How to build your resilience with experiences

Ander Zozaya


At Magicbox we often post little quotes about how experiences can help you grow. Here is a reflection on how that works at a deeper level. And how a simple experience gift can really unleash your potential if you approach it with a productive mindset and use it to enhance your mental toolkit. Let’s take a deep dive into how adrenaline experiences can really help you win at life by becoming more resilient.

How does resilience work?

Research into resilience shows that it is a balance between your perception and the stress. Responding well to obstacles and challenges creates good stress that you grow from, and being overwhelmed creates bad stress that damages your health. It’s a dance. When you get it wrong and get overwhelmed, you try to find a different route to the same goal. When you get it right and thrive, you discover what you are capable of and that provides perspective. We call this resilience, or the ability to keep moving forward even when bad stuff happens or you mess up.

Resilient people seem to have at least one strong relationship, the ability to reframe the situation positively, and experience of their ability to get back up and move forward.

Reframe to win

When you reframe, you deliberately and logically change your point of view on what’s happening so that the meaning changes and your emotional reaction shifts positively. Reframing is a logic process and skill that you can practice. You simply think about what is challenging you in a different way from a different angle. You can add extra oil by addressing the nuances that cause you particular stress or play to your strengths. There are many angles for reframing, many developed by clinical psychologists. Here are a few options:

  1. Relative challenge: It will be difficult to get this done in the time allotted, but I/people have face harder challenges
  2. Positive thinking: I trust myself to do this and to learn what I need to as I go through it.
  3. Flexible thinking: I prefer to get things done on time, but I don’t have to and I can recalculate if circumstances require me to.
  4. Build a good platform: If I spend my time well, build good habits, and work to my strengths, then I will be able to navigate this challenge.
  5. Minimaxing: The worst that can happen here is xyz, and I can handle it if that happens by doing abc.
  6. Data points: Ask “is this true?” and look for evidence, if you can’t find any decent evidence then you are probably catastrophising.
  7. Usefulness: Ask “is this helpful?” to find out if that point of view isn’t helping you move forward, then change your point of view to something that will help you move forward.
  8. I can cope: I don’t like it and it’s hard, but I can cope with it.

There are many more ways of reframing, but these give you an idea of how it works and the multitude of angles that are at your service. As well as taking these different angles, you can have a simple colloquial structure to help you apply reframing on the fly as you need it. It’s called “flipping you buts”.

Flip your “buts”

In Four Thoughts That F*** You Up And How To Stop Them, psychologist Daniel Fryer introduces us to REBT (Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy), which is a reframing system, along with a simple and effective technique called “flipping your buts”.

“I want to do this new project because it will help me grow, but I’m really nervous that I’ll fail.”
“I’m really nervous that I’ll fail, but I want to do this new project because it will help me grow.”

You can also use this with different angles outlined in the reframing section to give you extra flexibility and depth to your reasoning.

“I’m really nervous that I’ll fail at this new project, but I have good habits and I know how to manage projects, so I am confident the rest will follow”

“I’m really nervous that I’ll fail at this new project, but the worse that can happen is that we learn from the mistakes and include the lessons through a debrief, I can handle that.”

“I’m really nervous that I’ll fail at this new project, but I will learn a lot by trying, so I can cope if I do.”

Now that you have some reframing angles and structures to help you build your resilience, where do experiences come in?

Back it up with real experience

By experiencing something that truly challenges you, in a self-aware way, you will get deep insight into what it feels like to be challenged and succeed. You can deliberately push yourself to your limits in a safe environment that’s been tried and tested by many others. You can train your logical brain (“this is perfectly safe”) to regulate your emotional brain (“f*** this is high, I’m freaking out!”) in increasingly stressful circumstances. You can take that visceral insight with you into your everyday life and work. If you don’t have the courage the first time, if you don’t trust yourself to succeed, then try again until you succeed and learn to trust yourself when the going gets tough.

As we’re in Asia, let’s indulge ourselves and look to the Buddhists who have some things to say about levels of understanding. Western psychologists also use these levels, but they have different incarnations and systems around them. Buddhists say that there are three levels of insight or wisdom (panna):

  1. Suta-maya-panna: Something that you’ve been told by an authority such as a teacher, that you’re aware of but inexperienced in (shallowest). Western equivalent might be speaking with your psychologist.
  2. Cinta-maya-panna: Something that you’ve thought about carefully and logically with your own mind, it is more that the surface perception or what others have told you. Western equivalent might be thinking about which reframing systems might work well for you.
  3. Bhavana-maya-panna: Something that you’ve experienced or practiced with concentrated self-awareness and now know in your body and bones (deepest). Western equivalent might be immersion therapy.

So, it’s one thing to know that someone else has had it worse, but it really helps to have actually faced something more difficult (bhavana-maya-panna). This will raise your stress tolerance levels in bigger leaps and with more stickiness than just changing your logic patterns (cinta-maya-panna). Your ability to take a challenging leap will need you to practice healthy logic patterns and reframing, so it’s both reframing and experience you’ll use not one or the other.

“I am really nervous that I’ll fail at this new project, but I was more nervous before bungy jumping, I know that I can cope.”

Build your resilience in 2020

Where can you find some experiences that are safe but will really challenge you to move outside your comfort zone? How can you help your logical brain practice being in charge of your emotional brain when your emotional brain is freaking out? Magicbox can help!

Here are a few adrenaline activities to immerse yourself in that will require a leap of faith (in some cases literally) or might have a bumpy road to success. Really experience the exhilaration and fear so that you feel the challenge and the risk in your very bones – and discover that you will succeed.





Good luck and we hope you have fun while becoming more resilient in 2020!