Resilience – Change it, Accept it, or Leave it.


By Johanna Gramacho Narloch

Change it, accept it, or leave it.

Roughly two years ago I drastically started to change my life. One day I remember, I went on a small trip, and suddenly the world felt so rich in possibilities and I decided to start working towards my biggest dreams instead of just dreaming my way out of my current reality. I stopped trying to please everyone. I stopped accepting everything as if I was a victim of my fate. And I started to more and more not just manifest my ideas but also to go for them and make them happen.

One thing that really inspired me was a guided meditation by one of my dear teachers in Portugal – she talked about a concept that in any given situation in your life you have three choices on how to deal with it: you can either change it, accept it, or leave it. This concept really resonated with me back then and still to this day it does. Through the whole meditation I kept on seeing a triangle. Which was then a day later the tattoo I got, to always remind me that I am never a victim of my situation, but in fact always in control. This concept teaches quite a bit of resilience too. It makes you stronger in your choices and decisions if you know that you can always break any difficult situation down to three questions.

Over the years I always came back to that very concept. Through all the ups and downs (because well we all know, this road is a bumpy one and it is not always easy to find the right way) and read and studied a lot about resilience and how it is connected to our everyday lives.

So let’s start with resilience – what does this mean exactly?

Resilience is defined as a psychological quality that allows some people to be challenged by the adversities of life, and come back as strong or even stronger than before. Instead of allowing difficulties or failure to overwhelm them and pull them down, resilient people find a new way of looking and reacting to things while healing and still working towards their goals.

Change and challenges affect people in very different ways. Everyone has their own stream of thoughts and emotions when going through uncertainties. In general, people adapt more or less well over time to life-changing and stressful situations. Resilience plays a very important role in this adaptation. Resilience also involves being able to bounce back from difficulties and being able to turn stress into personal growth. It makes you able to control, modify, and grow with different aspects of your life.

But – building resilience takes time and intentionality, you need to stick with it to really incorporate it into your life. 

So we want to build a stronger sense of resilience – where to start?

The right tools and support will help you to make it through challenges easier and make you more confident and courageous. But which are these factors that strengthen one’s resilience? 

It has been found that a positive attitude to things, a general sense of optimism, the ability to regulate one’s emotions, and the ability to see failure and challenges as a helpful form of feedback instead of a form of attack help to build strength and resilience.

Having a sense of optimism in life is shown to help soften the impact of stress on both the mind and body. Adopting this sort of optimism allows yourself to think clearly in situations of stress to then analyze what might’ve gone wrong. It also enables you to find behavioral patterns and paths that might end up being more productive. Embracing this positivity and those healthy thoughts will help you to keep things in perspective. To then identify areas in your life where irrational thinking takes over to then adopt a more balanced, rational, and realistic thinking pattern. Remember – you might not be able to change a situation or an event, but you are in charge of how you interpret it and respond to it. 

Maintaining this positive outlook on things empowers you and helps you to stay in focus. Instead of worrying about what might happen – try to visualize what you want and wish for.

I am taking the first steps in trying to build more resilience, what helps to strengthen this resilience?

To improve your own resilience another step is to turn to loved ones for help and emotional support. Increasing efforts in self-care and focusing on the aspects of a situation that are under your control, instead of leaning into those aspects that are out of your control. In putting your focus internal you get to be in control of what happens to yourself. Start by working on being decisive and take concrete actions whenever you’re faced with struggles – rather than just responding passively.

Let’s sum it up here – what are concrete strategies to go for?

Effective strategies to improve one’s ability for resilience can be:

