As business owners, our own lives are often indistinguishable from our business. We put so much effort in getting them launched and keeping them going that the business often is an extension of ourselves. And for many entrepreneurs, that whole-hearted effort doesn’t change even as our businesses grow beyond startup. We still feel every success – and every hurdle – in a way that our employees rarely do.

But while our hearts may fuel our business, our brains can actually work against us. Fueled by new technologies, there has been an explosion of research on how our brains function. The findings are fascinating, particularly when you think about how it relates to our decision-making processes. It turns out that we all have what the psychologists call a “negativity bias.” This causes us to look for problems, react negatively or become overly emotional even when the situation does not warrant such negative responses. These biases are actually hard-wired into us from the earliest days of primitive man. And while the threats have changed over the millennia – an antagonistic auditor today versus a hungry predator in prehistoric days – our brain automatically goes into a negative mode when we sense a threat. And we’re often not even aware of it.

But brain research also has some good news. By becoming aware of this negativity bias, we can dampen its impact and actually take steps to develop a positive mindset that sets us up for success. Here are some techniques to become a more resilient and effective executive.

The Nine Elements of Resiliency

FILTER — How you filter information and interpret the world.

  • Personal Responsibility is the belief that successes or failures at work are determined by one’s own talents and motivations as opposed to external forces such as luck or good timing. Those who are high in personal responsibility believe they control their own destiny and attribute events to their own traits. Rather than relying on external factors such as luck to achieve objectives, they look inward to their own talents and motivations and attempt to exert control over situations.
  • Realistic Optimism is the tendency to see the world in a positive way but remain grounded in reality. Those with realistic optimism expect the future to be good, but they remain aware that challenges may arise and things won’t always go as expected. This kind of mild optimism is a crucial aspect of resiliency because it instills people with motivation while allowing them to anticipate and plan for challenges.
  • Personal Beliefs is the sense that life has deep meaning and purpose. Personal beliefs may take the form of religious observance, spirituality, or devotion to a particular value system or cause. People with a high degree of personal beliefs believe things happen for a reason and feel connected to causes or values they believe are larger than themselves.

ACT — How you handle challenges.

  • Self-Assurance is the belief in oneself to successfully perform at work. People with high self-assurance have confidence in their professional skills and their ability to deal with challenges. Because of this strong self-belief, they approach challenges and shifts in demands without loss of enthusiasm. A strong sense of self-assurance enhances people’s motivation, commitment, and engagement with their work.
  • Self-Composure is the ability to manage stress and remain calm under pressure. Those who are high in self-composure deal with challenges rationally without allowing their emotions to take over and drive decisions.
  • Problem Solving is the ability to plan and resolve problems effectively. Those with a high degree of problem-solving ability generate innovative solutions to problems. They take the time to gather relevant information and plan carefully, using reason, logic, and creativity to make decisions.
  • Goal Orientation is the tendency to set appropriate goals, monitor progress on those goals, and adjust behavior accordingly. Those who are high in goal orientation set ambitious goals and work hard to achieve them, monitoring themselves and regulating their behavior along the way.

INTERACT — How you communicate and connect with others.

  • Courageous Communication is the tendency to communicate with others in a candid and courageous way in the face of difficulty. Courageous communicators freely and effectively share their ideas with others, ask questions others might be afraid to ask, and confront problems directly. This skill is critically important for resolving relational conflicts and differences in viewpoints, and allows people to move towards their goals efficiently.
  • Social Support is the perception that one is part of a supportive social network. This includes having close confidants and people with whom one can discuss problems. People with a high level of social support feel that they have close confidants who provide comfort and assistance during difficult times.

Developing resiliency has many personal and professional benefits and can lead to a better life. These 9 elements are functions of self that can be measured and utilized to better understand how to improve our resiliency. There are many techniques to help boost our resiliency. In addition to the Nine Elements of Resiliency, here are 6 Steps on Building Resiliency.

6 Steps to Building Resilience

1. Use the CAB (Challenge – Automatic Thinking – Behavior & Emotion)/CAR (Challenge – Active Thinking – Realistic Response) Technique: The CAB/CAR technique refers to our automatic thinking responses vs. our active approach to thinking about situations. When certain situations occur, our brain reacts automatically, and almost instantaneously due to our biology. Because of how we evolved, we typically respond to perceived threats in unfavorable ways. These negative thoughts could result in catastrophizing, lashing out, or giving up. Conscious control over the emotional brain is possible, not by suppressing emotions, but by changing the interpretation that creates the emotion in the first place. By slowing our though patterns down and taking a deep breath, we can trigger the more rational part of our brain – the prefrontal cortex.

2. Developing Mindfulness: “Mindfulness isn’t difficult. What’s difficult is to remember to be mindful.” – John Teasdale. Being mindful emphasizes living in the present moment and not dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. It is a non-judgmental awareness of the present moment.

3. Acting “As If”: Attitude follows behavior. Using specific behaviors and non-verbal techniques can change the way you feel and improve your resilience.

4. Developing Gratitude: Savoring moments releases dopamine, extending your positive mood. It also motivates you to seek out positive experiences.

5. Giving: “Giver burnout” is a myth. In fact, giving (your time, expertise, etc.) is energizing, as long as it is directed towards something you value. Asking for help also enhances resilience.

6. Setting Ambitious Goals: Goals are best designed when they focus not only on the outcome you’d like to achieve (e.g., complete project by end of Q2), but on the process by which you will achieve that outcome (e.g., weekly team status meetings, project milestones).

These tips are excerpted from The TRACOM Group’s workbook, “Developing a Resilient Mindset,” available by subscription to employers.