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How Can We Try to Define Resilience?

Resilience. It’s become widely recognized as one of the most important characteristics to have or foster; the secret weapon that can pull us forward in ways we could never have imagined. But, how can we even precisely define resilience? It’s more than a thought or a feeling. It’s found in a moment that causes the […]

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Pansies flower growing out of the brick wall on the sidewalk in historic Alexandria, Virginia.
Pansies flower growing out of the brick wall on the sidewalk in historic Alexandria, Virginia.

Resilience. It’s become widely recognized as one of the most important characteristics to have or foster; the secret weapon that can pull us forward in ways we could never have imagined.

But, how can we even precisely define resilience? It’s more than a thought or a feeling. It’s found in a moment that causes the deepest part of yourself to declare:

This will not define me. My spirit and soul are here for something greater, and I’m going to push through whatever obstacle is placed before me. Life has thrown me a curveball, but so what? I’m not going to yield to that. My spirit is louder and stronger and more eager than this setback.

A moment like this occurred for me when I was 31. I had recently gone through a harrowing divorce and was adjusting to being a single mom to a 12-month-old daughter. I had moved back to upstate New York to live near my parents through this excruciating time, leaving behind a wonderful network of friends, a job, and a home that I loved.

A feeling of dread washed over me. I found myself thinking, How am I going to get through this? What is my life going to be like? How will I ever have the life I dreamt of having?

I lay there oppressed by these thoughts, with my young daughter in her crib in the next room …

How Resilience Came into My Life

Then, gradually a wave of positive power – I don’t know what else to call it – washed the dread away. It was like my soul woke up and said … “No way! You are going to pull through this! You are going to live the life you dream of. You will find your way!”

I felt my spirit rising from the ashes. A strength came through me, and a conviction. I determined to push through those overwhelming and defeating thoughts and feelings, and to keep my eyes squarely locked upon the life that I truly wanted to live.

From that moment on, resilience was part of my daily life. It showed up in my thoughts and also in my actions. I could witness my resilience in the way I’d get up and keep moving forward even when it seemed difficult, at times, to do so.

Some of these actions included:

Developing a Deep-Seated Commitment to Learning and Personal Growth

I was extremely driven and motivated. The resilience inside of me kept pulling me forth. I wanted to read every book, attend every program, soak up every bit of learning and inspiration that I could.

I dedicated time to attending countless in-person and virtual workshops. I read over 100 books on personal growth. Also, I participated in some very emotionally intense weekend workshops. I was committed to working through all of the obstacles in my way. Resilience was always there – willing me to move forward.

A Willingness to Do Very Difficult Work

I was willing to dive deeply and do whatever work it was going to take. Not only was deep personal work called for, but I also had to learn to manage my new life as a single mom.

I wanted to be independent and worked hard to achieve that. This required mindfully creating a life where I could work productively while spending as much time as possible at home with my daughter. Also, learning to manage a house and finances, even making the time for a social life – all of this took “work,” and resilience fueled my willingness and desire to do it.

A Continuous Stream of Energy

Resilience makes the impossible (and overwhelming) seem possible. For me, there were times, of course, when I was tired of working so hard and managing on my own. But, inevitably, I would find myself getting up and doing it anyway.

I was focused and determined, and it felt as if the universe was cheering me on. I love Maya Angelou’s poems, and one that rings true here is: “Life loves the liver of it. You must live and life will be good to you.”

The act of moving forward, accompanied by the power of resilience, is living. Even though it was sometimes hard, I was choosing forward growth, and life coconspired with me.

Resilience in a Nutshell

Many times along the way, I was met with roadblocks. But they weren’t disabling. My soul was in charge. A powerful desire to persevere and overcome had taken over. When you connect with the resilience that lies within, you are a force to reckon with. Anything you dream of is possible.


 

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