“You have cancer.”  When the doctor spoke these words, I froze. I heard the doctors talking, but I could not understand what they were saying.  I felt my husband and sister with me, but I could not see them. Everything around me was fuzzy. After about 5 minutes of total and complete shock, my mind came back to the hospital room. How was I going to handle this? Did I have the physical strength to fight cancer?  Suddenly, the fighter in me kicked in, and I came to terms with the reality of fighting the toughest adversary I have ever had to face.

We all have had these terrible moments where we needed to muster up the strength to face down difficult challenges.  Whether it is a health crisis, working through a difficult problem at work, dealing with a toxic boss, or struggles with your family…we have all had times when our ‘inner warrior’ had to emerge.

This inner warrior belief is actually a key to day-to-day happiness.   The technical term for this is ‘self-efficacy.’ Self-efficacy is the belief that when challenges arise, will we be able to use our skills to navigate these challenges. I like to call it ‘standing in our power’. It is the internal belief system and confidence to tell the world ‘bring it on.’

When we are standing in our power, we are full of confidence, ready to handle whatever life throws at us.  

Researchers have found that when we are “standing in our power,” we have higher levels of well-being and happiness on a day to day basis.  

When we believe we can handle whatever life throws at us:

  • Our minds are calm. When we believe that we can triumph no matter what, we don’t spend time worrying about all the things that could go wrong.  
  • We focus on the moment and the positive future we can create.
  • We confront our fears and our stressors.
  • We bounce back from adversity quickly.
  • We take better care of ourselves.
  • We feel empowered.
  • We do not let circumstances control our destiny.

I am the first to admit; there are moments when I am terrified cancer will come back.  There are moments when I am at work where I am very stressed and uncomfortable. I wonder if I am strong enough to handle it.  We all have moments where that sense of internal power is a bit crushed.

The good news is we can raise our resilience/sense of internal power with just a little bit of work.

The following are steps you can take, to increase this sense of resilience, according to science.  I like to say that science has finally caught up to what our parents told us.

#1: Recall times when you came out on top  

As you are exercising, doing dishes, taking or walk, or otherwise in a quiet moment, think about a time when you have triumphed over a curveball life threw at you. Think about what happened, what you felt, and how you were able to get through it.  As you feel your sense of ‘power’ declining, start to reflect on these moments and that sense of resilience and confidence will increase.

#2: Lean into progress

Research has shown us that progress towards our goals strengthens our sense of internal power and resilience. Even if these goals are related to work, family or even life goals, forward momentum increases our inner sense of resilience.

We need to celebrate the progress we make towards goals.  For example, if you are aiming to establish a 6-figure business, focus on securing your first client, regardless of how much they pay. And celebrate once you land this first client!  By setting small goals and recognizing small successes, you are gradually building your self-efficacy and resilience.

#3: Watch Others

We learn from our own experiences but also by watching the experience of others.  For me, a close friend of mine went through cancer 18 months before I did. I saw her go through the physical and emotional pain as well as her resilience and power as she fought every single day.  I also watch leaders I admire as they handle challenging political situations to help me learn how to navigate the world of work.

By engaging in learning, you are programming your mind to understand the steps required to overcome these hurdles.

#4: Visualize

Visualize yourself standing in your power.  To me, that looks like me standing at the edge of the ocean, face up to the sun, with my arms in the air. When I do this, I immediately feel a sense of calmness and internal power.   Science tells us that when we visualize something positive, it increases our resilience. It also helps us see the small steps we need to take to get to our end goals.

#5: Ignore the self-doubt

My head can sometimes go into a loop of ‘you are not strong enough,’ or ‘you cannot do this.’  One of the most effective ways I have found to deal with these thoughts is to acknowledge them, and then I visually put them into the corner of the room. Remember these thoughts do not reflect your strength and power.  You do not want to let these crazy thoughts slow you down. But they can be a challenge to fight. So just put them on a small place in the back of the room.

#6:  Enjoy life

A good mood can also boost self-efficacy while a lousy mood can reduce it.  I always feel more resilient and powerful when I am happy and full of joy. To get myself into a good mood, I will turn on a playlist that automatically seems to lift my spirits.

Henry Ford said it best, “Whether you think that you can or can’t, you’re usually right.”

My advice to all, look up at the sky, take a breath, and believe that you can handle it. You can handle whatever life and work throw at you. You are strong. You are powerful.