Resilience is a Skill
Resilience. Just the word itself makes you want to sit up little taller, lift your head a little higher, and dust yourself off for another attempt. Resilience is the ability to bounce back after adversity. It’s the ability to thrive in spite of obstacles. It’s the grit, gumption, and guts to keep going, sometimes long after everyone else would have quit.
We admire resilience in others. We look at people who have overcome, who have won against all the odds, and we applaud them. There is a level of respect that comes when we recognize someone who has the character trait of resilience. But, resilience isn’t something that you can’t get if you don’t have it. It’s a character trait that we learn and that we can develop more of. Yes, some people may be more naturally resilient than others. But, regardless of how much natural resilience you have, you can develop more. It’s much like a muscle – if you strengthen it, it will grow.
Resilience is a lifestyle decision.
I wasn’t always resilient. (Stubborn, yes. Resilient, no.) I remember the first time I tried to learn to water-ski. “Tried” is the key word here. There was absolutely no reason I wasn’t successful. I had two experienced skiers, one on each side, to support me. I had patient instructors helping me each step of the way to get set up. I had watched others do it, and knew just what I was supposed to do. But, all of their advice went right out of my head when the boat started to pull me. Terrified, I let go of the rope immediately. We slowed, sank back down, and the boat circled around so we could try again. Bobbing in the water, I listened to what I needed to do, and we tried again. This time, I held the rope for a few seconds. Enough time to get my feet under me and stand up – only to be pulled forward into a wet face-plant. The boat circled around so we could try again. And, I tried several more times. The final attempt that day, I ended up being dragged through the water, eventually losing a ski and twisting my ankle before letting go of the rope. “I don’t want to try again,” I offered an excuse, “My ankle hurts.”
The rest of the day, I refused all attempts to get me back in the water, pleading that my ankle was hurting. It was. A little. And, I was desperately looking for an excuse so I could tell myself, and everyone else, that I wasn’t successful because I had an injury. That sounded better than saying “I quit because I didn’t want to try again.”
I went home defeated. The worst part of it was that I defeated myself in quitting. The only person who made me stop trying, was me. I learned an important lesson that day. I didn’t like the feeling of having quit something too soon, and I resolved not to quit again. The next time I got an opportunity, I decided I was going to drown before I let go of the rope and gave up.
Deciding to do something is easy. Actually sticking with that decision when the water was rushing into my face and my arms felt like they were pulling out of my shoulders was much more difficult. That’s when I realized how important resilience is. Resilience is holding on, pushing forward, taking another step, and not quitting when quitting would be easier. I held on. Because I held on and kept trying, I eventually figured out how to get my feet under me.
I went on to learn to ski, but more importantly, I learned to exercise my resilience muscles. Not just in physical or athletic activities, but in life as well. Deciding to be more positive, or more grateful in spite of adversity doesn’t take resilience. Deciding to hold on when it’s easier to let go doesn’t require resilience. Tim Sanders said, “Positive thinking is a lifestyle decision.” Another lifestyle decision is resilience. Resilience is a lifestyle decision.
Like many, resilience and leadership author Ria Story faced adversity in life. She was sexually abused by her father from age 12 – 19. Forced to play the role of a wife and even shared with other men due to her father’s perversions, she was desperate to escape and left home at 19 without a job, car, or even a high school diploma.
Unlike many, she learned to be resilient, and turned her life around, not only surviving but thriving, in spite of the overwhelming circumstances of her youth. Ria speaks on resilience and leadership skills, balancing humor and a down-to-earth style to inspire, engage and empower audiences at conferences, events, retreats and more.