What makes resilient people resilient?
We are inclined to look at others and think they are more resilient than us.
But this is simply not true. You have the capacity to be as resilient as anyone you have admired for their grit and ability to bounce back.
This month the focus of these blog posts will be on resilient role models – people in the public eye that participants at my resilience talks have identified as displaying real determination and grit in the face of adversity. Our exploration of their inner strength is not just to highlight their successful conquering of the most challenging of situations, but as inspiration if we can see how we might replicate their attitudes and behaviours in our daily lives.
In my talks, and in most studies carried out by researchers around the world, Nelson Mandela is often the first person named when people are asked to name a resilient role model.
Although he endured years in prison for his anti-apartheid activities and faced formidable opposition through most of his life, he retained his friendly, warm, polite, and relaxed disposition while strenuously continuing his efforts for justice and equality.
Nelson Mandela himself described what kept him going throughout his time in prison as follows:
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear….I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death.”
In other words, he echoed the mantra that resilience is not the absence of adversity. And, like many other resilient role models, he decided that despair was not an option and that negative thoughts were not to be indulged because they only lead to a downwards spiral.
What would it be like if you decided the same thing? That no matter what happens, you will not give in to despair. That no matter what happens you will keep your face turned towards the light, towards hope in the unknown, towards opportunities both visible and invisible.
It can be difficult to manipulate our minds this way, but one thing we can do to help our minds is to physically do it; i.e. physically stand facing the sunlight during the day, or the stars at night and imagine the challenges or hardship behind you.
When will you do that?
Until next week, take care.