In recent months, there’s been a lot written and discussed about the topic of resiliency. Following the unexpected death of her husband, Sheryl Sandberg wrote of resilience in her book, Option B. Perhaps not surprisingly, some people are born resilient. If you aren't among those who were born with this trait, the good news is that you can develop resilience. In fact, according to a 2002 article written by Diane Coutu and published in the Harvard Business Review (HBR), some psychologists claim that unresilient people more easily develop resilience skills than those individuals who had a head start in this area. I can assure you that I was not one of the lucky few who entered the world bursting with resilience and that I developed resiliency in my early 30s. Coutu asserts that resilient people possess three characteristics: 1) A staunch acceptance of reality 2) A deep belief, often buttressed by strongly held values, that life is meaningful and 3) an uncanny ability to improvise.
You might assume that resilience stems from an optimistic nature which is true so long as the optimism doesn’t distort an individual’s sense of reality. Coutu points out that rose-colored thinking can contribute to disaster. Admiral Jim Stockdale, had been held POW and tortured by the Vitecong for eight years, observed that it was the optimists who didn’t make it out. Big challenges require a “cool, almost pessimistic, sense of reality.” Resilient people have very “sober and down-to-earth views of those parts of reality that matter for survival.”
The article goes on to point out that many people slip into denial as a coping mechanism. Let’s face it, staring down reality is grueling, unpleasant and emotional work. But if and when we dig in and do the work, we train ourselves to endure and survive future hardships.
Recently, while traveling for work, I perused the books available for sale at the airport and eyed Hillary Clinton’s newly published book, “What Happened” and was immediately struck by two, simultaneously occurring thoughts: 1) Yes. WTF did happen?! And, 2) Hillary Clinton is resilient AF if she responds to the loss of the presidential election by cranking out a book (in addition to her admission of indulging chardonnay and self-care in the form of yoga and prayer). Say what you will about Clinton, but if she can rise among the ashes of this loss, maybe there’s hope for the rest of us? I mean, this woman loses for all the see, writes a book and shows up to talk about it. There’s a lot to be said for that. Has anyone seen Ronda Rousey since December of 2016? Ronda who? In Rising Strong, Brene Brown writes, “Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.”
Last Monday night, Clinton spoke at an event where she promoted her book to attendees who had paid $82 each (talk about turning lemons into lemonade), Clinton stated, “At the end of the day, everybody has disappointments. Everybody has losses. I view this book as much about resilience as about running for president. … I want others, no matter what happens to you in life, to understand that there are ways to get up and keep going. Don’t give up on yourselves.”