparently not. At that age, I didn’t yet attach much meaning to any particular result so I recovered quickly. It was a beautiful day, why should I feel down about something I couldn’t change?

Fast forward to the amateur piano competition I entered a few years ago. Over the course of three months of intense practice and preparation, I convinced myself that this was it —my opportunity to gain exposure as a peak performance coach, connect with high-performance clients, get performing opportunities and hey, why not, capture the attention of an agent who would sign me on for a recording contract. So this time, when I didn’t advance past the semifinals I equated the result with the loss of big dreams and I was crushed. Devastated.

There Is No Built-In Meaning

Maybe you don’t identify with piano competitions. But surely there’s been something that you’ve wanted and attached great significance to — funding from a top VC, a contract with a high-profile client, an industry award or promotion to a certain job title. And the more meaning you give to it — this will be the stamp of approval for my company or this will justify getting my MBA or moving cross-country — the more painful it is when it doesn’t happen.

If you’re looking to be more resilient, a simple formula would be: Let go of attachment quicker.

Yeah, I know, simple in concept, not so easy in practice. Still, it helps when you have a set of tools to manage your emotions: stick to the facts, tell a different story, change your perspective.

In fact, I’ve gotten so good at using these tools that sometimes I wonder at my ability to bounce back from events that used to throw me for a loop: “Wait, shouldn’t I be more upset?” Actually, no. We’ve been conditioned to think that X event should elicit Y reaction and that a certain amount of suffering is warranted to show how much we care. But suffering is a way of giving away our power. It benefits no one — so why not shorten it if we can?

And it’s possible no matter what’s going on in your life: life-changing events (launching a business, relocation, promotion); setbacks (loss of funding/major client, divorce, health crisis); relentless stress (competitive environment, extreme workload); or a toxic environment (demanding boss, difficult colleagues, dysfunctional team).

If you’d like to get learn more about these tools or fine tune your ability to use them, join me and fellow coach Caroline Ceniza-Levine for our webinar on March 18 at 7:00 pm ET: Resilience: How to Stay In Control and Bounce Back in the Face of Overwhelm and Change. (Early Bird rate ends Friday, March 13th at midnight ET.)