  • Healthy habits, like enough sleep, eating well, regularly exercising. These habits can help to reduce stress, which in return helps to develop resilience. Make sure to take care of your body and your mind. Experiencing stress is just as much physical as it is emotional.
  • It is also important to practice mindfulness, as in mindful journaling, practising yoga, and meditation.
  • At the same time try to avoid any negative outlets and coping mechanisms, like alcohol or drugs. Try to focus on giving your body the resources it needs to manage stress effectively.
  • Another important point – as mentioned before – is to maintain close relationships. Nurturing and working on close relationships with other people helps to find support in times of need. Connect with empathetic and understanding people in your life to remind yourself that you are not alone in the midst of chaos. Try to focus on finding trustworthy and compassionate friends who validate your feelings and help you to grow with them.
  • In addition to that – and very important to me – it is important to think about your own morals and ethics and actively work on living according to those values. This strengthens your sense of purpose, which in return strengthens your resilience.
  • Finding some sort of purpose in helping others and yourself builds strong connections which in turn makes you more resilient.
  • Try being proactive in the process and ask yourself: “What can I do about a problem in my life?” – then try to break your problem down into manageable pieces, this will make it seem less overwhelming. Another step here is to develop realistic and achievable goals. Try to regularly take small steps towards your bigger goals, which will enable you to move at your own speed towards the things you want to accomplish in life. A good question to ask yourself here is “What is one thing I can accomplish today, that will help me move in the direction I want to move to?”  

And how does failure fit into this whole concept of resilience? Am I free of failure once I adopt all the strategies?

No, resilience will not make you avoid failure, but it will help you in other ways. But why does failure help in building a stronger sense of resilience? Failure is deeply human, no one is perfect and we all make mistakes in our lives. Learning from those mistakes and accepting them and the emotions that arise with them, while being curious as to why things went wrong and how to improve them in a future situation, helps to take a step back from a situation instead of letting an unpleasant situation consume and overwhelm you. This teaches us a sense of self-compassion. Which in turn helps to become better at accepting and regulating your emotional responses to anything you experience in life.

Instead of letting yourself get consumed by a setback, analyzing and accepting the situation can provide lessons and insights to stop yourself from repeating a pattern in the future. In learning from past situations you can discover new ways of responding to certain situations. And be reminded of times in which you’ve been able to find strength.

Change it, Accept it, or Leave it.

So onto my favorite concept – change it, accept it, or leave it.

I love this concept because for me, it simplifies a lot of decisions. It’s about taking responsibility, it’s about owning your decisions. A quote I love on that topic is by Maya Angelou: “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain.”

So how does this concept work? Whenever you get into a situation and you’re not quite content with how it is going, ask yourself, can you change something about it? Is there anything you can change, to make the situation better? What is within your control? What can you do to make improvements? To make long-lasting improvements?

If you can’t change it, you have to accept it. Try to accept what is, without putting much stress and effort into wanting something different than it currently is. By accepting the reality as is you can find relief and strength.

If changing and accepting the situation is not possible for you – there is only one way left to go. You have to leave, you have to consciously choose to move into a better space.

When using this concept in our lives it is important to remember, that leaving shouldn’t be the first go-to-option. We shouldn’t refuse to face challenges that arise in our lives. Try to have and build the strength to face adversity so you can move through it. For this, we can use the techniques and strategies to build resilience as earlier discussed. On the other hand, stay reminded to not rush into acceptance just to make it easier for others around you. If taking this path means making it more difficult for yourself.

So where does that leave us now?

To me, this concept is a beautiful reminder to stay in the here and now.  To always call ourselves back to center and remind ourselves that we are in control of how we react to the current situation – no matter how difficult it might seem. If we always remind ourselves to stay in the now instead of dreading in the past or dreaming into the future but instead using our knowledge of the past combined with our goals to change whatever it is that is bothering us in the current situation, we turn out stronger and more resilient than we ever thought we could be.

Figure out, through self-observation, if you tend to avoid the Now and then pull yourself back to your current situation. Wherever you are, be there fully and completely – embrace the now. If then you find that the current situation is not bearable for you, use the techniques and strategies talked about to adjust your situation. In actively choosing a path, you take responsibility for your life and your actions. Which helps you to keep your inner space calm and clear. Leave the negativity behind, take responsibility and action, and don’t hold on to the options you left behind. It brings us back to owning every decision you make in your life – and accepting the consequences of your actions.

If it is fear that is holding you back – acknowledge your fears. Observe them, and then take action and be present in the now. Don’t let fear take the wheel – you are in charge of your thinking. And in the end – if there is nothing we can do, what else is there to do than to fully surrender to the situation? Let go of resistance and accept your here and now. There is an immense strength in surrendering and you might even find that the situation starts changing without your doing. Whatever the outcome is though – remember – you are free. Enjoy the flow of energy, enjoy being in the here and now and whatever it is you’re doing – do it fully and immerse yourself in it. Feel the presence of the now. To me, it simplifies a lot.