Mental Resilience is the Key to Success in Business – Here’s How to Cultivate More of It

It is challenging to start a new business or grow an existing business.

Being your own boss can be rewarding and fun. But, entrepreneurs and business owners also face obstacles, mistakes, uncertainty, disappointment, and failure.

Accepting the inevitability of these challenges makes you better equipped to deal with them.

Your success as an entrepreneur or business owner hinges not on how many setbacks you encounter, but on how mentally resilient you are when facing those setbacks.

Can you pick yourself up and keep going when things get tough? And, can you do it over and over again?

That’s what you’ll need to do to build a successful and sustainable business.

The good news is that mental resilience, your umbrella in the storms of life, is a skill that can be cultivated.

The experts at the American Psychological Association explain:

While certain factors might make some individuals more resilient than others, resilience isn’t necessarily a personality trait that only some people possess. On the contrary, resilience involves behaviors, thoughts, and actions that anyone can learn and develop.

They emphasize that:

Becoming more resilient not only helps you get through difficult circumstances, it also empowers you to grow and even improve your life along the way.

We can’t control all of the things that happen to us.

But, we can become successful at navigating the challenges life throws at us by changing how we respond.

Here are five tips for cultivating mental resilience so that you can be a better entrepreneur, business owner, leader, and human.

1. Take care of your body

The very first step to cultivating greater mental resilience is to take care of your body.

You may be wondering what your physical body has to do with mental resilience.

All mental efforts rely on the physical systems that process them. And, stress can cause enormous physical harm.

Your body and mind are inextricably linked. Self-care must be a priority if you want to succeed.

Getting enough sleep, eating healthy foods, exercising, and steering clear of substances that affect your mental faculties will help provide a stable foundation that supports mental resilience and overall mental health.

But, depriving your body of the sleep and nutrients it needs stresses your physical body, reducing the resources you have to tackle mental challenges.

So, if you’re in the habit of working late into the wee hours or skipping meals to be “more productive,” now is the time to reassess your choices.

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2. Practice mindfulness meditation

Meditation has been scientifically proven to impact your brain in ways that bolster resilience.

Harvard Medical School neuroscientist Sara Lazar discovered that consistent meditation practice could physically change your brain in positive, measurable ways.

As we previously shared:

Sara discovered thickening in four areas of the brain- areas responsible for emotional regulation, empathy, compassion, perspective-taking, learning, cognition, and memory. She also found that the amygdala, which controls humans’ “fight or flight” instinct and influences fear and stress, shrank.

Decreased stress reactions and increased compassion, perspective-taking, and emotional regulation all strengthen your mental resilience. But that’s just the start.

There are many types of meditation. But, developing a regular practice of mindfulness meditation can have even more substantial benefits.

Mindfulness focuses on experiencing the present moment and accepting the present moment as it is.

While this may seem deceptively simple, its implications are enormous for mental resilience. Mindfulness practice strengthens self-awareness and acceptance and helps you to de-clutter and improve your productivity.

And, as vulnerability and resilience expert Brené Brown explains :

Resilience is more available to people curious about their own line of thinking and behaving…

In other words, mindfulness strengthens the very skills that Brown has found to be most impactful to enhancing resilience.

Finally, mastering acceptance empowers you to bypass the timely and resource-intensive reactions of denial, anger, self-pity, self-righteousness, and avoidance. This frees you to act more quickly (and with a clearer head) when challenges arise.

Carve out 15 minutes per day to engage in mindfulness meditation. And, don’t worry – it’s not as scary, weird, or complicated as you may think. This website can help you get started.

3. Be smart with your mental resources

We all have a finite amount of cognitive resources.

So, if you want to become more resilient, you have to get more thoughtful about how you use those resources.

While you can’t prevent bad things from happening in life, you can avoid welcoming more stressors into your world.

For example, many startup myths hold entrepreneurs back from success. Knowing what those myths are and avoiding the stress from such myths will help you become more mentally resilient.

