An Exercise in Building Resiliency

They say that change is the only constant in life. Of course, the type of change and how it impacts your life is always unknown.

This last year has been a time of monumental change for all of us. To make it more challenging, many of the changes we’ve faced have occurred suddenly, with little to no time to prepare.

So what do you do when you find yourself in a major upheaval?

Choosing how you want to react is always going to be at the top of my personal list.

I know many people may bristle at that statement. After all, if we could all choose our emotions, reactions, etc. at any given moment than wouldn’t we all just choose to be happy?

Let me be clear. Our emotions are real. Our emotional responses to major change are normal, valid, and completely to be expected. More importantly, those responses serve a purpose – to protect us, comfort us, etc. But regardless of what our emotional response may be, we can still choose how we react. In fact, that ability to choose our reaction is an important part of how we build resiliency to life’s changes. And studies show our ability to bounce back from difficult times has a direct impact on our overall happiness.

In fact, the organization, Action for Happiness, finds resiliency to be such an important life skill that they list it as one of their 10 Keys to Happiness.

So what do I mean, exactly, when I say you can choose your reaction? Let me share what I do and, in fact, what I just did when I had a recent situation to work through. I won’t share the specifics of my situation, for a number of reasons, but I think you’ll get the gist. The most important thing to know is that I did this exercise soon after finding out about the situation, when I had only limited information available.

I worked through everything below as a journaling exercise so I could get my thoughts organized. Hopefully you’ll see the progression with how one set of questions and answers feeds into the next:

  • What can I control right now?
    • How I react
    • What I do next
    • How I let whatever happens next impact other aspects of my life
  • So how do I want to react? (Note: while journaling, I fleshed out each of my answersso it was clear what I meant by each of them):
    • By taking responsibility
    • With self-forgiveness
    • With acceptance
    • With grace
    • With hope and faith
  • What do I want to do next?
    • I won’t go into specifics here but I literally made a list of everything I could think of that could be potential next steps based on how I’d chosen to react. Then I put them in order of priority and executed once I had finished journaling.
  • How do I want to let whatever happens next impact other aspects of my life?
    • I want it to have the least impact possible.
  • Where can I anticipate unintended impact happening? (Note: I had several answers here but I’ve shared one as an example)
    • My biggest concern is my health. I’ve been trying to eat better and work out more but this is a high-stress situation and I know those are often the first things to drop when I’m stressed.
  • So what can I do to ensure those stay on track and don’t make the situation worse?
    • I know that eating unhealthy and NOT working out would ultimately increase my stress, not decrease it, so I need to focus on pre-logging my food, as I’ve been doing, and taking time each night to plan the next day’s workout so I don’t fall off track.
  • What’s the worst I can anticipate happening from here?
  • (After answering the above question) If that were to happen, what would I do?

Now that I’ve walked through that real (although sparse) example, let me hit on a few key points.

First, obviously the questions for your situation, especially the follow-up questions, may be very different. However, there are a few questions that can probably be used across the majority of situations:

  • What can I control?
  • How do I want to react?
  • How do I want to let this impact other areas of my life/job/relationship/situation/etc.?
  • What’s the worst that can happen?
  • What would I do if that did happen?
  • What do I want to do next?

Second, the amount of relief just doing this exercise can bring is indescribable. In my example, I started this exercise crying, feeling hopeless, and uncertain about what would happen next. By the time I finished my tears were dry, I was breathing normally, and felt prepared to face what was happening. No matter what occurred next, I had a firm grip on what I could control and I was determined to hold on to that. I also had actionable items I could do right away to keep myself from lingering too long in the negative feelings that had overwhelmed me.

Third, even though this had a dramatic impact on how quickly I moved through this change and how much it impacted me, it did still impact me. I still spent the next several days in tears. I still beat myself up. I still experienced anger, frustration, despair, hopelessness, etc. I still experienced all of that because I’m human. And it’s completely normal for us to have these emotions and to truly feel it when something unexpected happens in our lives.

However, when I felt those emotions or I did those things, I also had this incredible journal exercise to go back to. So I could remind myself to be forgiving; I could remind myself to maintain hope; and I could remind myself that I had a plan.

You have the power to be your own solution.

No matter who you are or what change you’re going through, I hope this helps you think through how to build and practice your own resiliency. Of course, if you need help beyond this post, you can also always email me at to learn more about how I can partner with you as a coach to get you where you want to be.

Until next time, be safe, happy, and well!

Published by Taryn Hewett

Hi, I’m Taryn! I'm a certified professional coach who helps people live lives of passion, purpose, and fulfillment. I'm an avid believer that holistic happiness is the key to everything we want to achieve in life. When we're happy and fulfilled, it causes a positive ripple effect in all areas of our lives: family, work, community - you name it. I am so honored and excited to help others along their own journey to happiness.

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