Defining and Building Resilience
- Defeat is part of life – what matters more is what you learn from it.
- Resilience is not a skill you’re born with, but one you can acquire.
- Resilience helps people cope with inevitable challenges and refuse to give up.
The extraordinary film Resilience follows a trio of adaptive athletes, including Jerad Fischer, who talk about “refusing to live with boundaries.” Their stories, which illustrate an unconquerable human spirit, are inspirational for anyone living with cancer or chronic disease.Read More
Dr. Zuri Murrell, an oncologist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, spoke to SurvivorNet about the role of a positive outlook on survival rates: “I’m pretty good at telling what kind of patient are going to still have this attitude and probably going to live the longest, even with bad, bad disease. And those are patients who, they have gratitude in life.”
Resilience is an important trait, but not the easiest to build. The ultimate goal is not to avoid tough times, but to be able to bounce back from them. And yet, when they are faced with an overwhelming, life-changing situation, how do people shift their view? How do they learn to see the problem as temporary, rather than permanent, and figure out a solution?
It’s complicated, because building resilience is more about your mental and emotional fortitude than anything else. According to the American Psychological Association, “the resources and skills associated with more positive adaptation (i.e., greater resilience) can be cultivated and practiced.” In other words, resilience is not something you’re born with, which should be encouraging. Instead, after every challenge in your life, you build more and more resilience to those hard times.
Lessons from Resilient
You can build resilience the way you build muscle – through patience and steady exercise of the skill. Here are some lessons taken from Fischer, Runkel, and Soller:
- Be willing to learn. If one way doesn’t work, find a different way. If an obstacle lands in your way, build a path around it – or over it. In Resilience, one of the athletes says, “You always have to be learning. Otherwise, life gets stagnant.” The more you learn, the more you grow – and growth is a sign of resilience.
- Spend time with people who inspire you. Our world is filled with people who overcome challenges, and their success can energize you to overcome your own. Think about famous people who hava faced adversity and did not give up – Stephen King actually threw his manuscript, Carrie, in the trash because it had been rejected by publishers so many times. His wife encouraged him to keep sending it out, and he finally sold it in 1974 – launching a massively successful career as a novelist. Take the time to read and learn about the lives of Helen Keller, Jackie Robinson, Bethany Hamilton, Nelson Mandela, and others.
- Allow yourself to grieve. Don’t push away or dismiss your frustration and sadness. Ben Fischer says that life can be filled with lots of crying, but “Those cries make us stronger.”
- Be flexible. Abandon the idea that there is only one solution or that you must stick to your original plan. The best solution or plan is the one that eventually works. You may need to change your original plan as the circumstances change.
- Lean in to your community. Your friends, colleagues, and family are invaluable, and when you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed by a problem, their support can carry you. The Harvard Study of Adult Development is the longest study of human well-being. Many news outlets have covered its results, which show that maintaining strong, healthy relationships helped people live longer lives. Psychiatrist and author Dr. Samantha Boardman tells SurvivorNet that connecting with and contributing to the lives of other people are two of “the three wellsprings of vitality” (the third is feeling positively challenged).
Surviving a Storm
A common metaphor people use to explain resilience is that trees survive a storm by bending; rather than snap their trunks in half, the fierce winds glide over them instead. That’s not to say the trees are not battered, but when the storm ends, they are intact.
Stream Resilience and many other stories of courage and determination on SurvivorNetTV.