Ten Behaviors that Deplete My Resilience

By Gail Wagnild

Time to read:  4 minutes

I have spent time trying to understand how to strengthen resilience in order to be ready for whatever life might throw at me. I’ve also learned for myself that it’s been helpful to be aware of red flag behaviors that deplete my capacity for a resilience response, too.

Here is my list of 10 behaviors that undermine my resilience.

  1. Not having a clear core of beliefs that guide my life. Whenever I lose sight of what is the most important to me, I’m in trouble. I notice especially that my boundaries get blurry and I do things I don’t want to do and vice versa.
  2. Working at a job that is neither fulfilling nor giving me a reason to get up in the morning. I’m reminded of something Steve Jobs said: “For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: 'If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?' And whenever the answer has been 'No' for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.” Good advice for me.
  3. Neglecting my health by not getting enough sleep, nutritious food, and movement. This seems obvious to me but there are times when I neglect all three and my capacity for resilience is greatly diminished. I know this but it is hard to follow through every day for me.
  4. Running from things that scare me rather than facing them head on. How many times do I avoid things because they make me anxious or I fear the consequences? It has always gone better for me when I just get up in the morning after a sleepless night and deal with it. I’m guaranteed to sleep better the next night.
  5. Allowing extreme responses to dominate how I cope with unexpected events. When things don’t go well, it’s easy for me to feel discouraged and even defeated. This is when I say things like, “I will fail,” or “This is the worst day.” I’ve learned, slowly, that I need to be realistic and recognize that I can control my response and go from there. To paraphrase John Milton, I can make a Heaven of Hell and a Hell of Heaven. It’s up to me.
  6. Being slow to forgive others and letting bygones be bygones. I don’t know about you, but I can hold on to bad feelings and be upset far too long. This can destroy any sense of equanimity in my life and I’ve learned that it’s wise to let go as quickly as I can.
  7. Giving up on goals that are important to me and quitting short of success. I am quite tenacious but even so, there have been things I wanted to do in my life that I quit short of achieving. Ever after is a nagging question, “What if I hadn’t quit?” It’s best to stick it out if it’s important to you.
  8. Growing weary of life and learning new things. There have been times I have been very tired and on the edge of burnout. I now recognize that fatigue is a lack of balance. I know I’m not alone. How to get interested in life again? There is a lot of advice on this but ‘unplugging’ is at the top of the list as is getting out in nature, exercising, spending time with friends, and resting.
  9. Not reaching out to my supports in a time of need and instead toughing it out alone. I often don’t want to burden others, especially when I know that they have their own problems. But it’s true that sharing my problems lightens the load I carry. This too supports my resilience.
  10. Forgetting that life is short  and failing to prioritize things that are the most important to me. Sometimes I get so caught up in my ‘to do’ list and trying to get to the end of it that I fail to focus on what is truly important to me. For each of us, this is different. But an awareness of the brevity of life reminds me that I need to savor every new day as an opportunity to live my best and most resilient life.