Bouncing Back: Developing Resilience - Montreat College

By Paul Gratton, Director of Montreat College Adult and Graduate Business Programs

If you look at the biographies of the most notable people throughout history, rarely will you find a person who did not overcome great adversity. Beyond intellect, skill, or pedigree, the primary attribute that contributes to success is resilience: the ability to bounce back from adversity. Everyone faces challenges – some more than others – but those who have the grit to persevere outperform those who are knocked out by challenges.

What if Edison had given up after his first few failures in attempting creating his light bulb? Or if Abraham Lincoln gave up after losing his first three elections? Or if Oprah quit show business after being fired from her first television job?

Fortunately, resilience is not entirely an inborn trait; anyone can develop their ability to be resilient. The key is to change the way you think about yourself, and the world around you. People who develop resilience see the world as full of opportunity. They interpret all of their experiences as interesting and worthwhile, as an opportunity to learn and grow.

Enduring physical challenges also seems to contribute to overall resilience. A recent study published in the Harvard Business Review suggested that people who ended their showers with a blast of cold water for at least 30 seconds, over the duration of 30 days, were absent from work 29% less than those who showered in warm water. As one of the researchers, who also tried the cold shower method said, “Once you adapt and get resilient, it becomes an addictive energetic morning challenge. Whether you feel ill or healthy, a cold shower kick-starts the day!”

Of course, this research on resilience only confirms what has long been encoded in ancient wisdom. As the Bible says in the book of James 1:1-4, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you encounter trials of many kinds, for the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Allow perseverance to finish its work, so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking in anything.” (NIV)

So, how are you at bouncing back? How do you respond to stressors and challenges in your life? Are you an overcomer? Or do you feel overcome by adversity? As an opportunity for growing your resilience, I encourage you to reflect on the questions in the “1 Minute Drill,” listed below.

1 Minute Drill

When I encounter stress, do I:

  • See it as a learning opportunity?
  • Run and hide from stressors?
  • Try to control everything around me?
  • Emotionally crumble and collapse?

To develop greater resilience I will:

  • Set a goal to____________________
  • Engage with controlled exposure to stressors through____________________
  • I am motivated to change by______________________

*In the spirit of developing resilience, after completing the “1 Minute Drill” a freezing cold shower is encouraged!