Resilience Is the Key to Surviving and Thriving — Even in the Worst Situations

This week, our "Balanced Life" columnist chats with successful women about the power of resilience in the face of adversity.

Sweta Srivastava Vikram

In 2018, I fell suddenly and critically ill. I lost all clients and business, cancelled public speaking events, and, paused my successful fall 2018 book tour. My doctor and surgeon were shocked that I didn’t go into depression despite all of this and being homebound for six months.

I knew I had to organize my suffering, so every day didn’t feel painful. I was impacted by what was happening to me, but I didn’t want it to influence the core of who I was. I never once said, “Why me?” Of course, the situation sucked. So, every single day, I tuned into the good in my life. I said gratitude for what was still working. I told myself that thank God I didn’t fall ill while I was on my book tour for Louisiana Catch. Just one month before I became immobile, I had won the VOTY Award (a past recipient is  Chelsea Clinton) for my novel. I was able to walk up to the podium and give my acceptance speech.

The universe had been kind in some ways and difficult in others. I reminded myself that no one is entitled to a perfect life. No one’s life has only sunshine. If rock bottom was where I had to start again, I would. “It’s your reaction to adversity, not adversity itself, that determines how your life’s story will develop.” This has been my mantra in life, especially during the pandemic.

For this piece, I had the opportunity to interview three inspiring female entrepreneurs who define this quote for me: “She stood in the storm and when the wind did not blow her way, she adjusted her sails.” Be it during COVID or pre-pandemic times, these three women have moved me with their stories of resilience. It’s no surprise that their business has pivoted and are still thriving, despite the mayhem in the world.

Laura Mignott, CEO of DFlash and creator/host of The Reset Podcast said, “I think my resilience has helped me get through this because I don’t believe in giving up. I have always found a way. I have to have this deep belief in myself because I’ve come so far. I always follow this mantra: Be the duck. Ducks always move forward; you never see a duck going backwards. Even if it’s an oil slip, you’ll see the ducks just pushing forward. Yes, they may be paddling hard under water—they keep going and that’s what I try and do, just keep going.”

Be the duck. Ducks always move forward; you never see a duck going backwards.

Anu Bhat, founder of The Rural Painter said, “Resilience has helped me change my business model during these times. From in-person wine and cheese events and charity galas, I’ve switched to a virtual gallery. My focus has been on how I will emerge in the ‘new normal’ and stay ahead. People can follow me @theruralpainter or contact me for a virtual art tour.”

Maria Hassonjee, CEO of Duel On Jewel gave us a deeper background on when she first found resilience. “I was never a resilient person by nature. I liked ‘constant’ in my life. But life does have plans for all of us. When I was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa 20 years ago, it was a painful process learning how to change and adapt. Over the years, the slow deterioration of my eyesight has taught me to change and adapt quickly. I had to learn to do normal everyday chores and business work in a different way. For example, the font size increased from 16 to 24, a pencil was replaced by an ink pen and then eventually a Sharpie, and my monitor size increased from 24 inches to 34 inches, and so much more. When COVID hit, I knew I had to adapt fast.”

Resilient people don’t live in denial about the negative; they make an intentional choice to focus on the positive.

I also highly recommend watching resilience expert Dr. Lucy Hone’s TEDx Christchurch talk on The Three Secrets of Resilient People. According to her, resilient people understand that shit happens. Suffering is a part of life and a real aspect of human existence. She reiterates that resilient people are good at selecting where to direct their attention. They don’t live in denial about the negative; they make an intentional choice to focus on the positive.

“Don’t lose what you have to what you have lost,” Dr. Hone says. She also focuses on habits: Do they help us or harm us? For me, looking at the VOTY award ceremony or our celebratory Europe trip pictures and cursing the universe for making me immobile in 2018, then opening a bottle of wine and pretending to drink away my sorrows would be a destructive habit that takes away my resilience.

Let us know if you have a story of resilience that you’d like to share with us.