In my career in the shipping sector, there was a man who was working as an operations supervisor. He was in his fifties. And he was the quintessential staff in the office, in my own opinion, but unrelentingly curious and full of life, and often very funny. He worked very hard, and with his experience in the job, he could accurately get the number of items being offloaded from a vessel, no matter how the loaders tried to trick him – the loaders mischievously tried to confuse the supervisor by deliberately scattering the goods so that the supervisor could not get the accurate number of items on the pallets as they were being dropped in the trucks, thereby giving them excesses to sell outside the port. But no matter how they tried to trick him, he would always get the accurate figures.
He was a quintessential survivor. He had lived through at least three major changes in the organization’s leadership. At home, he got married to a woman that infected him with HIV AIDS. Unknown to them, his three kids were born with the virus. Two succumbed to the illness, while one died in a traffic accident. The next to follow was his wife. Despite all these, he was cheerfully doing his job and still funny as usual. From what I gathered, after some years of difficulty in getting married again, he finally got married to the woman that divorced him two years after. It never showed on him.
Why do some people suffer real hardship and not falter? The answer is Resilience.
Resilience is the mental ability to recover quickly from depression, illness or misfortune. There are three characteristics people with resilience possess:
- a steadfast acceptance of reality
- a deep belief that life is meaningful, instead of crying out in despair
- an extraordinary ability to improvise, making do with whatever is at hand.
Acceptance of Reality
Optimism is synonymous with resilience, though not all optimistic people are resilient. Resilience stems from an optimistic nature, only as long as such optimism does not distort your sense of reality.
Just as most people slide into denial as a coping mechanism, resilient people have very sober understanding of those parts of reality that matter for their survival.
Denial of facts is making fool of yourself. There is no way you can wish facts away. The more you embrace the reality the more peace you have. That is the first step of dealing with a situation in your life. In the management class, I was told the first step in problem solving is to identify the problem. One problem is already solved once the problem is identified.
Search for Meaning
The ability to see and accept the reality is closely linked to the propensity to make meaning of the situation. Some people can easily be overwhelmed by a situation that they start wondering how on earth it could be them. But resilient people devise a framework out of the situation to make meaning out of it for themselves and others.
Many may not see the reason to live but resilient people find friends who will give meaning to their lives. In the meaning we find lies the value we place in life itself. The stronger the value we place in life, the more meaningful the meaning we find in the situation.
Resilient people Build bridges that link where they are and the future. Purpose is that future. It inadvertently removes the sense that the present is overwhelming.
Do not let a situation prevent you from finding a purpose. Let’s also not forget that we can find meaning in life even when confronted with a hopeless situation that cannot be changed.
Ability to improvise
The ability to see meaning in a situation opens your eyes to invent solutions without obvious tools. Resilient people make the most of what they have, putting objects to unfamiliar uses. State of despair blinds you to unfamiliar tools around you which could have been used to invent a solution to the situation.
When situations show up, resilient people survive, imagining things where others are overwhelmed. Resilient people do not overlook any slightest opportunity that drops by. Of course, they’re very sensitive and receptive.
It is noteworthy that resilient people cannot explain the processes they go through in their survival, or how they manage to go through them. They most times assign them to luck. But being lucky is not the same as being resilient.
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