“But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get it and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward.”
– Rocky Balboa, played by Sylvester Stallone
About 8 years ago while teaching in a secondary school (the high school equivalent in the US), one student in the school committed suicide by jumping down from a high rise building. The reason was because he could not accept being dumped by his girl friend then.
This was a popular and happy go lucky boy with a bright future. He was also one of the best soccer players and vice-captain in my team then. It came as a rude shock to everyone in the community.
In the aftermath of his death, there was a whole series of investigations on what happened. It was done to bring closure to the case. For us educators and teachers the most significant thing that came out of this tragedy was the conclusion that our children did not have the resilient character to overcome setbacks.
That started us on a long and unending journey till today on building the resilience of our children. Today, in our schools in Singapore, character education is heavily emphasized. It our intention to build in our children the resilience that will help them live life beyond the small confines of what they viewed life to be.
Life is not full of Sunshine and Rainbows
Many of us have probably seen all or some of the Rocky films in our life time. What do you think of them? Can you relate to the story that Sylvester Stallone was trying to tell? Can you see the theme of always knowing how to get up when beaten to the ground? As much as the films are great entertainment, they also hold some remarkable and inspiring themes for success.
Life is indeed not full of sunshine and rainbows. It is in fact full of pitfall and snarls ready to devour the most people. Falling down is common. The successful ones are those that found a way to stand up despite all failures, defeats and disappointments.
It is with this in mind that we need to teach people to build resilience to be able to bounce back up when they take a fall. Can resilience be taught? You bet!
8 Ways to Build Resilience
1. Having Empowering Options
In any given situation we face, having more empowering options is the key to come back from a disappointment. What can you do when you fail a test? What can you do when you receive a “Dear John” letter? What can you do when facing bankruptcy?
These are important questions that must be asked. People who experience distress must be able to think of empowering options available, even if these options are simple ones. They provide an outlet to greater and positive experiences in life. The key is to open the next door and see where it leads us.
2. Having Reference Points
When we fail at something, what can we relate this too? Are there people who had experienced this before us? What did other people in the similar situation do to overcome the same circumstances pressing us? We have to find these reference points to draw strengths from.
3. Having Initiative
Every time we experience defeats, we must learn to take charge. We must accept responsibility for our own doings. We must be the one to seek the solutions. The solutions might not be immediate, but they will come eventually when we decide right at the start to take charge of our downfalls.
4. Be Creative
Being creative is about exploring all possible ways out of our own ruts. It is only when we put our thinking cap on that creative ways can be found to solve our problems. Too often, people are simply too lazy to think. We must replace this laziness with our thinking caps and never lie down until we find a way out.
5. Have a Sense of Humor
Apart from all the death, poverty and war we see in this world, nothing that happens to us is ever final. No break ups are fatal. No foreclosure spells an end of life. No economic crash signals the end of our times. It is how we perceived these activities that determine if they are fatal.
Therefore there is a pressing need to have the sense of humor to laugh it off. To see things on the brighter side of life. When we can take things in their right perspective it will usually mean that we will have the resilience to deal with changes in our lives.
6. Be Independent
People with low resilience tend to be dependent people. From young they are trained to depend on others. They spend too little time fending for themselves. They have not left the comfort of their home environment. Hence, when they face real life, things befall them fast and furious.
Adults must make it a point to teach the young independence from a young age. Let the kids find their way home. Let them taste defeat without support. Let them earn their own little money as they grow up. Children with such exposure will build resilience better in life.
7. Self Appreciation
Do you value your life? Do you value your talents? Do you know that you are a perfect individual being created to make this world better? There is something that you can contribute that only you can bring to the table. Do not leave this world without accomplishing this mission. That is a sin that have no return.
If people are able to grasp the significance and value of their own life, there will be resilience to withstand the inevitable knocks that throw us down. We know we are better than that and that we will arise to do our sacred tasks.
8. Service to Others
Find a way to serve others, for service to others is the greatest riches you can have. When one has a meaningful purpose in service to others, there is no time and resources spared for other things like self pity, remorse, anger and so on.
A Final Note on Resilience
Resilience of character is paramount to our human lives. It can be build. It must be built. Starting from a young age, these skills must be taught. Of all the waste of life, nothing is more than the waste of human potential. We lose more than a life when resilience is not present to preserve someone’s life. We lose the prospect of more life given.