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Resilience is the ability to adapt successfully and recover from challenging life experiences. It is the ability to endure adversity and grow despite challenges. Resiliency doesn’t mean there won’t be setbacks, but it’s the strength and will to continue through pain. Take the COVID-19 pandemic as an example. Many people showed resilience by finding means to cope and work through a very challenging period.
Resilience is not a lack of stress, emotional disturbance or suffering. It is the strength to work through whatever disturbance and suffering life throws you.
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Why is resilience important?
Resilience is important because it’s an essential life skill. Perhaps the best example of resilience was shown by the late Nelson Mandela, who said, “Do not judge me by my success, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”
Without resilience, you get easily overwhelmed by challenges and what was supposed to be a temporary setback paralyzes you. Our very survival in this new world depends on our ability to adjust and thrive in the face of trauma and hardship. Without resilience, we fall back on unhealthy traits like avoidance and helplessness. Resilience not only empowers us to accept, adapt and move forward in difficult situations, but it is also the core strength that makes bearing the load of life possible.
What it takes to change
When I was in eighth grade, one of my teachers called a student to the front of the class to express how disappointed he was in the student for his performance with school work, despite his obvious potential. The student was none other than me.
As I stood in front of the class, he explained why he was disappointed in me and how I showed up late to class even though my house was just a few minutes from school. It wasn’t that I flunked; my grades were mostly average. The reason for his disappointment was the potential and opportunity going to waste.
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Although I felt his gesture was harsh, his assessment was accurate. I devoted my time to other things, like playing sports and messing around with my friends. I was an excellent reader as long as it wasn’t schoolwork. I was slacking, my teacher knew it, and I knew it too.
Anytime results came out, I got nervous and promised myself that “I would change” and put in real effort. Deep down, I knew I was capable of much better than my grades suggested. I felt I just needed to put in real effort to become a success. I had to change something. But how?
At the end of my senior year, I became so uncomfortable with some of my antics and the kind of person I was becoming. I wanted to be a role model for my siblings; someone others could admire. I realized this was something I would have to do for myself. What I wanted to make out of my life was up to me. And that was when I began to change.
I was going to college, but I decided to do things differently this time. Right from that moment, I began to direct my energy toward building life skills and habits that reflected the kind of person I wanted to become. I began to spend my weekends getting familiar with the courses I was going to do not only in college but also in my private time. I began to plan and work toward my success.
There were times I lost focus, but I put myself back on track. I knew I would be a few steps ahead of my colleagues by planning for my success, which gave me a positive feeling. I could see myself changing; I would not be the class clown. I was going to become a more responsible and committed student.
And that was how it happened. I showed up in college as a student enthusiastic to succeed. After the first semester, I had a reputation as an A student. Sticking to that path of success was no longer an option; I had already set higher standards for myself.
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Sometimes I think about what would have become of me if I didn’t have that resilience and courage to change. What kind of life would I have? One thing I know for sure is it may have been a life filled with regrets. Regrets for taking the easier way out, regret for not putting in enough effort even though I knew I was capable of more. And even though the change happened slowly and gradually, there were times my friends who knew me as the class clown made fun of me and times I slipped up. The fact that I made the decision to change and showed resilience made me ready at the right moment.
However, what brought about this much-desired change? Having my new girlfriend certainly influenced me; however, it was nothing more than the fact that I had reached my emotional rock bottom and wasn’t happy with the lack of focus in my life. I began to think of myself and my actions in line with what I wanted to be. More importantly, I didn’t wait to be in college to start changing, I started the journey immediately, even though I was still in high school.
Perhaps you find yourself in a challenging or overwhelming situation and need to pull through. Resilience will play an essential role in getting you over that line. As a first step, if you can make and stick to the decision to change the way you work, reflect on yourself, and challenge your thought patterns. Over time, you’ll begin to see changes in your life too. By tapping into resilience, you can change how you think and behave to achieve your definition of success. My lived experience says don’t wait, start now!