Some ways to come out on top of anything

on top

We all have ups and downs in life. Some people experience more than others, just as some can manage through challenges easier than others. Without getting into detail (this post is long enough!), many parts of my life have been impacted in one way or another in the last year and a half. People ask me how I rebound so fast. I say I’m fairly resilient. Resilience is the ability to recover when bad things happen. Being persistent, open, willing and optimistic are strong factors in successfully handling difficult situations. In a Daryl Conner blog post, Five aspects of resilience, he outlines five features of resilient people. They are:

  • Positive
  • Focused
  • Flexible
  • Organized
  • Proactive

I can’t say I have all of them, but I’m naturally a positive, focused and flexible person. I’m still working on organization, and being proactive ebbs and flows for me. Most people can work on aspects to make themselves more resilient.

Here are some ways to further develop each of the five features.


Distillery District
My niece was positive she was going to reach me in this photo shoot.

Positive people have an optimistic outlook on life. Their views are rooted in the belief that life as complex but filled with many opportunities. Being more positive can be achieved with work. Try to focus on thoughts that improve your mood, show challenging situations in a more productive light, and take hopeful approaches to the things you do. You can begin to see life as filled with possibilities and solutions instead of problems.

Some ways to become more positive:

  • Find a good role model, someone who handles themselves with strength and respect through good and bad.
  • Keep a list of daily accomplishments, no matter how small.
  • Accept compliments from others with a genuine thank you.
  • Concentrate on becoming better at something rather than perfecting it.
  • Minimize external influences that increase your negativity. You may find that certain friends or types of music or movies change your overall attitude.
  • Question negative thoughts, even if you’ve spent most of your life thinking negatively. Whenever you have a negative thought, stop and evaluate whether it’s true. For example, if you think things always go wrong for you, think back to a time when something went your way and focus on that.
  • Replace negative thoughts with positive ones. For example, instead of thinking that you’re going to fail at something, think about the steps you can take to ensure your success.


People that are focused have a clear vision of what they want to achieve. They take the time to write down their goals, barriers, and the strategies they will use to find solutions when problems arise.

Some ways to become more focused:

  • Picture yourself as you would like to be in one year. Every few months revisit it.
  • Set up a plan for your goal(s) that includes short, medium and long-term goals. It doesn’t have to be complicated; just a few bullet points, but this way if you go off course, you can quickly get back on track.
  • Ask someone you trust for an opinion on your goals and suggestions about how you can be successful.
  • Embrace failure. It’s easy to assume that by setting goals, you’ll achieve everything on your list. But this isn’t always the case, and disappointment takes energy that can be used to get things done. Quickly assess why you weren’t able to meet a goal and learn from it.


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Ballet ad

Flexible people adapt quickly to new situations and prepare for all scenarios, even through uncertainty. They pause before reacting and understand that there are many solutions to any given situation. Flexible people identify and deal with their fears when facing new and intimidating situations.

Some ways to become more flexible:

  • Take the opposite side in a discussion where you disagree with someone; you argue their side and they argue yours.
  • Find someone who approaches things differently than you and ask for their input on something you’re finding difficult to figure out. Listen to ideas without interrupting or passing judgment.
  • Work on becoming less defensive. When receiving criticism, try to consider what the person is saying before choosing an appropriate reaction. Honest criticism can help you make improvements.
  • Appreciate what you have. Instead of holding on to how you wish things were, embrace how things are by valuing what you have in your life right now, no matter how little you may think it is.


Organized people develop structured approaches to managing uncertainty. They plan, set priorities and take action to get things done.

Some ways to become more organized:

  • Clear the noise, physically and mentally. If you’re doing something or talking to someone, get rid of unhelpful distractions. For example, put your phone on silent and put it away, or take your mind off of something that is bothering you but doesn’t need your immediate attention.
  • Keep a schedule to track and remind yourself of important things.
  • Before starting something, take a few moments to think it through and list the key steps you need to take to finish it.
  • Make sure all your important information is accessible and easy to identify.
  • Break down a problem into smaller pieces and then tackle the easiest one first.
  • Create a routine to remove a distraction, stress and inefficiency. Control the things you can, so you’re free to handle the things you can’t control.


Strategizing in St. Lucia… well pretending too!

Proactive people think and act ahead of probable events instead of reacting to them. They take calculated risks and then apply lessons learned from past experiences to similar challenges.

Some ways to become more proactive:

  • Develop plans for handling the worst-case scenario that might result from something happening.
  • Make lists of what you think your strengths are, and the people and resources available when you need them. Doing this helps you quickly tap into them when you need to solve problems.
  • Get ahead of non-urgent, daily responsibilities so they’re out of the way if something urgent comes up. Some upfront effort could save you from unnecessary stress later.
  • Practice evaluating the risks about a situation by listing all of the pros and cons that come to mind.
  • Ask questions and collect information about an upcoming change, something you are planning, or a situation.
  • Get rid of things that don’t need doing, or don’t need to be done by you. Try not to allow a misplaced sense of guilt make you think that somehow you’re responsible for them.

As with any change, further developing skills to become more resilient takes time and practice. Give yourself time and reward yourself for your victories and efforts. Think of each step as a successful transformation.

If you need additional support, consider speaking to a professional, such as a counselor, life coach or someone you trust.


  1. Excellent post.

  2. In this fast paced super competitive world, resilience is the quality you need most.

    Great tips for developing resilience.

  3. Can’t emphasize role model enough! With YouTube a finger touch away from our smartphones, you can find great people speaking freely online anytime.

  4. This is great Sam!

  5. Great tips! In my real life, I am a change management consultant, mostly for large organizations. I have observed thousands of people as they navigate change. One thing I have noticed is that people who are aware of their thoughts and feelings—and accept them—move through the change more quickly, and “permanently”. It’s the hiding from or judgment of reactions as “good/bad” or how we’re supposed to react that often causes people to get stuck.

    One of the most compassionate things we can do for others is simply to hold space for them as they acknowledge their fear, sadness, uncertainty, so they can move forward.

    1. Hi Kris, when you say to hold space for them, are you referring to creating an opportunity for them to speak their thoughts? Is there any particular methods you deploy to help people become more aware of their thoughts and feelings so they can move forward sooner than later in their lives? I’d love to learn more!

      1. Hi Brian, when I say “hold space”, I mean just give them an environment that is judgment free. Whatever the thoughts or emotions are, it’s normal and OK! Compassion…empathy…not “You ‘should’….”, but more in the form of questions that help the person come to be aware and understand the thoughts and emotions they’re having. “Name it to tame it.”

        The more honestly the person comes to that realization on his/her own, then the ability to act can happen more genuinely. People will generally repeat this several times as new awareness happens (new information or emotions beyond the instinctive fear or anger initial reaction). Again, patience and presence (hold space).

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