“The strongest oak of the forest is not the one that is protected from the storm and hidden from the sun. It’s the one that stands in the open where it is compelled to struggle for its existence against the winds and rains and the scorching sun.” – Napoleon Hill
When you think about the people who’ve had the most influence in your life, what has factored into your choices? Maybe it was wealth or power. Perhaps it was their sense of humor, or the way they dressed.
For me, the people who have shaped my life and who have had the most impact on me have been those who have found a way to build resilience. And let me tell you—resilience is not easily won. You seldom find it in people to whom things were handed. People who don’t have much ‘skin in the game’ don’t have much reason to become resilient.
What I’m talking about are the women who have been single mothers, raising children while working two and three jobs. Or the men who have worked seven days a week at the blue-collar job so they could put a little bit in the bank for their children’s futures.
I’m talking about children who have had their bodies abused without their permission, and still grow up to learn to love and trust others. Or the people who have learned to overcome physical disabilities and still build businesses, win medals and become leaders.
Not everyone knows but our only President to win four elections was wheelchair-bound by polio. That’s right—Franklin D. Roosevelt not only ran the country for 12 years, he brought us out of the Great Depression and through the Second World War. He implemented social programs that are still in existence today. And he accomplished all this after his crippling diagnosis at the age of 39.
For me, just when I start to feel I’m just too tired to keep on keepin’ on, I reach for that boost of resilience that I have found in knowing others, and as I’ve come to know myself. This doesn’t mean that we have to be disabused by others or even by ourselves—sometimes we just need to take it easy. As I read somewhere, if you’re facing a busy day, take a break. If you’re facing a very busy day, take a nap.
Self-care is part of building a resilient spirit. It’s recognizing when you give yourself an extra push, or when you need to stop for a reassessment. It’s recognizing when what you’re doing is working for others, but not for you. It’s when you learn to say the word ‘no.’ It’s always when you learn to stretch beyond the boundaries of your own life, and consider the greater good. It’s when you think of leaving a legacy that can make a viable difference for generations to come. It’s when you realize that you can do great things with small gestures.
Another part of building resilience is to be a lifelong learner. Stretch your spirit, heart and mind. Be open to the lives of others, and listen to their stories. Find out what you can do, right where you are, to affect change. When you uncover that we are all linked to one another on the planet, you realize that our success–or our failure–depends upon our ability to help one another get through this thing called life.
Resilience is the ‘thing’ we earn after we think we can’t keep on going. It’s one more step. It’s one more hour. It’s one more prayer.