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What does it really mean to be resilient? The recent hurricanes have demonstrated resilience as storm survivors overcome devastating losses and work on recovery. Shared adversities, such as catastrophic storms, bring out the best in people as they help each other adapt to changed circumstances.

That’s resiliency on a large scale. It can be more difficult to demonstrate resiliency when faced with a strictly personal tragedy, such as a loved one’s death, job loss, divorce or bankruptcy. The aftermath of a traumatic event be crippling if you let it.

Don’t Think of Yourself as a Victim

Resiliency is the opposite of victimization. Life is inherently unfair. At one time or another, everyone has been a victim and suffered a tremendous loss. However, victims can become trapped in the aftermath of a past event, unable to move forward. Resilient people don’t think of themselves as helpless victims.

Toughness is Only Part of Resiliency

Grieving, raging and feeling lost are normal reactions. However, at some point, it’s time to adapt to the new reality. Toughness keeps you from shattering under overwhelming pain. Resiliency is about achieving balance, learning to handle ongoing pain while working toward a better tomorrow.

Don’t be Afraid to Try Something Else

If one path isn’t working, a resilient person tries something else. Thomas Edison was the poster child for resiliency. He made thousands of light bulbs before he figured out how to make a usable, long-lasting light bulb.

Learning to be Resilient

Susan Kobasa, a well-respected psychologist, has identified three elements common to resilient people.

  • Challenge: Resilient people are challenged, not paralyzed, by their problems. They look for the lessons failures can teach (Edison and light bulbs). A work or relationship failure doesn’t mean you failed as a person.
  • Commitment: Ongoing commitments give you a reason to get out of bed each morning. Resilient people commit to relationships, beliefs and work.
  • Personal Control: Meditation can help you learn to distinguish between what you can change and what’s beyond your control. Empower yourself by focusing on tasks that matter and that are achievable, even if difficult. Worrying about uncontrollable events leaves you feeling powerless and lost.

Resiliency requires strength, courage, flexibility and a positive attitude; anyone can be resilient with enough practice and work.