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Alexander has been contributing for THS for over a year! While he attained a major in communications at SFU, he also recieved a minor in Psychology. Despite those accomplishments, Alex has also never had a full cup of coffee (crazy right?!). Alex is a lifelong sports fan and will defend his Seattle Seahawks to the death, especially if faced against a 49er fan. While Alex's long-term goal is to become a marriage counsellor, he also has a strong passion towards writing that he looks forward to exploring.

Strength Through Adversity: The Importance Of Resilience

Flower Desert

Image Credit: The Daily Good

Adversity can present itself to us in several ways. We can find it in work, in relationships, and in moments of failure adversity may never seem more overwhelming. When we think about what makes us feel down, we must also look at what helps keep us going. When I think about my own life, examples of people who are resilient help inspire me when I am feeling adversity. Resilience can present itself in people you admire for their careers, it can be present in yourself and it can be seen in people around you.

By examining the importance of how one chooses to look at failure, it is essential to explore the role that it has in resilience and how you can strengthen your own level of resilienceFailure, as well as resilience can manifest itself both in your career, such as in the example of Conan O’Brien; and in your own life as represented by my Mom’s battle with terminal cancer. Life is full of adversity but that does not mean it is is ever completely out of your control. Even if life can make you feel desperate or lost, these moments also present a monumental opportunity for growth.

While everyone will face tribulations if we view these negative aspects as still being in our control, it can be monumental in overall positivity and our outlook towards life. Our journey is far from being over, and with every setback it may just be a diversion that leads us on the path that we need to be on.

Psychologists are starting to identify key characteristics that are found in people that display resilience. The most important characteristic is how people choose to view failure. Everyone falls but we are only human, and can get up again.  The key to becoming resilient is found in how you choose to view your failings. While we all have moments of strength, it is how we react to adversity that can define us.  It is being able to look at your challenges as opportunities to become stronger and more complete.

That does not necessarily mean blind confidence. What it does entail however, is the confidence that these experiences will make you a more complete person. Falling is just one way to show you can improve yourself and to know that this experience will be used in a positive light because it is within your control. Life is not a race and you do not need to be at any stage that you are not ready for, but sometimes you might feel like you are falling behind. This sense of failure can be overwhelming, but if we are able to turn the phrase around and realize that our life is just that—our life—then we can keep plugging away without worrying about what others think. Being happy everyday requires someone to be able to be happy for their past because it shaped them into the person they are today. That belief that you’ll love the person you are, comes from a strong place of resilience and knowing you can tackle adversity. We grow in self-confidence and with that comes the belief that we are strong and capable of great things. When we do feel those setbacks if we can view them as healthy and normal, then we will truly be able to take them as moments for tremendous self-growth.

Even if you think that you know how your life will play out, it does not make that true. What matters though is that when your life does not go according to plan, you do not throw in the towel. You find a way to view your shortcomings as a moment to realize that while life is not what you think it is, it is not necessarily bad. When thinking about your career, in order to get to the place you want to get to, you may need to display resilience. Whether it is not getting a promotion, a job you want or something else, disappointment or “failure” will be an element at some point, but that does not mean it cannot be a good thing too. 

The most prominent example in the last few years was shown by comedian and late night talk show host, Conan O’Brien. O’Brien was a successful late night host for Late Night with Conan O’Brien on NBC for 16 years. He was promised to replace Jay Leno on The Tonight Show—his dream job. However, after only a few short months, O’Brien was told that he would be losing that job and replaced ironically by Leno. The Tonight Show was O’Brien’s biggest goal in his life and to lose the job in such a public way was devastating. Nobody would have blamed O’Brien for ripping into NBC, but on his last night on The Tonight Show, he promised people in a heartfelt speech to not become cynical, but to take it as another journey in his life.

O’Brien displayed both self-confidence and resilience in knowing that he will bounce back. The trend ‘I’m with Coco’ (Conan) gained leeway, leading Conan to not only do a stand-up tour but helped Conan find further success hosting a show on TBS. As Conan continues to excel, I am sure he would talk about how pleased he is to be in the place that he is.

The theme of O’Brien’s experiences was his ability to battle through adversity. While he could have complained, he instead worked harder, until finding a new path to expand his career. It is a reminder that even if his life was not ‘fair’, that he was able to push past that and continue to grow as a person.

If you’ve read my piece on cancer, you know that my mother is battling stage 4 colon cancer. While cancer is only one area that resilience is needed in life, it is definitely the most prominent example in my own. Albeit the prognosis has not been the best at times, the entire experience has been one of tremendous growth. I could choose to sit here and focus on the pain of her not being here, but I know that sadness would not prepare us for what it would actually be like if she was not here. Instead I and those around me choose to look at the positives that we have gained from the experience. Instead of think about how aware I’ve been of the amazing nature of our relationship and the finality of life, it is in that finality, in that briefness that life can be that also revealed is the beauty of life. These revelations and my perspective on cancer is not only a result of my own resilience, but is also my Mom’s tremendous optimistic and resilient spirit. It is my own mother’s belief that control of life is never truly taken away because ultimately you control how react.

My family and I display resilience by enjoying every day because you never really know when it all ends. It is as I look at every day as if it is a blank slate. At the end of every day, you can add and add to that slate be it with positives or negatives. Additionally at the end of every day, you wipe that slate clean and you have the chance to start over. You get to grow from the weaknesses of that day, and you grow in strength by looking at the successes. Yet by looking at every day as just a challenge of being happy, you too can strengthen your ability to be resilient when life does get tough. Every day is that fresh slate to expand and grow. Every day is capable of having beautiful things.

