There are many popular attempts to summarize the challenges of everyday existence. Some of the more humorous ones are found on bumper stickers- insights boiled down to pithy statements. One I saw lately that made me laugh was, “there is no gravity, the earth sucks”. Quite an insight on life!
There are other avenues of course to describe life, from scholarly tomes to the movies (remember Forrest Gump and his “life is like a box of chocolates”?). My favorite description comes from a Jewish rabbi:
“Life is tough. It takes up a lot of your time, all your weekends, and what do you get in the end of it?…I thing that the life cycle is all backward. You should die first, get it out of the way. Then you live twenty years in an old-age home. You get kicked out when you’re too young. You get a gold watch, you go to work. You work forty years until you’re young enough to enjoy retirement. You go to college; you party until you’re ready for high school; you go to grade school; you become a little kid; you play. You have no responsibilities. You become a little baby; you go back into the womb; you spend your last months floating; and you finish up as a gleam in somebody’s eye.”
I love that! Today though, it seems as if the gleam is gone. So much going on so quickly it creates stresses and strains on a continual basis. That isn’t to say that there aren’t wonderful aspects of our times. There are many. It’s just that past comforts and ways of solving our problems are fast receding. What is needed today is a new orientation; a new way of being, thinking and doing that are effective in engaging contemporary challenges. We need a mental fortitude and emotional resolve that are up to the task. We also need behaviors that are appropriate to the moment. So how do we develop body, mind, and soul capable of taking advantage of the next round of changes? Through resilience.
Diane Coutu summarized the depth of resilience in an excellent Harvard Business Review article and described its dynamic this way:
“Resilience is a reflex, a way of facing and understanding the world, that is deeply etched into a person’s mind and soul. Resilient people and companies face reality with staunchness, make meaning of hardship instead of crying out in despair, and improve solutions from thin air. Others do not.”
Who you are as a person is revealed most tellingly by who you are during times of conflict and crisis. It's you're ability to bounce back and thrive from life changing times.