5 Key Takeaways from “Resilient” by Rick Hanson

Thrive in Hard Times: 5 Takeaways from Resilient by Rick Hanson

Resilience is something we all need in our lives.

When we talk about resilience, we’re talking about one’s ability to quickly recover from difficulties. Where some people would be crushed by certain situations and circumstances, resilient people have the mental abilities and skills to not only survive but to bounce back way higher and to thrive despite living through turbulent times.

Resilience is something I really had to build within myself from scratch.

In my own learning, I’ve been through the book Resilient by Rick & Forrest Hanson. And so I’ll be bringing you 5 key takeaways from the book Resilient so that you can start developing your own resilient side! If you like this book summary, definitely buy the book for yourself!

How the Mind Works

This is the first core lesson you need to take from Resilient.

Most people go through life without having a clue how their strongest weapon, their mind, works. Which is basically the same as getting in a car without any instructions whatsoever and trying to actually drive it. You’re most likely to either crash into something or not be able to get anywhere with it.

Which is what many people experience in life as well.

Here’s what you need to know about your brain:

Inside of that brain of yours, there are about 1.1 trillion brain cells. Roughly 10% of those are neurons, which are responsible for receiving information sent from our 5 senses. They are the cells that send commands to our muscles and do everything in between getting the input and doing something. Simply put, your neurons are responsible for how you handle and process information and memories.

In order to relate certain things to each other and connect the information in our brain, every neuron creates connections with thousands of other neurons. These connections can be created and altered at any age. We call this process neuroplasticity.

So, why is this important?

When you learn something, you’re literally changing your brain. You are building those neuro-pathways in your head. As you create these pathways between your neurons, you’re creating links between pieces of information and memories.

Pink And Blue Animation GIF by palerlotus - Find & Share on GIPHY

You’ll often hear them say this:

“Neurons that fire together wire together.”

Let me give you an example:

A lot of couples have “their song”, a certain song that is special to them. When they hear that song, they automatically think about their partner. When they were together listening to the song, those neurons “fired together” and created the pattern so that now, they are wired together.

Because they’re wired together, it’s almost impossible to hear the song and not be reminder of the person associated with it. If you’ve ever heard a song or have seen something that immediately triggered an emotional reaction about someone or something else, then this is the reason why that happens.

This understanding of your brain is crucial.

In his book Resilient, Rick uses this feature of the brain and neurons to build the skills and traits needed to become resilient. There’s a proven neurological method to learning new skills which he covers in the book.

H.E.A.L. Any Skill in Life

This is the core method covered in Resilient to learn literally anything.

The learning process consists of 2 stages:

  • Activation Stage
  • Installation Stage

In the activation stage, you need to experience the skill or trait. Think about somebody that you admire and about the reason why you admire that person. It doesn’t matter what the reason is, the fact that you recognize it in someone else means that it is activated in your brain. You recognize it, or else you wouldn’t be able to call it out.

The next step in the process is to install that program into your own brain.

This is where the H.E.A.L. process comes in which is an acronym for:

  • Have an Experience
  • Enrich the Experience
  • Absorb the Experience
  • Link Experiences

The first step in the process is to have an experience of something that you want to embody and become. Think about traits like empathy, compassion, determination, grit, motivation, etc. Things that you have probably experienced throughout your life, but that you would like to have as permanent character traits.

You’ve done this many times in your life without being aware of it.

In order to move into the installation stage, you need to keep the experience in your mind for a bit longer and allow yourself to really feel the emotions associated with it within your body. Notice these feelings and get a sense of why they are important to you.

And third, absorb:

Intent to take in this trait (you can even tell yourself to take it in) and link it to rewards. When you gain this new trait, what are the benefits for you? What rewards will you get when you absorb this experience and build it into a character trait?

That’s the key part!

By linking the experience and memory to specific rewards you activate two neurotransmitters: dopamine & norepinephrine. You may know dopamine as the reward system of our brain. When these two neurotransmitters are fired off, it tells your brain that this experience is special and to definitely be kept.

Finally, there’s an optional step in Linking.

Linking is the process of becoming aware of two things simultaneously: a relatively small negative experience and a more powerful positive one. For example, having some disappointment or failure at work and a greater sense of accomplishment.

Neurons that fire together wire together.