I take my Mom’s battle as a life lesson that even if things seem overwhelming that it cannot shake the belief that I know it will still be okay. There will be good days and bad before my Mom’s time is up and there will be good days and bad days after. The key is being resilient enough to know that when you feel down, that it does not mean life still can’t turn around and that you won’t learn from your struggles.

My family are able to lean on each other because we know that the other person is there to care. When I am having tough days, I am reminded by my friends how resilient I am and it makes me stronger.

Not every day is going to be easy, but those tough days may be the most important to me. I want to spend my career helping individuals who need emotional support in regards to cancer. I would not be able to pursue that career or look into making such an impact if not for my ability to be resilient. When I am having a tough day I think about how I am going to use these emotions to help others. I’m also humbled that I may have a career that follows my passion, while also allowing me to show people the importance of being resilient. To draw off examples like my mother and using that to make a difference for others will allow me to know that it was all worth it; to constantly be thinking of how can I take my experiences and use them to impact my friends lives. In the process of talking with your friends you can help instil faith in them that your tough experiences while tough will also help shape you into future you, and you’ll be more complete of a person because of your experiences. When you are able to look at every life as an opportunity to learn something that will help others, life becomes a lot more meaningful.

Image Credit: Michelle Doherty

Resilience can also be a monumental trait needed in any healthy relationship. With any relationship, adversity or moments of miscommunication can present itself but that does not mean you cannot bounce back from them. Through establishing a resilient nature in your relationship together, you are instilling the confidence that you can work through any issues. Disagreements become just that, disagreements, and that your relationship will get past any speed bump because you are always getting stronger as a team. Your relationship grows through communication and this is never more tested then how you as a team react to adversity. It is being able to look fights as learning curves without the attacks becoming personal. No longer do the fights start looking like it was his fault or hers, but instead are looked as team-building exercises for each other. The level of respect and admiration you have for your partner should be bigger than any petty disagreement, even if sometimes you don’t feel respected during a tiff.

There are days where the world might seem dark and overwhelming. There are moments where we break-down, but even in those moments there are moments of self-growth. We can choose to look at it that way. We can choose that way to react because we certainly cannot change the reality of the situation. It gives us solace to feel that life is still in our control.  Personally, it would have done my mother no favors to see me being broken up over her diagnosis. Those days come, and on those days I tell her. But we look at those days as days to grow because the happy days would not be as happy if there were never tough ones. If we are blind to the situation than we are blind to the strength we have taken from it. If we do not seek to become resilient and learn from our mistakes in life, than that too will limit the growth that can occur.

Resilience is a skill that can be learned throughout your lifetime and it is hardened by life experiences. These experiences can help keep you grounded and keep you pushing know it will all be okay. There may have been moments where you did not get the job you wanted or did not think you would get through a course and yet you did.

For every tough moment of our past, also needs to come the belief that I can do it because I have gotten past challenges that seemed impossible. Those past experiences strengthen me because I know the importance that resiliency had. It is important however as well, to realize that it is possible to continue taking active steps to become more resilient. 

Psychologists have found a link between volunteering and speaking to others who are optimistic can go a long way towards building up your own self-confidence. Helping others in need (be it friends or through volunteer efforts) is also a fantastic way to gain a sense of gratitude. If we are able to step outside of our own shoes and see the struggles of others—that sense of empathy and gratitude for the life you do have—it may make you feel stronger when you have your own struggles.

It is also being shown in studies that it is important to develop your problem-solving skills and are able to look at challenges as just that, challenges. It was stated by Randy Pausch during his now infamous ‘Last Lecture’ that brick walls are not there to keep you out, they are there to keep the people out that did not want it bad enough. That sense that you can solve any problem and know how to break things down is monumental in not feeling as overwhelmed. It also represents a shift in attitude. No longer are ‘brick walls’ there to keep you out, but only to test you. That shift helps switch the idea to the idea that nothing is impossible and that when you get through that wall that you will be stronger because you will know just how much you want it.

If you are able to establish goals in your own life and have the passion to pursue them, you can use that passion to build up your resilience as well. Life spins around us so quickly sometimes it feels like it is going to sweep us off of our feet. It is in moments like that, my mom would remind me, to focus on what we love. To focus on what helps keep us going, to seek out our passions and pursue them. To not let the pitfalls stop us because our journey is not finished being written and when we get to the end we’ll hopefully be satisfied with what led us to where we are, the good but also the bad. If our future is so undetermined, use your time focusing on what and who you love and look at the future with an optimistic edge. We don’t know either way, so by always keeping in mind the faith that you know it will all be okay, you can become more resilient.

Everyone falls. Everyone. What matters is what you make of the person that gets back upWhen we face adversity, it is by being able to look at life as a learning curve allows you to help soak up the joy of everyday. It helps give you confidence that things will be okay, even if you have no idea if that is true or not.

As we learn from examples like O’Brien or my mother, while we do not always know what life will give us, it does not mean we are not capable of succeeding. It is not easy, but neither of life. In the next 30 days, I have no idea what is going to happen. I have no idea how life will be if my mother does pass away. But I know it will be okay. Because it has to be okay. Life is all about growth and I am not done growing or inspiring others with what I have experienced, and that too helps me realize it will be okay. Life is about taking your tough days and finding strength. It is about coming together to help others, to be helped, to love and to be loved. If you get knocked down, get back up again (…ain’t never gonna keep you down!).

There is no situation that is 100% good or 100% bad. Every experience has the ability to be spun, to be learned from. As we fall, we learn and we become stronger, we become more resilient and we get stronger for our next challenge.  

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