I had a great conversation with a woman the other day. She worked in a male-dominated field and had encountered numerous hardships and obstacles on her way to success. Her professional AND personal life was filled with experiences that might have detoured many others from a path to the top. However, she was able to somehow navigate her life and despite the odds, find happiness and success.  How is that possible?


It’s a little thing called resilience.  Some women have it and some women don’t.  Resilience is the ability to turn disruptive changes and obstacles into opportunities for growth. It’s the ability to deal with change in your life, be flexible and spring back better than ever. Let’s get something clear up front: being resilient doesn’t mean that you don’t feel pain, grief, or sadness when bad things happen. It just means that you confront your feelings, weather the storm and find your way to the other side.


Research has shown that some individuals are genetically predisposed to be optimistic and see the positive side of life.  They’re just naturally born with a temperament that enables them to approach their days with a sunny disposition. Research also has revealed that many others receive these desired skills from a combination of environmental factors, including parental interaction. By struggling with obstacles at a young age, they learn to independently handle pressures and stresses in an effective manner.


Women that have resilience take responsibility for their actions in life. When things go wrong, they are inquisitive and try to understand and make sense of the situation. They have strong problem-solving skills and can calmly review the options and find a rational solution.  They believe that they have control of their universe. In other words, they make things happen— things don’t happen to them.


When I was growing up, I was lucky enough to have a mom that encouraged me to be a problem-solver. She led me to believe that every problem had a solution and guided me through the problem-solving process. She prodded me to confront issues directly and get outside support if needed. All of this led me to believe that I had the confidence to call the shots in my life and I could make things happen.


That doesn’t mean that I wasn’t sad with the usual disappointments in my life.  I remember a number of times that I felt anxious and stressed over various jobs, family struggles and friendship break-ups. The difference is that I allowed myself to fully feel, which then led to understanding, and finally making sense and finding meaning in the experience.  I didn’t stay stuck forever; eventually I shrugged it off and moved on.


But what if you didn’t have a positive childhood experience and you’re not genetically predisposed for resilience? Is there a way that you can develop your skills and become strong? The answer is yes. It takes work and commitment but you can take control of your life. It’s a matter of getting more in touch with your emotions and pushing yourself to become comfortable with change.  It involves finding meaning and purpose in the “bad” times in your life and redefining some of your thoughts and beliefs about the world. Yes, it’s possible to learn to soar through your career and personal struggles and come out on the other side better than ever.


It’s just a matter of wanting to make a change.

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