Practices like doom-scrolling, taking on more tasks than you can handle and spending time with people who emotionally drain you will naturally deplete large amounts of your mental resources.

Take a good hard look at your life and identify the stressors you’ve voluntarily accepted. Then set new boundaries to eliminate them.

Get used to saying “no.”

You’ll likely receive push-back from the people who have been benefitting from your previous status-quo. So, be prepared to stand your ground.

You’ll find that once you’ve established secure boundaries that minimize unnecessary stress, you’ll have more mental resources for dealing with the unexpected challenges life throws your way.

4. Cultivate a gratitude practice

Gratitude has gotten quite a bit of press recently.

There are gratitude journals,  gratitude calendars, gratitude challenges (popular around Thanksgiving), and more.

And, there’s a good reason why gratitude is experiencing this boom. Developing a gratitude practice has been found to have a positive impact on people’s overall mental health as well as their mental resilience.

The bottom line is that our ability to stay positive in the face of adversity helps us to continue moving forward. And, showing gratitude for the good in our life, when regularly practiced, enables us to do just that.

So, how does one establish a gratitude practice?

There are many options, so identify a practice that’s meaningful and sustainable for you.

How to cultivate a gratitude practice:

  • Keep a gratitude journal. This can be as simple as writing down every day 3-5 things for which you are grateful. Or purchase a guided gratitude journal with specific writing prompts.
  • Create a bedtime gratitude ritual. Invite each member of your family to name three things for which they’re grateful. Do this every night before bed.
  • Follow a gratitude calendar. Keep a gratitude calendar on your desk to provide you with gratitude reminders and prompts.
  • Create a gratitude text circle with friends, family, or colleagues. You can text each other throughout the day or at a set time to share the things for which you are grateful.
  • Write/dictate gratitude letters. Write weekly letters to people to whom you are grateful. You can deliver the letters or not. Choose to write several letters that are sustainable for you. But, to get the most benefit, make it a regular practice.
  • Create gratitude-themed art. This can take the form of hand-made thank you cards, small paintings or sketches – even sculptures. The point is to get creative and let your gratitude for a specific situation or person inspire the art.

This list is just a starting point. Cultivating gratitude in your daily life is a personal journey – so, experiment and find what works for you.

And, rest assured that whatever form your gratitude practice takes, if you stick with it, your mental resilience will grow stronger.

5. Build strong social connections

Humans are social creatures.

And, one of the most powerful resources we have for improving our mental resilience is a supportive social network.

When things go wrong, we instinctively reach out to friends and family. And, for a good reason – it helps.

Jill Suttie, Psy.D. explains:

Having good social relationships is clearly a winning strategy in life, tied to greater psychological and physical well-being. Thus, it’s not surprising that social relationships also matter when it comes to resiliency, in part because they help us feel less stress when we are suffering.

A  2020 study from The British Psychological Society draws the same conclusion:

Our findings highlight the important role that social connections play in promoting resilience by buffering against negative physical and mental health outcomes, particularly in times of adversity.

The support we receive from friends and loved ones help us weather storms and rebound stronger.

But, don’t wait until something goes wrong to create a connection. Relationships are like bank accounts – you have to pay into them before you can make withdrawals.

So, nurture your relationships with both regular communications and by providing support to others.

When you invest in your relationships, you’ll find you have a network of people willing to support you when things get tough.

The importance of grit

Resilience is vital to your success. And so is grit.

Angela Duckworth, author of Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, reveals that,

Grit is passion and perseverance for long-term goals.

Grit is the companion to resilience. It’s the trait that allows you to reapply yourself after you’ve weathered the storms of adversity.

So, how do you tap into your inner reserves of grit?

Identify your purpose.

When running a business, you’ll encounter many challenges. But, focusing on the purpose that drove you to start your business, and staying mentally resilient when faced with adversity, can motivate you to keep going.

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