Readings on Resilience

“A good half of the art of living is resilience.” Alain de Botton

“Life doesn’t get easier or more forgiving, we get stronger and more resilient.”  Steve Maraboli

“There’s no such thing as ruining your life. Life’s a pretty resilient thing, it turns out.” Sophie Kinsella

We all have these moments when the rose loses its color for some reason, or the music no longer stirs us, or the sweet, gentle soul across from us no longer seems to soften our heart. To move in and out of meaning is as natural as moving in and out of light because clouds form and dissipate… It reminds me of a man who built a home on a cliff by sea, only to have a month-long fog roll in. He cursed the place and moved away, but a week after he’d gone, the fog cleared. Being human, we all have fogs roll in around our heart, and often, our lives depend on the quiet courage to wait for them to clear.
Mark Nepo

A resilient community… is shaped by… mutuality of purpose fired by originality of ideas that find appreciation not judgment when expressed. The unity in community is not uniformity; its vibrancy is the magnification of collective consent to live in harmony with each other and with gratitude (and perhaps a bit of awe) for the habitat in which living takes place….Resilience is a quality of thought that is humble and flexible enough to receive a push without being deflated/resentful; expectant and joyous enough to receive new ideas with ‘oh wow!’ instead of ‘oh no!’; resourceful and grateful enough to appreciate the good at hand and not forever long for the greener grass that lies over there (where?). Community is strengthened by the skipping, hopping, leaping, dancing, walking, even stumbling in one direction of many feet of all sizes. Monocultures promise efficiency of cultivation in uniformity, but their promise and premise have proved problematic over the longterm, whether in the cultivation of crops or in communities that thrive. While the recuperative quality of springing back into shape has appeal, living solely as a recovering community suggests stasis and not progress. A community has to have forward thrust too–the elasticity to reform, stretch, adjust, and delight in each new vision of purpose which springs it forward not just back. The heart of a community beats strongly/resiliently when its constituents love and trust each other, even when they disagree. A resilient community looks…with love.
Gigi Leach

More and more I have come to admire resilience
Not the simple resistance of a pillow, whose foam
returns over and over to the same shape, but the sinuous
tenacity of a tree: finding the light newly blocked on one side,
It turns to another. A blind intelligence, true.
But out of such persistence arose turtles, rivers,
mitochondria, figs – all this resinous, unretractable earth.
Jane Hirshfield

The most transformative and resilient leaders that I’ve worked with over the course of my career have three things in common: First, they recognize the central role that relationships and story play in culture and strategy, and they stay curious about their own emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. Second, they understand and stay curious about how emotions, thoughts, and behaviors are connected in the people they lead, and how those factors affect relationships and perception. And, third, they have the ability and willingness to lean in to discomfort and vulnerability.
Brene Brown

Sweet Darkness
When your eyes are tired
the world is tired also.

When your vision has gone
no part of the world can find you.

Time to go into the dark
where the night has eyes
to recognize its own.

There you can be sure
you are not beyond love.

The dark will be your womb

The night will give you a horizon
further than you can see.

You must learn one thing.
The world was made to be free in.

Give up all the other worlds
except the one to which you belong.

Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness
to learn

anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive

is too small for you.
 David Whyte from The House of Belonging ©1996 Many Rivers Press

So, people who are psychologically hardy it turns out believe very prevalently some things about the world. So if you believe that the world is a meaningful place, if you see yourself as having agency within that world, and if you see successes and failures as being placed in your path to teach you things, you are more likely to be psychologically hardy and therefore more resilient in the face of trauma. This is one reason why some researchers postulate that systems of faith have been so resilient themselves in human history, and so prevalent, so sticky. Not because the individual content of the beliefs or any particular belief about, within those cosmologies is strictly true or not. But because believing in those kinds of things are the very kinds of things that confer psychological resilience upon us.
Andrew Zolli, from an interview with Krista Tippitt

The keys to becoming more resilient are faith, patience and courage. Do your best to heal and recover. Fight your way back into life with fierce determination. Balance it with self-care and compassion. Grieve and vent when you need to. Summon the courage to face a new day. Surround yourself with love and support. And make the best of your new normal. The more resilient you is a kinder, humbler, more patient and courageous version of the old you.
Ken Druck

Math is a subject that allows for precision. If I ask you “What’s seven times seven?” you know the exact answer: forty-nine.
But what if I ask you “How do you deal with fear?”
Life—and the subject of resilience—rarely allows for perfect precision. Real life is messy. Attacking your fear can lead to courage, but there is no equation for courage, no recipe for courage. It gets mixed up with anger and anxiety, with love and panic.
This isn’t an excuse for sloppy thinking: the virtues have been the subject of rigorous, disciplined thought from before Aristotle to today. But when the question is “How do we live a resilient life?” we also have to be ready to accept ambiguity and uncertainty.
There are strategies for dealing with fear and pain. There are strategies for building a life rooted in purposeful work. There are strategies for building a home that is happy even when things are hard. But the strategies won’t reach into your life and resolve your fear or your pain. You have to live your answer.
And look, Walker, nobody’s ever going to hand you a prize for resilience. There is no certificate. No T-shirt. (And don’t even think about a tattoo.) There will be no line to mark the point in your life at which you “got” resilience.
With resilience, you and I are not in search of an achievement, but a way of being.
Remember all of this when you go to live your own answer. You demand a lot from yourself. In this case, you’re going to need to be patient, even kind to yourself.
You won’t be able to judge most of what you do by a standard of imperfect or perfect. Usually, our standard will simply be worse or better.
But better sounds good, doesn’t it?
Eric Greitens from Resilience  © 2015

“Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.” Helen Keller

“Resilience is based on compassion for ourselves as well as compassion for others.”  Sharon Salzberg


Longer Texts

This article from UU World considers resilience through a traditional tale.

From the Marc and Angel HackLife blog, this post offers tips on being resilient in times of struggle.

This article looks at five ways to increase resiliency.

In this article from Nature, scientists look at the biological markers of resilience.


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