What causes some of us to bounce back and persevere in response to failure or disappointment, while others are left despairing and defeated? In my experience as a psychotherapist and host of The Failure Factor podcast, I’ve identified seven qualities of resilient entrepreneurs (and people!):
1. The ability to find meaning
When we experience disappointment, loss, or trauma, finding meaning in our pain helps us accept and integrate what we’ve gone through. Resilient individuals trust there’s a gift, lesson, or opportunity in every challenging situation . For example, the founders of Sakara Life made their “mess into [their] mission.”
Do it: Get into the habit of imparting meaning onto unwanted experiences, asking yourself, “What lesson is in this?” or “How can this help someone else?” or “What emotional tolerance muscle am I strengthening right now?” If you’re having trouble identifying a “gift,” trust one will emerge in the future, or tell yourself that this unwanted experience is actually protecting you in some way.
2. The ability to be vulnerable, connect, and ask for help
Support and connection are essential for surviving a difficult time, yet connection is dependent on vulnerability. Unfortunately many of us, particularly men, are socialized to appear strong and composed even when in the midst of chaos. Removing our masks, sharing our true experience with people we trust, and asking for help are ways we can be vulnerable, connect, and open up to receiving support. Founder and CEO of Thrive Market Gunnar Lovelace and CEO of Visalus Ryan Blair are examples of men who use vulnerability to their advantage.
Do it: Share your struggle with the people you trust. If there’s no one in your life with whom you feel safe being “unmasked,” consider connecting with a therapist. Also, remind yourself of the universal connectedness of all beings–that you’re not alone, there are millions of others experiencing something similar at this time, and we’re all in this together.
3. A supportive relationship with oneself
So many of us are unaware that we compound our suffering and stall healing by beating ourselves up . Significant research suggests self-compassion fosters resilience. Think about it: when we’re supportive and encouraging to ourselves in response to disappointment and failure, we bounce back more easily; alternatively, when we criticize and undermine ourselves, we struggle with forgiving ourselves and moving one when things don’t go according to plan. Former NFL linebacker Matt Mayberry emphasizes the importance of self-compassion in his episode.
Do it: Get in the habit of saying to yourself what you would to a friend when things don’t go your way. Remind yourself you’re not a robot–you’re an imperfect human being like everyone else, and screwing up (and feeling crappy) is part of that process. Empathize with your feelings of disappointment/shame/loss and congratulate yourself on taking a risk or stepping out of your comfort zone.
4. The ability to surrender and trust in the face of uncertainty
Believing everything is in our control is incredibly stressful. Surrendering to the anxiety-provoking reality that we have influence over very little in life can actually be incredibly relieving–if we have some sense of spirituality, faith, or trust in the process. Learn how Passport 2 Beauty founder Shalini Vadhera’s business skyrocketed after she “surrendered.”
Do it: Ask yourself, “What’s in my control right now?” As for what’s not, quit struggling and practice surrendering to life’s uncertainty (key word being “practice”). Harness your spirituality or trust in something greater than yourself–even if it’s “progression to the mean.”
5. A sense of humor
Studies have shown that humor is a form of emotion regulation and coping. Humor is a way of connecting with others, integrating painful experience, finding meaning, and developing a narrative for a pain-filled story. Freud might see it as a defense mechanism, but experts now see humor as essential to resiliency.
Do it: If your story were made into a movie, what parts might evoke sympathetic laughter in a theatre? If you were recounting your experience to a friend, what could you make light of? Look for satirical and entertaining pockets in the pain.
Equanimity, defined as ”mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, especially in a difficult situation,” is essentially non-reactivity. It’s the product of mindfulness–observing our experience with acceptance and compassion and without reactivity. The more we practice mindfulness, the less fazed we are by the emotional rollercoaster of entrepreneurship (and life). Founder and CEO of Bleacher Report Dave Finocchio emphasizes equanimity as a necessary quality for entrepreneurial success.
Do it: Make a point to spend part of your commute or your shower acceptingly noticing your thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations come and go as though you’re watching them on a movie screen. When your mind wanders to the future or the past, gently bring it back to your present awareness.
7. The ability to cultivate perspective and gratitude
I was stressing about bills the other day while mindlessly scrolling through Instagram, when I stumbled across a sobering 9/11 tribute that gave me a reality check. Finding perspective and gratitude can help us get back on track after being derailed. Now, we don’t want to be dismissive of our struggles, but we do want to see them in a less immediate context. Our existence is fragile and precarious; If you’re fortunate enough to have health, freedom, sanity, safety, and connection, be aware of that . Read how, Whitney Wolfe, founder and CEO of Bumble gains perspective here.
Do it: After self-compassionately validating what you’re going through, ask yourself: ”How would the situation be different if I got a terminal diagnosis tomorrow or lost someone I love? How do my feelings about the situation change when I zoom out and see myself as an insignificant, impermanent flicker in an infinite universe?” Then fill in the blank: “Thankfully, I_____.”
So work on building the seven qualities discussed. Not only will you be more resilient when faced with adversity, you’ll feel empowered to take the risks you need to succeed–both in your career and in life.
This article was originally posted/written by forbes.com.