Masten, a pioneering figure in the world of resilience research, was an army kid who spent much of her childhood moving about the country. This fostered a sense of rootlessness which directs much of her research energies today: “As a kid, I moved around a lot. It is probably not a coincidence that I now do research on refugees, immigrants, homeless, highly mobile families. A lot of my work has focused on people who are moving around and need to adapt, whether they are migrating for positive reasons or they’re fleeing from war zones or disasters.” Of her work with people who have faced severe trauma, be it refugees fleeing war zones, little children growing up homeless or abused and tormented substance addicts, Masten says, “Resilience is common and it typically arises from the operation of normal rather than extraordinary human capabilities, relationships, and resources. In other words, resilience emerges from ordinary magic.”
Developing resilience is not just for the hard times. Klau says, “Living resiliently represents a whole new way of being and doing. In this way, resilience isn’t just for the hard times. It’s for all times. Empowering us to live, love, and work adventurously in the face of change, it builds a well from which we can draw for the rest of our lives.” With this sentiment Klau echoes Greek stoic philosopher Epitectus who said, “People are not afraid of things, but of how they view them.”
Like all worthwhile human qualities, resilience can be developed by anyone at any time. It requires a combination of individual resources and actively nurtured core qualities. The foundations of resilience include psychological resources such as a flexible self-concept that permits people to change key features of their self-definition in response to changing circumstances, a sense of autonomy and self-direction and environmental mastery and competence. A personality that can easily adapt to change, a strong sense of optimism and a positive self-image are irreplaceable. The ability to regulate and control emotions and impulses is equally important. Lastly, a sense of humour will get you through the worst of them.
The accompanying set of core qualities that need to be cultivated, according to positive psychologist Barbara Frederickson, are thus. The most crucial one is mindfulness- to be active and engaged in one’s present, rather than being a passive witness to the vagaries of life. Like its cousin authenticity, mindfulness is an obvious way of being, yet one that is infinitely harder to embrace. If you’ve got the mindfulness figured out, the rest will be a cakewalk (well not quite, but almost).
Carrying on with Frederickson’s qualities that rear resilience, the first is compassion. When you are kind, supportive and not judgemental then, “If mindfulness brings the wisdom to see clearly, then compassion brings a loving heart” (Neff, 2011). Next is acceptance. Clear objective acceptance brings with it the clarity to view facts as they are and not be swayed by emotions. As Klau puts it, “Acceptance isn’t about ‘giving up’. It is having the strength to ‘let go’ of control and stop fighting reality.”
Openness is penultimate on the list, “You’re progressively open to viewing even the most difficult situations as opportunities for growth. You trust that they have something to teach you, and you expect to learn.” And lastly it is creativity. Writer Erica Jong said, “Everyone has talent. What’s rare is the courage to follow it to the dark places where it leads.” When you give free reign to your creativity, it is not so with the intention or expectation of success. Harnessing your creativity is giving your mind free reign to probe every inch of your spirit. Mine your soul for all you are worth. It is, as Klau puts it, “Drawing on your power to visualize and create the results you desire. At the same time, in the spirit of acceptance, you are not attached or fixated upon your own expectations.”
In moments of crisis, of danger, of challenge; When our survival “instincts” tell us to run..Something deep inside of us rises up and we experience at the highest level, Who We Really Are. And in moments of self-realization, the Mind and the Soul answer as One.
Masten writes, “Ancient tales suggest that as long as humans have told stories, they have been intrigued with people who overcome adversity to succeed in life.” It is the same for us today, what with our obsession with superhero comics and movies. Adversity is as old as humanity. It is what has kept us, as a species, not just surviving but also thriving. It is what will take mankind to the next level. It is what will distinguish your life from being an ordinary one to being a great one. With the superpower of adversity and the (ordinary) magic of resilience, go and conquer the world.