Some of my first ever memories are races in gunny sacks with my fellow Kindergarten classmates – sometimes solo, and sometimes paired with my cousin who shared my class; the two of us falling down more than we fell forward. The laughter between us, the applause from our parents: I remember it all. And while I know that we must have intended to cross the finish line first, my memories are not of winning or losing; I only remember participating.
Moving on into adult life, I have seen clearly how I was impacted from those Kindergarten races. My desire to participate mostly outweighs the need to win, even though I understand the mathematics of competition. I am lucky in the sense that my fear of losing doesn’t stop me giving it the best I can. I join in when there is an opportunity to confront the boundaries I have set for myself, because I know that resilience requires life challenges to fully develop. While positive thinking, gratitude and self-compassion can be harnessed when things are good or bad, we learn the most when we are vulnerable yet determined. We understand the most of life once we have learned the lessons that come from fully living it. Falling off the horse is a lesson in horse riding - getting back on the hose is a lesson of resilience.
In his book The Pilgrimage, Paolo Coelho writes about such resilience. He says, “The second symptom of the death of our dreams lies in our certainties. Because we don’t want to see life as a grand adventure, we begin to think of ourselves as wise and fair and correct in asking so little of life. We look beyond the walls of our day-to-day existence, and we hear the sound of lances breaking, we smell the dust and the sweat, and we see the great defeats and the fire in the eyes of the warriors. But we never see the delight, the immense delight in the hearts of those who are engaged in the battle. For them, neither victory nor defeat is important; what’s important is only that they are fighting the good fight.
Resilience is more than strength and more than blind persistence. It is understanding that courage and determination are defined on our own terms, as we see and feel them, and not how other people demand they should be. A full life is galvanized by the experiences that come from the journey of it – and the journey of it is yours and yours alone.
Resilient people find strength inside themselves. They are determined people – confident people – sometimes foolish people – but always present people. They are strong because they have tried and learned, not just because they have tried and won.
Most of us, even without knowing, are already walking the path of resilience. We have already marched on, recovered, grown, evolved, forgiven, loved again. We are already warriors. Human nature is to survive, but surviving isn’t enough – we must flourish.
Set goals: Resilience means being able to establish solutions when things seem insurmountable. View the situation in its entirety, break it down to manageable steps and set goals for each. Remove the power from a crisis situation and the power becomes our own. Nothing is a catastrophe.
Don’t lose sight of what it is you want: Understand that every action you take is a step either toward or away from your goals.
Don’t try to solve the problem using the same thought process that created it: Resilient people don’t worry so much about the failure; they prefer to use the experience of it to galvanize a thought process of change. When we mess up, we need to be honest about it and give ourselves time to think about what didn’t work and why.
Define positive language: Let’s be honest, the voices in our head are not always on our side, but they are just voices. When we hear them move to the darkness, we replace them with positive language. Darkness cannot exist in the presence of light. Guess what? We ARE good enough. We ARE strong enough. WE should never let the voices tell us otherwise.
Understand: Resilient people understand that failure is not falling down – it is the refusal to get back up.
Believe in who you are: Belief is the mother of behavior. What we do with ourselves mirrors precisely how we feel about ourselves. If we leave the behavior alone and work on our belief, our behavior will change organically.
Overcome the fear of failure: If we view something that is hard – something that we could fail at – as a challenge, then we are more likely to think that we have the capabilities to achieve it. Failure is not a threat. Our bodies don’t have to prepare for war. It is not a disease to be avoided. Failure is a lesson. It is an opportunity for us to overcome challenges and practice being resilient.
Understand that we are all growing: Life is not what happens TO us, it is what happens WITHIN us. Resilient people don’t stop discovering new obstacles and lessons to learn, they just become more courageous and adept and handling them. We need to give ourselves yourself the opportunity to grow.
Lastly, create your own “why”: Resilient people search for lessons in situations. They search for a meaning that gives a clear sense of purpose and allows them to view obstacles from a much broader perspective. Hard times require resilience. They require us to listen to our emotions, learn from the complexities of our experiences, and discover pathways in both our successes and our failures.
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