Resilience in Life’s Challenges

By: Jeff Mortimore, RSI Community Connector


“Do not judge me by my success, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”
― Nelson Mandela

I love the word resilience and have always been drawn to stories of survival and overcoming the odds. Adversity is sure to come to each of us in life. Will we be crippled by it or see an opportunity for growth? The answer lies in our ability to be resilient.  

Perhaps the best definition of resilience is: “the power or ability to return to original form or position after being bent, stretched, compressed; elasticity. The ability to recover from illness, depression, setback, or the like: buoyancy.” 

This pandemic has challenged us in many ways. Many of the stories I hear these days are framed as stories of loss. Whether it’s losing a loved one, employment, or just everyday routine. We have all experienced loss in some way. But, for many of us, this loss has led to opportunity. 

First, resilience takes a lot of self-discipline. It takes a lot of concentration to block out the noise and the clutter of all the negative voices trying to get through. It would take a lot of self-reliance to avoid blame and contempt. That self-reliance to know that in your heart and mind you have the skills, the talent, and the strength to overcome adversity. Cultivating a resilient character turns failure into success. Our history is riddled with these stories, from celebrities to everyday heroes. A resilient person doesn’t give up. A resilient person will, in spite of obstacles and setbacks, transform failure into success. Resilience is not always an easy practice. Unfortunately, it is built through challenging experiences. However, after some personal experience and research, I‘ve been able to see some common threads.

Resilience comes from within: Resilience requires personal initiative. As a resilient person, you have to count on yourself to bounce back. Although resilience is an independent practice, it’s also tied to others. The more people you are responsible for, the greater your motivation to begin again- the stronger the reason, the stronger the motivation!

Resilience has an element of creativity: Resilience is rarely scripted. With resilience, you are able to look at a situation, assess the landscape, and creatively take the best way out. You need to develop the ability to ask yourself tough questions and answer honestly. If you had something to do with your outcome, be honest and take responsibility for it.

Resilience requires an element of humor: It’s hard to see the humor in loss, and you may cry until you start laughing, but a sense of humor is so important when turning your life around. You’ve got to take your goals and strategy seriously, and you have to take yourself seriously. But when the time is right, it’s also important to be able to laugh at yourself and your situation.  

The funny thing about resilience is that it has a compound effect on our sense of self-awareness.  Survival can lead to confidence and an ability to see yourself differently. This pandemic is challenging us all in different ways, some more than others. But in the end, it will be those that have developed resilience who will bounce back with more insight and confidence. It starts with clarity, and you don’t get it through the news. I urge you to take the time to look deeply into yourself and the lessons learned daily. What can I do better? Who can I treat better? What do I need to add or subtract in my life to lighten the load and heaviness of this situation? Resilience requires initiative, and today is a great day to start!

Learn more about Jeff’s work at RSI on our Community Connections page.