In the time of the cavemen, 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 we have completely out of our control. What we can control, however, is how we respond.
Bestselling author Ben Aldridge writes about practical philosophy, comfort zones, mental health, and adventure. The challenges he sets himself and his readers are often quirky, fun and demanding. As the author of How to Control the Uncontrollable, How to Be comfy with Being Uncomfortable, and the Get Out of Your Comfort Zone cards, Aldridge knows a thing or two about staying cool when everything starts around you. His research and writings contain insights relevant to 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 looking for the easy way leads to shrinking comfort zones. “Deliberately exposing yourself to difficult situations is a great way to build resilience,” explains Aldridge. “It teaches you how your mind works when things get tricky and allows you to devise strategies for coping with adversity in a controlled environment.”
Aldridge advised you to choose a difficult challenge and commit yourself to completing it. This can be something physical, such as a race or other exercise-based challenge.
2. Change your perception
If you change how you think, how you think changes. “Your thinking creates your reality,” Aldridge said, “so pay attention to your mind and the way you talk to yourself. This can have a huge impact on your life.”
How you talk to yourself becomes how you think. Your inner story. So take note. Is yours positive or negative? “If it’s negative, push it with logic and question these thoughts you keep thinking.”
3. Plan setbacks
Aldridge believes, “Facing adversity is an inevitable part of being human.” He knows, “Creating a strategy for dealing with them can help you be prepared for when they arise.” Wishing for an easy road is a waste of time. Instead, plan for the setbacks to come.
Try this. Make a plan of action if things don’t go according to plan. Just focus on what you can control in each 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 could be your superpower. Aldridge also wants you to know what your goals are. “By focusing on our goals, we can make sure we’re on the right track. Taking time to reflect on our progress is an important part of this process.” Entrepreneurs want to see daily progress, even if it is small. Looking back at past journal entries reminds you of how far you’ve come.
Aldridge advised you, “Assess every day.” Look back and ask yourself these three questions: “What went well? What went wrong? What still needs 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 a cause for envy. Aldridge said, “Look out for people who inspire you and imitate their behavior. Role models can be chosen from a variety of sources and will be different for everyone.”
Make your role model checklist. “List your role models and the behaviors they display that you admire” Take it one step further by reading their books and listening to podcasts they’ve played on.
6. Practice Negative Visualization
“Thinking in detail about negative things that happen can help us be mentally prepared for them to happen,” Aldridge says. “We can also become more grateful if they don’t occur.” When you realize that your worst fears, when they come true, aren’t even that bad, you may realize how invincible you are.
This exercise feels uncomfortable, but it’s important. “Take time to think about what could go wrong and what you could do to fix the problem.” Try this quarterly as you plan for the coming quarter, including life and work. Go deeper into visualizing the absolute worst-case scenario. Then make a list of every step you would take if it happened. Not so bad, right?
7. Learn to deal with strong emotions
Strong emotions come up every now and then. Suppressing them is not the plan, but learning to understand is. Get good at riding the ups and downs of the entrepreneurial roller coaster by stepping back and figuring out what the feeling is trying to tell you, and act on it. “Finding out what works best for you when you’re facing different emotions will be a good way to spend your time,” Aldridge agrees.
If you’re dealing with a particularly powerful emotion, “Give yourself time before reacting. A few moments can make all the difference.” Pausing before you act will stop you from saying and doing things you’re likely to regret.
8. Learn to deal with difficult people
If everyone was pleasant and helpful, life would be a dream. However, that is not the case and there are difficult people. Aldridge says it’s okay. “Expecting to meet them will help you be better prepared when you meet them.” That way, annoying people can’t surprise us no matter what they do.
Aldridge’s advice is, “If someone is difficult or unpleasant to deal with, use their behavior as an example of what not to do.” Don’t let them dampen your brilliance, use them as an excuse to shine even brighter. “We don’t have to be like them,” he said. Often, being kind to them, regardless of their disposition, will mean softening them. Kill them with kindness without expecting any kindness in return, and let their behavior be a reminder that you are not like that.
9. Remember You Will Die
“Life is finite, so we have to use our time wisely,” Aldridge said. 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 that we won’t be here forever. So stop doing what you want.
Aldridge wants you to: “Consider your mortality and make sure you spend your time well.” Forgive that grudge, let go of the little things, and focus on enjoying the journey and striving for that awe-inspiring destination.
10. Find the cosmic perspective
Imagine zooming out of your room, your house and your city. Imagine seeing your city from a great height. Keep going until you get to space. “By thinking about the grand scale of the universe, it can give perspective to our problems,” Aldridge said. “Small setbacks can seem trivial when you think about them in the grand scheme of things.”
Once zoomed out, the trials and tribulations of everyday life can seem silly. Find a way to regain perspective when you’re lost in the details to be better prepared for entrepreneurship. Aldridge recommends looking to the stars when you’re feeling overwhelmed: “Look up to the stars and behold the vastness of the universe,” he said.
Equip yourself to thrive in the unknown and watch your confidence and company soar to new heights. Don’t wait until disaster strikes to prepare, but instead lay the groundwork by facing tough challenges, planning setbacks, creating negative visualizations, and practicing regaining perspective when things go wrong. Our problems may be different from cavemen’s days, but building resilience in these ten ways will help us better navigate modern life and master the uncontrollable.