Resilience - the ability to suffer hardship and not falter - is one of the most important determinants of whether we succeed or fail in achieving our desires.
According to an article in HBR How Resilience Works (May 2002 p46) there is an increasing body of evidence showing that resilience can be learned. Resilient people possess three characteristics:
- A staunch acceptance of reality: Resilient people have very down-to-earth views of those parts of reality that matter to survival. That's not to say that optimism doesn't have a place - conjuring a sense of possibility can be a very powerful tool. But it is only when we are crystal clear about our reality that we can really deal with it - if we are trying to engage with what we imagine rather than what is, then we set ourselves up for failure.
- A deep belief, often buttressed by strongly held values, that life is meaningful: Resilient people make meaning out of their suffering and set-backs enabling them to build bridges from present-day hardships to a fuller, better constructed world. For example, Viktor Frankl in Man's Search for Meaning, his account of life at Auschwitz, tells of finding a sense of purpose through, in part, imagining himself giving a lecture after the war on the psychology of the concentration camp.
- An uncanny ability to improvise: Resilient people have the ability to make do with whatever is at hand and imagine possibilities where others are confounded. So they have more choices and are more resourceful.