Tough Lesson Learned Today: How Resilient Are You Really?

by Gideon Hanekom
April 23, 2017

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Mike Tyson has a saying that everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth. I believe life is like that. The majority of us are overconfident in our abilities until something happens that makes us realise what we’re truly made of. This post, therefore, is about a simple question, how resilient are you really?

Life is full of ups and downs.

When challenging experiences inevitably arise, you’ll want to be ready to rise to the occasion.

Or alternatively, if you experienced a setback, you’ll want to be able to get back up and move forward.

Here’s something to consider; your ability to bounce back after a transition or hardship will determine whether most of your life is enjoyable and meaningful or troublesome and frustrating.

In short, your level of resilience determines how high and far you go in life.

The more resilient you are, the quicker you’re able to re-adjust to a situation and move forward in life.

If you lack resiliency, however, chances are that you might get stuck at some point unable to move forward in some way or another.

Moving forward is important because it doesn’t matter how disappointing some result or situation might look, a better result always demands a different response than becoming and staying stuck in the disappointment.

That means you need to keep moving.

But, in order to build resiliency, you need to know and consider your level of resiliency at the moment. Is it as good as it could be?

And what can you do to improve it?

how resilient are you

Recently, I had a disappointing result.

I didn’t foresee it happening the way it actually played out in the end.

And because I had some expectations around it beforehand, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed when I didn’t live up to my own expectation(s).

That was normal though.

But it was not the initial disappointment that was difficult; it was the fact that I had to prepare myself for the possibility of a greater letdown in the near future that was difficult.

Except that this time I was prepared for it.

And while it would appear that information would make things better, this is not the case.

It only serves to increase the intensity of the pain because your brain is now aware that “pain” is on its way.

The really crap part about it is the Pygmalion-Effect.

The what?

The Pygmalion-Effect.

It has been proven that our expectancy of something or someone actually impacts that very thing or person we encounter.

Positive expectations influence performance positively and negative expectations influence performance negatively.

What that translates into is that the expectancy of my competitor(s) beating me and me struggling, will be created subconsciously through my behaviour.

There’s more to it but that’s basically what it comes down to.

You can see the dilemma.

I know what to expect now which in turn forms the foundation for my expectancy of future performance, no matter how hard I deny it.

So NOT knowing is actually a better place to be in this case.

Additionally, I’m preparing to expose myself to this pain again which is considered masochism in some circles I suppose.

how resilient are you

So the question becomes, how do I overcome this negative expectancy and get as ready as possible for round two?

The answer: increased resiliency.

I realised that my resiliency levels weren’t as high as I thought.

And it left me at a crossroads. Keep going or get going.

But a quote from Denis Waitley found its way to me that says:

There are two primary choices in life: To accept conditions as they exist. Or accept the responsibility for changing them.

Denis Waitley

And that’s basically what it comes down to every time…

Accept or respond.

how resilient are you

Maybe you can relate right now.

If you can, I can honestly say, I understand and I empathise.

But we have to do something about it.

We have to improve our resiliency in order to keep moving forward and set ourselves up for possible great experiences and results.

Staying stuck will ONLY give us a result we already have.

We want more. True!?

So let’s look at your resiliency and go from there.

How resilient are you: Consider these 5 ideas?

First responses.

When something initially begins to trouble you, how do you respond?

Maybe you bury your head in the sand and hope it goes away.

Perhaps you just ignore the situation and pretend it isn’t happening.

If you’re resilient, you’ll choose to approach the situation head-on, and promptly.

You’ll define the issue, consider your options, and make a plan.

You’ll set out right away to resolve the situation before it becomes a full-blown issue.

There is no point in staying stuck.

Find a way to move forward.

Take a moment if you need to, but then come up with a strategy that will help you move forward.

Once you’re moving again, anything can happen.

Seriously, anything can happen!

If you’re not there to slip through an open door when it presents itself, that disappointment will be worse.

We call it “regret.”

So, promptly employing problem-solving skills (breathing, reframing, exercising mindfulness etc.) will help you avoid a major meltdown.

Approach to past events.

Do you try to forget about your prior challenges?

I appreciate that it’s the easiest and most natural response.

Forget the “pain” right? No!

Instead, try applying what you learned from them to navigate present or future situations.

When you reflect on what you’ve been through, you’ll think about the mistakes you made.

But, you’ll also be excited about how well you handled some situations and use those same skills again.

Build on the positive and throw out the negative.

The energy required to try to forget something important draws heavily from your present resilience, wearing it down.

Alternatively, focusing your energies on the lessons and skills you’ve learned from past experiences builds your resilience.

Daily practice.

Do you work to accomplish something, however small, each day?

Or do you find yourself watching entire days go by while you sit and brood or feel sad or angry?

To improve your resilience, consider each day an opportunity to do something positive, even if it’s just one thing.

Also, consider the time right after your disappointment as an opportunity to practice resiliency by doing something positive, no matter how small.



Reflect on lessons learned.


Just move forward.

Your support networks.

Do you have some friends and family to call on if you need something?

Resilient individuals build a supportive system of people they can visit, text, call, talk to, and turn to whenever they hit troubled waters.

Avoid facing disappointment alone. Reach out to your support network and connect with them.

You’d be surprised how quickly they can put things into perspective and help up you move forward.

If you feel like you’re all alone, start building your support network today by setting a goal to make one new friend within the next month.

It’s important that you surround yourself with good people.

Who matters to you most?

Do you treat yourself as if you’re the most important person in your life?

This is a huge question.

How do you treat yourself when you feel you’ve let yourself (or others) down?

Are you kind to yourself?

Or do you beat yourself up?

Your response in the short run will make all the difference in the long run.

When you take care of your own needs, you’ll be more resilient when a crisis knocks on the door.

If your own health and living situation is at the top of your priority list, you’ll be prepared to face any hardship, be it emotional or physical.

So, take the time to keep yourself in tip-top shape physically and mentally because it builds your reserves of resilience whenever trying situations and events occur.

When you are physically in good shape, you’ll find it easier to give your mind something to hang onto when life’s “downs” show up.

Final Thoughts

Listen, challenges, transitions, and hardships will invariably arise in your life from time to time.

That is part of life.

However, if you confront those situations immediately, use the knowledge gained from prior trying events, and build your support network, you’ll be on your way to constructing resilience for the future.

Do one small thing for yourself each day, and before you know it, you’ll weather any storm with ease!

how resilient are you

At the end of the day, you also need to put things in perspective and ask yourself: “what does this all mean anyway?”

A lesson I learned the hard way today.

I’ll finish with this story and lesson learned.

After my initial disappointment of running ‘poorly’ in my 100m heat at the World Masters Games today, I walked past a guy sitting in a wheelchair eating lunch with his partner.

I looked at him as we walked by and wondered: “I wonder how silly he would think I am if I shared my disappointment for not running fast enough with him?”

It’s all about perspective.

Stay cool my Friend.

Tomorrow it’s the finals.

Wish me luck.

About the author 

Gideon Hanekom

Gideon Hanekom is the creator of, a renowned relationship blog that ranked among the top 50 relationship blogs and top 100 marriage blogs in 2021. The blog is dedicated to providing valuable insights on cultivating healthy relationships and love in daily life. Gideon holds a Master's degree in theological studies and transitioned into professional counseling almost a decade ago. In addition, he completed graduate and post-graduate studies in Psychology at Massey University. With over seventeen years of marriage to his wife and two children, Gideon brings both professional and personal experience to his relationship advice. His articles have been featured on respected platforms such as and The Good Men Project.

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