Developing This Type of Resilience Can Help You Achieve Major Personal Growth

Tough times can be catalysts for powerful personal change. By fostering transformative resilience, you can turn challenges into opportunities — and become stronger, happier, and inspired to thrive.

Transforming woman
Photo: Irina Kruglova / Adobe Stock

Like a plant growing through rock, you can find a way to push through whatever obstacles you're facing and emerge into the sunlight. The power to do this comes from tapping into a unique trait called transformative resilience.

Traditional resilience is about having grit and perseverance and powering through, but the transformative type goes a step further. "It's the ability to take life's challenges and setbacks and learn from them and use them as inspiration to grow in new directions," says Ama Marston, a leadership expert and a coauthor of Type R: Transformative Resilience for Thriving in a Turbulent World (Buy It, $18, The good news is that anyone can foster Type R qualities. Here's your plan to get started.

Take a New View

To learn to see challenges as opportunities, you need to shift your mindset, says Marston. "We all have a lens through which we view the world and everything that takes place in it," she says. "It shapes our outlook, beliefs, attitude, and actions. Oftentimes, it may be more negative than we realize." (

To figure out what your mindset is, think back to a recent difficulty and how you reacted to it. Say you had to cancel a long-awaited vacation. Did you get stuck in the disappointment and have trouble shaking it off? Did you spiral deeper and tell yourself that the way things are going, you probably won't be able to travel for a while? Those thoughts will drag you down, leaving you feeling sad and defeated.

Once you understand how you typically react to tough situations, you'll be able to recognize the pattern, stop yourself, and actively switch to a more positive way of dealing with problems, says Marston. "Instead of wondering, 'Why me?,' think, 'What can I learn from this?'" she says. "'How can I do things differently that will help me grow?'" That way, it goes from an act of bad luck foisted upon you to something you can mold to your advantage.

In the case of the missed vacation, you could schedule a series of weekend outings closer to home throughout the winter and spring. Go hiking in a national park you've always wanted to visit. Rediscover ice-skating, or sign up for snowboarding lessons at a winter resort. That way, you'll consistently have something to look forward to and be excited about, and maybe you'll even learn a new skill while you're at it.

Practice Emotional Hygiene

Being adaptable and finding creative solutions doesn't mean denying your sad feelings or brushing off negative emotions, says Marston. "People are handling some really difficult challenges right now, and we need to acknowledge our experiences in order to deal with them," she says. When something bad happens, let yourself feel frustrated or upset. Turn to your family and friends for emotional support and advice if that's helpful. But don't let the negative thoughts overwhelm you and take over. Move beyond them, and try not to ruminate. (

Of course, certain things like COVID-19 and the state of the economy are beyond our control. "Sometimes we need to remind ourselves of that," says Marston. "It's crucial to see the larger context — especially in this time of great uncertainty and during this crisis. We can't expect individuals to do it all; social safety nets need to be in place. What we can do is take action and advocate for those things. Focus on what's in your power to change."

So if the current financial situation means you can't open the vegan bakery you've been dreaming of, make it your side hustle until the time is right. Launch a website and an Instagram account, and sell your baked goods at night and on weekends. You'll build up a client base and make money too.

Move Forward

"What we often hear when it comes to resilience is the idea of bouncing back," says Marston. "But the reality is, we usually don't bounce back because the world keeps moving, and it's very hard to get back to where we were. Plus, research shows that once we go through something difficult, we change and grow; we don't stay the same."

The challenges of this past year highlight how crucial it is to move ahead. "Looking at the pandemic and what we've been through as individuals, as communities, and as a nation, it has changed us in fundamental ways," says Marston. "We've had to adapt to working from home, losing a job, or the loss of a loved one. We've realized the need to overhaul our communities, our health care system, and the way we engage with one another. In the face of these things, we have to do things differently."

On a personal level, that means brainstorming some new ideas for tackling your challenges. Take working from home, which can start to consume your life if you let it. Instead of sitting at your desk for hours on end, schedule a mid-morning break into your days. Do a workout, meditate, or grab a cup of coffee and call a friend. In the afternoon, go for a 20-minute walk. At night, shut your laptop and enjoy dinner with your family. By creating dedicated pockets of downtime, you'll be more productive, creative, and successful — and feel more positive about not only your job but the future.

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Type R: Transformative Resilience for Thriving in a Turbulent World

Type R: Transformative Resilience for Thriving in a Turbulent World
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