In caveman times we had to hunt for food, find shelter and protect our families from wild beasts. Now it’s much worse. We have obligations and expectations and deadlines. There are things to do and places to see and people to meet. Navigating modern life comes with turbulence and much of it is completely out of our control. What is in our control, however, is how we respond.
Bestselling author Ben Aldridge writes about practical philosophy, comfort zones, mental health and adventure. The challenges that he sets for himself and his readers are often quirky, fun and demanding. As the author of How to Control the Uncontrollable, How to Be Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable and the Get Out of Your Comfort Zone Cards, Aldridge knows a thing or two about staying cool when everything is kicking off around you. His research and writing holds insights relevant for modern entrepreneurs growing their businesses.
From Aldridge’s new book, here are ten ways to build resilience and navigate modern life.
1. Do difficult things
Always seeking the easy road leads to shrinking comfort zones. “Deliberately exposing yourself to difficult situations is a fantastic way to build resilience,” explained Aldridge. “It teaches you how your mind works when things get tricky and allows you to figure out strategies for dealing with adversity in a controlled environment.”
Aldridge advised you to choose a difficult challenge and commit to completing it. This could be something physical like a race or another exercise-based challenge.
2. Change your perception
When you change how you think, how you think changes. “Your thinking creates your reality,” said Aldridge, “so pay attention to your mind and the way you talk to yourself. This can have a huge impact on your life.”
How you speak to yourself becomes how you think. Your internal narrative. So notice it. Is yours positive or negative? “If negative, push back against it with logic and question these thoughts you keep thinking.”
3. Plan for setbacks
Aldridge believes, “Facing setbacks is an inevitable part of being human.” He knows, “Creating a strategy for dealing with them can help you be prepared for when they occur.” Wishing for an easy road is a waste of time. Instead, plan for the setbacks that are bound to arrive.
Try this. Create a plan of action for when things don’t go to plan. Focus on only what you can control in any situation: how you act, what you say, the moves you make and not the outcome of those moves or what other people might say.
Knowing who you are is the most important tool in your toolbox. It can be your superpower. Aldridge also wants you to know your goals. “By focusing on our goals, we can ensure that we are moving in the right direction. Assigning time to reflect on our progress is an important part of this process.” Entrepreneurs want to see daily progression, even if tiny. Looking back over past journal entries will remind you how far you’ve come.
Aldridge advised that you, “Review each day.” Look back over it and ask yourself these three questions: “What went well? What went badly? What’s left to be done?”
5. Find role models
Seeing someone else do it is proof that you can do it too. The achievements of others can be a source of inspiration rather than cause for envy. Aldridge said, “Seek out people who inspire you and emulate their behaviour. Role models can be selected from a variety of sources and will be different for everyone.”
Make your role model checklist. “Create a list of your role models and the behaviours they exhibit that you admire” Go one step further by reading their books and listening to podcasts they’ve been on.
6. Practice negative visualisation
“By contemplating negative things happening in great detail, we can be mentally prepared for them if they do happen,” said Aldridge. “We can also become more grateful if they don’t occur.” When realizing that your worst fears, should they come true, wouldn’t even be that bad, you might realize just how invincible you are.
This exercise feels uncomfortable but it’s important. “Spend some time thinking about what might go wrong and what you could do to resolve the problem.” Try this every quarter when planning for the quarter ahead and include life and work. Go in depth on visualizing the absolute worse-case scenario. Next, make a list of every step you would take should it happen. Not so bad, is it?
7. Learn to deal with strong emotions
Strong emotions surface every now and then. Stifling them isn’t the plan, learning to understand them is. Get good at riding the ups and downs of the entrepreneurial rollercoaster by taking a step back and working out what the feeling is trying to tell you, then act accordingly. “Figuring out what works best for you when facing different emotions will be time well spent,” agreed Aldridge.
When dealing with a particularly powerful emotion, “give yourself time before you respond. A few moments can make a difference.” Pausing before you act stops you saying and doing things you’ll probably regret.
8. Learn to deal with difficult people
If everyone was pleasant and helpful life would be dream. That’s not the case, however, and difficult people are out there. Aldridge says that’s okay. “Expecting to meet them will help you to be better prepared for when you encounter them.” That way, no nasty people can surprise us, no matter what they do.
Aldridge’s advice is, “If someone is difficult or unpleasant to deal with, use their behaviour as an example of what not to do.” Don’t let them dampen your sparkle, use them as an excuse to shine even brighter. “We don’t have to be like them,” he said. Often, being kind to them no matter their disposition will mean they soften. Kill them with kindness without any expectation of kindness in return, and let their behaviour be a reminder that you’re not like that.
9. Remember you will die
“Life is finite, so we need to spend our time wisely,” said Aldridge. Memento mori literally means “remember you are mortal” and was used by the ancients as a way to increase their gratitude for life. There’s nothing that injects gratitude faster than remembering we won’t be here forever. So stop acting like you will.
Aldridge wants you to, “Contemplate your mortality and make sure that you are spending your time well.” Forgive those grudges, let go of the little things and focus on enjoying the journey as well as aiming for that impressive destination.
10. Find the cosmic perspective
Picture yourself zooming out of your room, your house and your town. Picture seeing your city from a great height. Keep going until you get to outer space. “By thinking about the grand scale of the universe, it can bring perspective to our problems,” said Aldridge. “Minor setbacks can seem trivial when thought about in the grand scheme of things.”
Once zoomed out, the trials and tribulations of daily life can seem silly. Find a way of regaining perspective when you’re lost in the detail to be better prepared for entrepreneurship. Aldridge recommends you stargaze whenever you feel overwhelmed: “look up at the stars and contemplate the vastness of the universe,” he said.
Equip yourself to thrive in the unknown and watch your confidence and business soar to new heights. Don’t wait until disaster strikes to get prepared, instead lay the foundations by seeking out difficult challenges, planning for setbacks, negative visualisation and practicing regaining perspective when it’s gone awry. Our problems might be different to those of caveman times, but building resilience in these ten ways will help us better navigate modern life and control the uncontrollable.