698 people born on a Hawaiian island were studied from childhood through adulthood for resiliency. The findings are remarkable.
The groundbreaking study conducted three decades ago by developmental psychologist Emmy Werner followed the development of nearly 700 children born on the Hawaiian island of Kauai. The backdrop of “island life” allowed for a uniquely common baseline and controlled study environment (making it easier to isolate key variables). Also, conducting a really long study in Kauai beats doing one in Gary, Indiana.
The study tracked its subjects for an astonishing 32 years, recording how each participant handled setbacks and adversity in their lives and how successful they ultimately were. The research isolated the key drivers of what made someone more well-adjusted, resilient, and successful than those who struggled.
I hope what follows perks the ears of entrepreneurs as much as anyone else because research shows that resilience is the greatest asset an entrepreneur can have.
Here are the building blocks of resiliency that emerged from the study — practicing them can build yours:
1. Continue to seek autonomy.
Research shows people don’t always seek autonomy because it’s accompanied by accountability. Resilient people embrace autonomy and the uncertainty that comes with it, knowing that each experience of empowerment will give them an opportunity to practice flexibility on the fly.
So look for opportunities to ask for autonomy. To make those who would grant it more comfortable with doing so, establish a clear scope for autonomy and ensure check-ins with the delegator. After all, you want autonomy, not absenteeism, from your boss. And if you’re an entrepreneur be sure to grant autonomy liberally to employees.
2. Seek out new experiences.
Related to the first point, resiliency strengthens when we’re exposed to new experiences. Hitting a plateau of staleness and sameness in your life erodes your adaptability when forced to face hardship. New experiences create what I call agreeable adversity and create healthy tension via a lack of familiarity.
So if you want to expand your resiliency, keep experimenting.
3. Actively lean on the right people.
Werner’s study showed that those who had developed resilience actively sought out trusted guides/advisors (like respected elders and trusted peers) for help in getting through difficult times.
Remember, you don’t have to go it alone.
4. Lead a self-determined life.
Simply put, study participants that demonstrated resiliency believed circumstances didn’t happen to them, they happened for them. They believed it was up to them to see these circumstances as such.
You too have the ability to believe that the choices you make control your fate, not fate itself. You can view each setback as teaching, not trauma. You can lead a self-determined life. Which leads us to the next point.
5. Lead an examined life.
Resilience comes from retrospect. Keeping things in perspective and practicing gratitude for all that you have (versus focusing on what’s being done to you) feeds resilience.
Be sure to periodically make time for thoughtful self-examination.
6. Apply a healthy mix of pragmatism and possibility.
Hardiness comes from looking at hard truths about the situation you face while at the same time holding high expectations for how you’ll emerge from them. When you expect much of yourself and are self-confident along the way you build resilience.
The self-confidence can come from recalling past experiences when you dealt with adversity (including major events you successfully navigated but then forgot about).
7. Be good at being good-natured.
The study clearly showed that a profile of sociability, an easy-going demeanor, and good-naturedness led to resilience and success.
This mindset is also a choice — one that you can make.
To build much-needed resilience into our lives, we can turn to a groundbreaking study that has been resilient in its own right by standing the test of time. So learn from island-life and remember you never live on one when facing difficulty.
This story originally appeared on Inc.com