Having grown up in a home that wasn’t always the picture-perfect view of a nurturing environment, I have been interested in the concept of resilience as it is used to discuss children who are exposed to negative events but bounce back from them to live happy, successful, and fulfilling lives.

I have considered resilience part nature, part nurture. Thus, I was surprised to hear Seth Godin refer to resilience as a choice. So what if this is a skill that we can choose?

Merriam Webster online dictionary defines resilience as “an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.”

Research has shown that children growing up in “at-risk” environments are more resilient if there are resources in their environment offering more nurture, such as a grandparent, teacher, or other mentor in their lives. But there also seems to be something more innate – some children are more resilient than others because of internal factors that they may be born with. However, the factors identified seem to involve a way of thinking that we can in fact choose as adults:

[T]he resilient children had what psychologists call an “internal locus of control”: they believed that they, and not their circumstances, affected their achievements. The resilient children saw themselves as the orchestrators of their own fates. In fact, on a scale that measured locus of control, they scored more than two standard deviations away from the standardization group.

~ Maria Konnikova

So what if we choose to believe that we can change circumstances rather than blaming others when anything goes wrong? Could this actually make us more resilient after the bad events that happen as a part of life? It seems like we could. (The article cited above goes on to discuss additional support for this if you are interested).

Perhaps you have seen a triathlete get injured training for a big race, but they don’t seem too affected by it and learn how to nail recovery, to come back strong on the other side? You may have also seen triathletes get injured and get very down and depressed, maybe even pissed off that they cannot continue on the path they were on before the injury. In each scenario, an athlete is choosing how to deal with their current situation. How do you react when things do not go as planned such as an injury, a displeasing race performance, getting food poisoning the night before a race, etc? Would you rather respond differently?

I think I agree with Seth Godin, it looks like we probably can choose to be resilient. I still think it is a skill that we can learn to be better at over time, but something that is well worth the effort. Some thoughts to ponder for the next time you face adversity.

I will leave you with this quote from Naval Ravikant in Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss:

The most important trick to be happy is to realize that happiness is a choice that you make and a skill that you develop. You choose to be happy, and then you work at it. It’s just like building muscles.

~ Naval Ravikant

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