By linking these two things together, you’re chaining them to each other. If something disappointing happens at work, you’ll automatically remind yourself of all your accomplishments as well so that it doesn’t affect you negatively.

How to Build Motivation

Ever feel like this?

motivation-is-gone meme

This next key takeaway from Resilient is about motivation.

Motivation is one of the key components of resilience. If you’re not motivated by anything bigger, you’re going to give up in tough times. When we talk about motivation, it’s about desire and wanting to have certain things or outcomes. Whatever it is that you want to get in your life.

In your brain, there is a key difference between wanting and liking.

Your goals are things that you like, however, the work that is involved with it is something that you don’t want. Unfortunately, when your likes and don’t wants clash, it’s generally the don’t wants that win the battle. Meaning that you often find that you desire something, but can’t seem to get yourself to take action.

So, how can we train the muscle of motivation?

Here’s what to do:

The first thing to do is to think about the rewards that you will get when you actually do what you want yourself to do. This includes both the concrete benefits you will gain as well as how you will feel when you do accomplish your goal. Visualize what it would look, sound and feel like when you do achieve your goal. That’s key in the goalsetting process.

Next, you have two options:

You can either use the linking method to think about doing the things required while holding a vivid image in your head of what it is like to have achieved that goal. Alternatively, you can visualize yourself doing the activity when you have already achieved your desired goal. For example, visualizing yourself happily working out in the gym while you have your perfect body while thinking about the rewards you have gotten from going consistently.

You’re linking the activity to the positive reward.

In turn, you’re going to automatically associate the activity with a positive outcome which makes you more motivated than just thinking about the activities you should be doing.

The Power of Compassion

One of the most important qualities of resilience covered in the book is compassion.

And I really want to focus on self-compassion here.

Self Love Compassion GIF by Peloton - Find & Share on GIPHY

The reason is that most people already know pretty well how to be compassionate with other people, so that’s not really the issue. The problem is that people beat themselves up in the same situations where they would be kind, understanding and compassionate with other people.

So, how can you become more compassionate?

Again, we’re going through a similar process here.

First, I want you to think of a situation where someone has been compassionate with you. Really internalize those feelings and feel them again right in the current moment. Then think about a time when you have been compassionate to someone else and think about the things you’ve said and done for them.

And finally, with those feelings, put that compassion towards yourself.

Remember the golden rule:

It’s that simple.

If someone you care about came to you saying that they messed up or that they didn’t achieve what they wanted to achieve, would you beat them up over it? Would you yell at them? Would you belittle them? No, of course not! You would help them feel better about the situation and get them back on track!

Give yourself THAT treatment instead of beating yourself up!

Why Positivity Can Be Hard

I want to conclude this article with a key takeaway from Resilient that will help you move forward.

There are many more positive character traits that help you become more resilient, too many to cover here in this article. However, using the methods that I’ve shared with you here, you will be able to build any quality in yourself that you desire.

I want to cover another thing about your brain.

Do you sometimes feel like you barely even remember the good memories or that the good times seem to affect you less than the bad times? If that’s something that you have experienced, then that’s not just your imagination or a failure to remember.

Here’s the key:

Let me explain:

Your brain has what we like to call a negativity bias.

What this means is that it will pay more attention to emotions like fear, loneliness, feelings of abandonment, criticism, etc. Your brain has evolved over 600 million years and it looks for things that could potentially threaten your survival. It pays attention to those things and brings negative emotions to the forefront as a warning mechanism for you.

But there is a huge problem….

Our environment and the situations we find ourselves in have changed significantly from those that our cavemen ancestors lived in. However, this part of our brain has not evolved as drastically. And so this negativity bias is not needed in present days. Yet, we still have it.

Here’s what to take from this:

The negativity is almost automatic, but if you want a more positive experience of the world, you need to cultivate it!

Evolutionarily speaking, the negative experiences go right into your brain because they were important to your survival. The positive once bounce right off because they don’t fulfill that same function. So if you want to tip the scales in your favor, then you need to use the methods I described in this article and from the book Resilient to build those positives.

And finally:

Obviously, I cannot give you all of the core lessons from the book, that wouldn’t be just to the authors. So if you enjoyed these key takeaways from Resilient by Rick Hanson, make sure to buy a copy yourself!

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