The writings of the psychotherapist and author Amy Morin inspired me to enter a period of deep reflection one morning on the age-old issue of why some people succeed, survive and even thrive when others in similar circumstances fare far less well.
We all face setbacks, we all face defeat at times, but why do some manage to overcome their failures while others don’t?
Here are some of her ideas:
Resilient people recognise that no matter how bad the circumstances, their situation could always be worse.
Rather than being upset that their first attempt didn’t work, they choose to be grateful that they had the opportunity to try. They remind themselves that many of their setbacks probably won’t matter in the mid to long term.
As long as their life and health remain intact, they get up and continue their journey. The willingness of some people to seek a silver lining in every sad situation keeps their spirits up, their mood positive, as they continue behaving productively as before, even when things have repeatedly not worked the way they had hoped.
Resilient people look for the lessons they can learn.
Rather than make excuses for their failures, they take active steps to try and learn from each unhappy situation. When anger, sadness and a morose attitude seems set to overtake them, they pull themselves up by their bootstraps and logically, rationally, try to see themselves from the perspective of an impartial outside observer.
They identify skills, ideas and life lessons that can be learned from each failed opportunity, and view failure as evidence that they have stretched themselves beyond their present limits. A weight-lifter tears a muscle if lifting more than s/he should. So too we have our limits and must know them well. Resilient people know that each stumble is positive proof they have stepped outside their safe zone. And being able to admit this immediately it happens is an essential component to self-growth.
Resilient people know the parameters under which their lives work best.
Crucially, they get to know and respect their vulnerabilities and where their boundaries lie. They are never afraid to admit they have weaknesses and use failure as an opportunity to spot them. Rather than hide their mistakes, their approach assists them to develop strategies of becoming better people.
Resilient people acknowledge their strengths too, and use failure as an opportunity to help them recognise their positive attributes and reinforce them.
Whether that means recalling skills they have used during hard times in the past, or acknowledging the skills that have helped them get to where they are today, they know their strengths. When they acknowledge their capabilities, they do so without arrogance. They acknowledge what they do well in a humble and objective manner, and use their strengths to overcome their weaknesses.
Resilient people create a plan to become better people.
Instead of viewing failure as the end, they think of it as only the beginning. When their attempt to complete a project or task does not yield the results they seek, they pause to consider how to approach the issue differently the next time. Their self-worth does not depend on their achievements, and without deluding themselves as to their real motives in all situations, they learn how to feel good about themselves even when accomplishing less than their best. Their confidence allows them to face repeated failure with tenacity; for they know their resilience will in the end lead them to victory over themselves.
Her ideas had a big impact on me. With hard work, I’ve learned to use setbacks as opportunities to grow ever stronger and in addition to this, following a spiritual path has helped me become a more positive and resilient person!