Resilience: What Doesn’t Kill Us Does Make Us Stronger


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When I think back to our expedition on Mount Everest, if I had to choose one word that separated the successful teams from the unsuccessful teams, the word would be resilience. Resiliency is the ability to bounce back from difficulties and cope with the hardships or failures we encounter. Whether on a mountain, or in our everyday lives, we must face adversity and disappointment from time to time. For some of us, it’s more often than we care to admit, but it’s how we manage it and recover that define us and our successes. This month’s theme will look at resilience, including how it impacts us, the various types of resilience, and how to develop it.

When the going gets tough…

Just as we learned when discussing the importance being flexible and embracing change, we are going to hit roadblocks, fail, get rejected, or simply not find the success we wanted. Rather than giving up, resilient people draw on personal and external resources to work through problems. Resilient people don’t wallow in self-pity, but simply brush it off, learn from any mistakes and forge ahead.

One of the most common findings when researching resiliency is that people who are most resilient have a positive attitude. Simply put, being optimistic and hopeful can help people most. If we tend to be negative, then any setback or hardship becomes a much bigger hurdle and tougher to shake off. If we have the attitude that things will get better and all hope is not lost, then we are in really good shape to bounce back.

Resilience in children

All children and teens need to learn resiliency; we aren’t doing them any favours when we coddle them or keep them from the various things life will inevitably throw at them. Failing tests, skinning knees, getting cut from a team or having a broken heart are all part of life. Sometimes, it is their fault (that actually stings to say it as I write this) but knowing that and learning what to do differently next time is how they become resilient. When kids have the skills to cope and recuperate from hardships, they’ll be better prepared for future challenges. Although we can’t teach resiliency per se to our kids, we can certainly model it for them and give them confidence. We can also teach them about accountability, coping skills and stress-management – and support them when life throws those curveballs.

Making lemonade out of lemons

Resilience can be cultivated and it is never too late; it’s a mental choice. We either choose to stay down when we get knocked down, or we choose to get up and find a way. If you don’t feel resilient, think back to times when you did bounce back from a tough time or faced a crushing disappointment. Every time we’ve gone into work feeling sick but met that deadline, got back into that car after an accident, or applied for that job after 20 rejection letters, we show just how resilient we are. Thinking of what our strengths are can also help – for example, a great sense of humour, being resourceful or great with people can be pulled from our arsenal of skills to help us not only find our way out of the difficulty we are in, but upwards and onwards.

Seeing obstacles as challenges rather than roadblocks

As we continue to discuss resiliency, it’s important to note that it is a continuous process; every time something bad or unwanted happens, we will carry on and make progress, one step at a time. It’s like taking two steps forward after we’re knocked one step back. The plain truth is that we can’t live in a bubble where nothing bad ever happens. To be successful, to reach our goals and be happy, we all need to be resilient. I’ve said it before and I’m happy to say it again – we’ve got this!

“I get knocked down, but I get up again. You’re never gonna keep me down.” – Chumbawamba