How Resilient Are You?


I recently watched the movie “Free Solo” and I have been obsessed with Alex Honnold because I feel that he is someone who exemplifies resilience.  The dictionary defines resilience as toughness and the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. It is the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape and elasticity.  Synonyms for resilience are flexibility, pliability, suppleness, and plasticity. Being resilient is the opposite of being rigid, fragile and weak. When faced with adversity or setbacks,  resilient people focus on positive attitude and optimism.  

If you did not see the movie, or are not familiar with rock climbing, go watch it.   Alex is not just any rock climber. He is the first and only person to “free solo” ( meaning climb without ropes or a harness) on some of the highest and most dangerous rocks or  mountains in the world. Alex is impressive because many of those who have attempted to free solo have fallen to their death, on even lesser climbs. He, however, found a way to replace fear with clarity; to regulate his emotions and apply self discipline and hard work to climbing  the most epic walls-- with incredible speed. Check out a brief list below:

*First and only free-solo of “Freerider” El Capitan, Yosemite, CA – 5 hr 13m.

*Speed record on "The Nose" of El Capitan with Tommy Caldwell – 1:58:07

*Yosemite’s first “Triple Solo”: Mt. Watkins, Half Dome and El Capitan alone, in under 24 hours

*First ascent of the Fitz Traverse, Patagonia with Tommy Caldwell

*First and only free-solo of the Moonlight Buttress, Zion National Park, UT –  5.12d, 1,200 feet.

Now, you and I do not have to climb El Capitan to prove our resilience.  But sometimes doing our own work can feel like we are climbing an impossible mountain.  Failure or disappointment can send us off track and make us believe that we are not good enough and will never accomplish our goals and reach our dreams.  This is where resilience comes in.  Resilience is not a magical quality that is gifted only to people like Alex.  It is a character quality that each of us can develop . There are so many different ways to build resilience.  I want to share with you three simple points to focus on to strengthen your resilience and to get back up and show up strong:  They are BE DO & HAVE:  

  • BE:  Identify who you are or who you want to be:  Who are you and What do you want to be and Why?  What is your purpose in this world? What is your gift?    What do you want to be? A rock climber, a teacher, an entrepreneur and what is your big why?  Knowing your purpose and who you are will help you to return to your big why during times of challenge and to find your way back to resilience so you can keep on BEing.

  • DO:    What do you need to DO in order to BE?  Alex started climbing rocks when he was 9 years old.  He lives in a van so he can easily travel to the elements and practice daily.  What preliminary steps that you need to put in place; What physical shape do you need to BE in  and what do you need to do to get there?   What sacrifices do you need to consider making? Identifying the necessary preliminary steps that will lead you to your goals is a basic requirement to getting there and setting up realistic and measurable steps is key to success. DOING the work to get there and becoming proficient in the beginning stages of any endeavor will build the skills, proficiency, knowledge  to BE resilient and DO your work.

  • HAVE:  What do you want to have? A  world record?  Help the world? Be your own boss?  Your own schedule? Social Justice?  Knowing what you want to have will help you develop the ability to cultivate physical, mental and spiritual toughness so you can stick to your commitments when things fall apart and return to your big Why and build more resilience.  

On the road to our dreams, we will experience failure, disappointment, fallback, injury and we may never even reach our ultimate goal and may face grave misfortune.  If we are resilient, we will learn how to move forward or change course. Setbacks are an opportunity to cultivate even more resilience as we look back and find ways to use mindfulness to regulate our emotions , analyze failure,  and gain feedback about how to restart and be more productive the next time.

Resilient people are those who have developed their ability to let go of the story and not fall into victim and villain, but instead work to quickly SHIFT back to their commitment.  Resilient people allow for space to feel their pain, disappointment and  loss and find the mental and spiritual strength to restart, to get up, to practice over and over again and become even stronger.  

How about you?  What’s the story that you are making up about your own personal or professional setback?

Are you blaming yourself?

Do you wallow in your inadequacy?   

Are you able to accept loss, and failure injury?   My personal practice for resilience begins with the Four A’s.

  • ACKNOWLEDGE:  Rather than wallowing in pain and disappointment, get  curious. I ask myself: what can I acknowledge about this set back?  What did I lose? What is the situation? What went wrong. This is a great time to look at the facts and examine the situation fully in all aspects.  Resilience requires knowledge about yourself and your situation.

  • ALLOW:   Then I get curious about my feelings and allow time to feel,  sadness, anger, frustration. I don’t allow myself to pretend that anything is pleasant or unpleasant.  If I need to shed some tears, or scream to let go of my anger and frustration, I let myself do that because feelings my emotions allows the energy to flow through and not get stuck.

  • ACCEPT - Accepting myself  just as I AM with those feeling is an important step in resilience.    Can I allow all those feelings to be there and accept myself in all my sadness, fear, anger?

  • APPRECIATE:  A most important aspect or resilience is appreciation.  After acknowledging a situation; feeling your feelings and accepting them, it’s time to look at what you can appreciate.  Maybe you can appreciate what you have learned along the way. Can you be grateful for the experience itself; the small successes along the way; the people you have helped, served, met, connected with, acquired knowledge? If there is nothing else maybe just appreciate  that you are still breathing and get to live another day.

The 4 A’s never fail me.  Even in situations when I have experienced deep failure and disappointment there is always something that I can find to appreciate about myself or the situation and use that to MOVE on.