Survival of the Resilient: Skills for Handling Life’s Inevitable Disappointments
Sometimes life can feel like the reality television show, Survivor. Especially if you are a teen or young adult, life can feel like a high stakes game where there is every chance you’ll be eliminated in the next round. The reason it’s so scary is that it’s often true. Very few people get a consistent “winning streak”. Most of us win some and lose some. Sometimes we even lose a lot. One of the most important skills that a young person can learn is how to roll with, even learn from, set-backs.
Maybe you’ve been told that you came in second for several jobs you really thought were going to be yours. It’s nice to know that you came in second but the bottom line is that the other guy got the job and you didn’t. Maybe you found the perfect house or apartment, only to be told that 10 minutes ago, someone else took it. Maybe you’ve had the experience of gearing up the courage to ask someone out only to be told, “Gee, I wish you’d asked sooner. I’ve already made plans.”
Disappointments like these are common but that doesn’t make them any less frustrating or painful. Especially after a series of near-misses, it’s easy to get depressed or anxious; to wonder if things are ever going to work out right; and to want to give up. As tempting as it may be to crawl under the covers and suck your thumb, don’t. To give in or to back away from challenges is to set yourself up for more defeats.
Instead, remind yourself that set backs are inevitable if you are ever going to advance yourself. To go for what you want is to come up against risk and even hardship. The alternative to doing so is to settle for a lesser job, the crummy apartment, or a lonely Saturday night. You really can do better than that.
Researchers have named the ability to bounce back from disappointments and even tragedy “resilience.” Some people have more of it than others by nature or temperament, it’s true. But the good news is that those same researchers didn’t stop with naming the ability to cope. They also isolated the skills that increase the odds for making a come-back and going for the goal again.
The emphasis is on being active. Resilience is not simply a personality characteristic. It’s an active, problem-solving approach to life. When resilient people experience a set-back, they don’t give up. Instead, they get busy and try to find another way to solve the problem, maybe several ways to solve the problem. Resilient people are involved – with other people; with the development of their own character and skills; with problems; in short, with life. In this sense, it is closely related to self-esteem. If positive self-esteem in more areas of life is the goal, resilience is the means.