“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”
― Nelson Mandela
Who do you know that’s overcome a setback, trauma, hardship, or difficult situation? Someone who has overcome great odds? What sort of person are they? Are they like Nelson Mandela? Resilient?
What does it mean to be Resilient?
Being resilient means to bounce back from a setback or difficult situation. It means to not let life take hold and pull you down. Or, if it does, not hold you down for long.
There are three main aspects of a resilient person.
- Acceptance: the resilient person accepts reality for what it is while at the same time working to change what is in their control to improve their situation.
- Attitude: the resilient person has a positive outlook, a faith that everything will be okay. They have a belief in themselves.
- Action: resilient people are problem solvers, solution-oriented. They take action!
I’ve had more than a few role models in my life who have made me aware of these three aspects:
Acceptance: My little sister Polly, profoundly disabled, relied on another human being for a sip of water, a bite of food or to move her body. She was not expected to live past five years old and made to almost fourteen. Although I didn’t know it at the time, I was witnessing acceptance.
Attitude: My mom had ten pregnancies resulting in nine kids in less than thirteen years. Her own mother died when she was a year old. She was neglected, ignored, mistreated and abused. Despite her hardships, my mom offered a positive outlook to others. She was optimistic. Her attitude was about having faith that everything would be okay. My mom had a belief in herself, in life.
Action: I began teaching adaptive skiing for people with disabilities almost twenty years ago. I’ve met athletes who were born without sight, legs or hearing. People who went to war with a complete body and returned with missing limbs, eyes, and slurred speech. People who use wheelchairs and walkers because of spinal cord injuries or traumatic brain injuries. People with bullets still lodged in their bodies. People who let you strap them in adaptive ski equipment so they can slide on snow. People who refuse to let a setback hold them back. People who want to feel alive, whole.
Accepting a situation for what it is helps you to get your head around reality so you can figure out how to manage it, change it if you can. In my sister’s case, she had no choice and couldn’t help herself in any way. But you likely do have a choice. You can choose to complain, blame, and expect someone else to “fix it” or you can see the situation for what it is and do something—anything—to move forward.
Having an attitude—a determination even—that you will make it is essential to surviving a hardship, a setback. A belief that you will bounce back. The opposite of this is the “poor ole me” mentality — the victim role — which keeps you stuck in the situation.
Action is needed to bounce forward after bouncing back. Bouncing forward is how we build more resilience. And more often than not, right action involves partnering, being part of group, a community—a team! Taking right action includes connecting with others who can help you.
The secret to cultivating resilience is using the setback, the hardship, as something to push against, to build strength. Branches of a tree wouldn’t grow strong without having the wind to push against.
We are all like the branch. In order to evolve, we need to:
- Accept reality: the wind blows (and sometimes brings a challenge).
- Have an adaptable attitude: flex with the wind (so it doesn’t break you).
- Take right action: move toward the light that keeps you alive (the life ahead).
Because you are reading this, you’ve made it through a windstorm or two. You are resilient.