When I get a little free time one of these days, I have a plan to design and market a t-shirt that simply says, in big letters: AFLO. And then, somewhere in smaller print, it will spell out the meaning (see the title of this article if you’re not clear.) I’ve shared this plan with others, and they always laugh because we’ve all had them—those times we’ve messed up, fallen on our face, made mistakes, or felt like a fool—and sometimes we have had the wit and grace to recognize them as opportunities for learning.


Here’s the good news: Each of those situations is a chance to build resilience. Every time something doesn’t go according to plan, you encounter disruption. And every time you encounter disruption, you have the option to get frustrated or defensive, give up, or run away; you also have the option to practice calming yourself down, having a good laugh, and figuring out what to do next. And every time you work through a challenge, you build your resilience muscles.


Here’s more good news: Life keeps providing new opportunities to practice. No matter how well you think you have prepared ourselves for the unexpected, there’s always a new surprise around the corner. If you make a conscious effort to recognize your own signs of disruption (Knot in your stomach? Shoulders around your ears? Losing your temper? Forgetting to breathe?) you can use them as a trigger to remind you to practice resilient responses. Practicing with the small, everyday challenges helps you prepare for the larger, more significant ones that everyone eventually encounters in life.


And even more good news: You can invite the universe to bring you bigger and better challenges, so you have lots more opportunities to practice! I think of this as “signing up for a membership at the resilience gym.” Whenever you choose to take on an activity that you know will test your resources and capabilities, and cause you to encounter unpredictable, difficult, or stressful situations, you are raising the bar on your own resilience practice. Sports activities, travel, public speaking, taking a challenging course…these are great examples of how you can create new opportunities to build your resilience muscles.


So, here’s my invitation to you: Treat small challenges as gifts. Stuck in traffic? Dealing with a cranky customer service representative? Screaming child in the next aisle on the airplane? Say to yourself, “Ah, resilience practice!” Or simply, “AFLO!!”