Thought Leadership | 04.27.2017

Resilience: The Art of Bending Without Breaking

It’s past midnight, the wind is howling and the storm is raging. I can’t sleep. With clutched covers pulled to my nose, I watch the gale build with intensity. With every flash of lightening, I count “one-Mississippi, two-Mississippi, …” until the deafening boom of thunder inevitably follows.

That wind shakes our little home with every breath, and through my bedroom window, I watch our poor weeping willow tree being whipped side to side. All the time, fighting to stand its ground. The stronger the wind, the stronger the fight for survival. The willow bends and gives with every gust but then bounces back in its absence.

As night fades to dawn, the storm passes, but its impact is visible. The old oak tree’s broken branches rest on our roof. The lofty pine laid on its side with its roots ripped from the earth. But our weeping willow stands there in defiance. Almost untouched. It’s resilient.

When we think of what it means to be resilient—or what resilience looks like—we often go to the extremes. We think of parents who experience the unspeakable (losing a young child) and somehow fight their way through, breathing, living and even smiling again. Or perhaps we consider the returning solider, entering a new battleground as he re-acclimates to life post-war. We may even think of someone we know personally who is going through something particularly harrowing but whose spirit, grit and tenacity is nothing short of awe-inspiring.

These are incredible examples of resilience. Of superheroes looking unimaginable tragedy or challenge straight in the eye and finding a way through. In fact, one of my favorite quotes about this mindset comes from Plutarch, a Greek biographer and essayist, who argued: “The future bears down upon each one of us with all the hazards of the unknown. The only way out is through.”

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But there are quieter moments of resilience too that are also inspiring; and they are the moments we miss the most. They are the times I refer to as “quiet moments.” These are times where we manage to successfully overcome a challenge and find a heightened sense of inner strength and centeredness. But because it’s not a typically an overly-inspirational moment, it goes missed. In this space, we search deep inside of ourselves finding the strength to face the brutal truth, discover the passion and purpose to move forward, and we learn to become agile and malleable.

In these moments of “quiet strength,” we may even touch those around us with our words, expressions and actions. In so doing, we have the power to transfer our strength, resilience and grit to those who need it most; this is perhaps one of the most profound ways we can impact those closest to us.

Throughout our life we see so many different shades and colors as it relates to resilience—both the loud and quiet moments. But, at its core, resilience is about successfully embracing the challenges and opportunities that come your way. It’s about being adaptable and agile; having the ability to bend but not break; and, most importantly, having the conviction to bounce back.

Many people possess an ineffable quality that allows them to be knocked down by life and circumstances and, somehow, come back stronger than ever. They possess an inner strength that many times they do not know they have. Is this you? Are you resilient? Figuratively, can you take a punch, get knocked down, and bounce right back?

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Though we all have it in us, all too often we struggle to be resilient and in the face adversity, we shrink. But why?

In part 2 of this series I will explore how to tap into the characteristics that draw out our ability to be resilient. We will also explore the power of “bending but not breaking.” In the meantime, I want to hear from you! Do you have a story of when you were your most resilient?