5 surprising habits of highly-resilient people

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5 surprising habits of highly-resilient people

Resilience. It’s that gritty, get-back-up-again quality that self-help gurus and motivational posters won’t shut up about.

But while the world is busy fetishizing the idea of mental toughness, the truly resilient folks are out there quietly getting on with it. They’re not necessarily the loudest in the room or the most obvious success stories—they’re the ones who stay standing when life decides to throw a knockout punch.

You might think they’ve got some kind of superhuman ability.

But here’s the surprising truth: resilience isn’t about being unbreakable; it’s about being flexible. And that flexibility often comes from simple habits. 

Today, we’re diving into the practices of people who can take life’s punches. 

Let’s dive in. 

01) They embrace failure as a stepping stone

As a former business owner, I can personally attest to the transformative power of embracing failure.

It’s a humbling but essential habit of resilient people—they mine the depths of each setback for the hidden gems of wisdom it contains. This perspective isn’t just about staying positive; it’s about actively converting what many would consider a negative event into a springboard for growth.

My own journey through the trenches of entrepreneurship has taught me that the lessons gleaned from missteps are often the cornerstones of future success. Each wrong turn informed my decisions moving forward, shaping a more strategic and resilient approach to business.

This habit of leveraging failure is deeply ingrained in the ethos of great minds.

Take Thomas Edison, for instance. His relentless experimentation in inventing the lightbulb is the stuff of legend, and his famous quote encapsulates the habit perfectly:

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Edison’s persistence and reframing of failure as progress rather than defeat illustrate the mindset of resilience.

In the same vein, when I faced my own failures, I strove to ask, “What’s next?” instead of “What if?”

This subtle shift in questioning is a powerful habit that can transform the energy of failure into fuel for perseverance. It’s about acknowledging the fall but focusing on the strength gained in getting back up.

For resilient people, failure is a rigorous teacher that demands attention and respect. The habit isn’t about seeking failure, but when it arrives, as it inevitably does, they’re prepared to listen and learn.

How do they foster this mindset? 

For many, they do so through this next habit. 

02) They make a ritual of reflection

Resilient people aren’t just tough; they’re thoughtful.

They carve out time for reflection and often do so through journaling.  

Resilient people use journaling not as a mere record of events but to refine their thoughts and give gratitude. 

Anne Frank’s diary, for instance, is a profound example of resilience. Through the simple act of writing, she maintained her humanity and optimism in the face of unimaginable circumstances.

This isn’t your average diary writing; it’s a deliberate, hard-nosed examination of one’s experiences. Resilient people know that unexamined experiences are like unread books—full of wisdom that goes unnoticed.

They engage in this Stoic habit of questioning: What worked? What didn’t? How can I do better? What can I learn from this situation? It’s about extracting insight from the trials of life.

Every setback is a study, every challenge, an experiment.

This relentless interrogation through journaling builds a robust internal feedback loop. Where others see failure as a dead-end, they see it as data, a valuable input for the next round.

03) They exercise

Resilient people wield exercise as a psychological weapon.

Their workout routines are as much about building a resilient mind as they are about sculpting a resilient body.

Take Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, for example. He’s known for rising before the crack of dawn, around 3:45 AM, and starting his day with emails and then a gym session

Or consider the stamina of someone like Barack Obama, who, even during his presidency, never skimped on his workouts, fitting in 45-minute sessions, six days a week. For Obama, exercise was non-negotiable— and one might think a foundational element of his ability to endure and make tough decisions under pressure.

Still not convinced you should stop skipping the gym session? 

Research also backs this up. Studies have shown that exercise can increase our ability to deal with stress.

It’s not just about the occasional jog or the sporadic trip to the gym.

For resilient individuals, exercise is a daily ritual.

It’s about challenging themselves regularly, pushing beyond the comfortable, and using the discipline of physical activity as a rehearsal for life’s unpredictable challenges. In the process, they cultivate a warrior’s mindset: when faced with stress or adversity, their instinct is to move, to act, to endure.

04) They prioritize social connections

This isn’t a new idea; even the ancient philosopher Epicurus noted the significance of friendship as a shelter in the storm of life.

But resilient individuals don’t just understand this intellectually—they live it.

Leaders and changemakers demonstrate the resilient habit of drawing on the strength of their personal relationships when times get tough. This goes beyond merely having a vast network; it’s about cultivating a few profound connections that offer mutual support and genuine understanding.

Resilient people actively maintain their relationships through regular communication and shared experiences. They invest time in these connections, knowing that when challenges arise, these are the people who will stand by them, ready to offer a helping hand or a listening ear.

By incorporating the practice of fostering strong social bonds, resilient individuals echo the wisdom of Epicurus, albeit in a modern context. They don’t rely on friends simply for leisure and comfort, but as a fundamental component of their emotional well-being and resilience.

05) They get enough rest and recovery

The final habit that often surprises many is that resilient people prioritize rest and recovery as much as action and achievement.

It’s a counterintuitive truth that stepping back and allowing oneself the time to recharge is not an act of laziness but a strategic component of strength and endurance.

The cultivation of resilience isn’t just about relentless forward motion; it’s also about knowing when to retreat and rebuild.

Jeff Bezos, for instance, speaks about getting eight hours of sleep to enhance his decision-making and maintain his high performance.

Resilient people understand that rest is not a luxury; it’s a necessity for peak performance. They listen to their bodies and minds and give themselves permission to rest without guilt. This habit is crucial because it prevents burnout, fosters creativity, and allows for sustained effort over time.

Incorporating rest into one’s routine can mean setting strict boundaries for work hours, engaging in leisure activities that rejuvenate the spirit, or establishing a consistent sleep schedule. The key is to recognize that recovery is an integral part of the resilience cycle, much like the rest between sets for an athlete is essential for muscle growth and repair.

The bottom line

Resilience is not about the absence of difficulty; it’s having the capacity to navigate through it with grace and determination.

For those looking to cultivate resilience, the journey begins with integrating these habits.

It’s about practicing them consistently, not just when adversity strikes but as a proactive stance towards life’s inherent unpredictability.