Resilience is the capacity to bounce back, to pick yourself up from even the deepest depths and put one foot in front of the other. Psychologists note it is something akin to toughness or endurance. It is also grit and buoyancy, the ability to rise above the fray. Success in life is not best predicted by intelligence, aptitude, or even socioeconomic status. Resilience is the key. It's an invaluable skill that will set you up for a lifetime of success.
How do we cultivate it? Fostering independence and self-confidence in your children will build it in them. If you didn’t receive your fair share of that in your childhood, there are steps you can take now. Your library carries hundreds of self-help books on building and repairing the inner self, to help you rebound from illness, job loss, a bad break-up, and most difficult of all, the loss of a loved one. Ready to turn on your own resilience?
Try these guides for practical advice…
Hard-Won Wisdom for Living a Better Life
Let Navy SEAL Eric Greitens guide you through your darkest days and help you come through on your feet.
Why Things Bounce Back
Innovator Andrew Zolli writes this broader look at how the economy, environment, and our own psychology are tied together to help us succeed. Follow this with Judith Rodin’s Resilience Dividend: Being Strong in a World Where Things Go Wrong. She shows how people, organizations, businesses, and communities have developed resilience in response to catastrophic loss.
How to Cope When Everything Around You Keeps Changing
My mom used to say “the only constant in life is change.” Mom was so right. Author Liggy Webb looks at why some people are able to bounce back easily while others struggle to keep moving. Webb explains why pursuing resilience will help you develop confidence, stay optimistic, and seek out opportunities, and she sells the idea with helpful tips.
Building Resilience in Children and Teens
Pediatric specialist Dr. Ken Ginsburg provides age-specific advice to help your kids develop roots so they can grow wings.
Let these characters inspire you…
Resilience also makes for great character narratives. We cheer for the underdog, want our heroes to succeed, and learn from how they navigate troubled waters. Here are some of my favorite tales of triumph over adversity that I wanted to share, some that have been made into films. Take your pick—book, audiobook, movie—these characters’ stories of resiliency will leave you heartened.
Wild: From Lost To Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
This memoir by Cheryl Strayed is a moving adventure story of how a series of tragedies pushed her into a self-destructive spiral. Finding herself at a dangerous crossroads at age 26, she embarked on a journey of self-discovery, hiking from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon and to the Bridge of Gods in Washington. It also became a great film, with Reese Witherspoon who brings Cheryl’s pain and resolution to life. Either path to this story is definitely worth your time.
The Bear and the Nightingale
Part of the Winternight Trilogy, this was Katherine Arden’s debut novel, offering a spirited reworking of the Medieval Russian fairy tale “Vasilisa the Beautiful.” A historical fantasy set in medieval Russia, it centers around young Vasya Petrovna, whose mother believed throughout her pregnancy that her child would inherit the family’s special powers. Her mother died in childbirth but her vision came true. Vasya is able to communicate with wonderful, mythical creatures at a time when belief in them is being stamped out. This lyrical novel haunted me for months after I finished reading it.
Life of Pi
If you haven’t read Yann Martel’s book yet, stop reading this column now and go check it out. I give this book to everyone. You will never read a survival story so engaging or see resilience on display in the same manner again. It is not merely about a boy stranded on a boat with a Bengal tiger as his only companion. It is a provocative look at what we will do to save ourselves from the worst things that can happen and raises questions about the nature of reality and how we perceive it. It is also a stunning film directed by Ang Lee.
She’s Come Undone
One of Oprah’s early Book Club selections, Wally Lamb tells us the amazing story of Dolores Price, a woman who simply keeps on going no matter what heartbreak, disappointment, and betrayal life throws at her. You feel the realness of her struggles and her courage to continue on, not unlike Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, though that tale is 150 years older. Resiliency stories have been around for generations!
Nothing Stopped Sophie
Cheryl Bardoe’s wonderful children’s picture book tells the true story of this 18th century, self-taught mathematician who solves the unsolvable. It teaches grit, equality, and math, all in one short inspiring story. Follow it up with Counting on Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Saved Apollo 13. The blockbuster film Hidden Figures, also tells the story of Katherine Johnson and two other African American women at NASA, who were the brains behind the launch of astronaut John Glenn in 1962. Reading about her in the context of resilience is something special.
Most Magnificent Thing
Ashley Spires’ charming picture book is about a girl and her dog/assistant who set out to achieve greatness with a big idea, and just will not give up. Children’s books are uniquely capable of inspiring and sending a clear message without being preachy. This story of resilience will give you the strength to hit the reset button 101 times if that’s what it takes.
Hunger Games Trilogy
We’ve read it, watched it, felt like we lived it with Suzanne Collins’ group of courageous teens who fight to outsmart the evil President Coriolanus Snow. Revisit the heartbreaking, but ultimately victorious, story of Katniss Everdeen and her fierce courage and devotion to her family and her two great loves, Gale Hawthorne and Peeta Mellark. If this popular young adult novel is too dystopian after the year we have had, I enthusiastically suggest you pick up the Harry Potter Series again and follow the resilience of “the boy who lived.” And remember the wise words of Hogwarts Headmaster Albus Dumbledore, “Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”
We are grateful you are here with us as we “March” into 2021, with eyes, minds, and books wide open. Build your own resilience, cultivate it, recognize it, and reward it within yourself. Then please share it with us! We would love to hear from you at ASK@LVCCLD.org.