Have you ever heard of putting a rubber band on your wrist to remind you of something you need to do or help you focus? I used to wear one while in college. During most of my classes, I forgot it was there. But when it came to statistics and anything with formulas (math was not my forte), I would snap that rubber band against my wrist as a deterrent to the negative mind chatter that threatened to make me want to give up or hurry through. It helped me to focus on the problem.
Math was a struggle for me. But thanks to my desire to graduate and maintain a great GPA, and to that motivational rubber band “bracelet,” – I passed every class involving math and formulas, and in the last few got A’s. It felt good to get those grades, but it felt fantastic to overcome a hurdle and reframe my perspective on my relationship with math! Persistence was the grease to my wheels, and the rubber band bracelet was the spark plug that fired up my brain.
Bumps in the Road
I am learning a new computer program now and have hit some bumps in the road that make me question why I am straining my brain. There are many reasons why I want to persevere and a few that make me want to quit. In my mind, I hear these echoing phrases from my childhood:
– Practice makes perfect
– As you sow, so you shall reap
– Nothing worthwhile comes easy
It is hitting those bumps, failing, and starting again to reach a level of competence that gives me the most satisfaction in the long run. Why is that? What is it in our nature that makes accomplishing something against the odds so much more rewarding?
Path to Resilience
Surviving tough times – whether physically, psychologically, or mentally – helps make us resilient. Here are the ingredients I believe make us resilient:
– Persistence – to keep trying, endure, not give up
– Intention – Thinking through your purpose & goals, narrowing your focus
– Integrity – Being honest with yourself about your abilities
– Courage – Putting yourself forward to step up, lean in, learn, be judged
– Gratitude – Being humble, acknowledging accomplishments, being kind to yourself, appreciating your “teachers” and “life lessons.”
Persistence and Powering Through
Basic training in the military and boot camp at the gym are places where we can learn the value of persistence in developing resilience. We often go through pain to reach a new state of being. Joining a class – whether academic, creative, or social – requires courage. Building resilience requires being open to the outcome of an experience, whether you are successful the first time or not.
Winston Churchill said, “Never give in–never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense.” I am a fan of this quote. I look at the last part and acknowledge that there are times when we have given it our best, stayed on track as long as possible, and come to the realization that the thing you are doing will not be productive or successful. That is not giving up; that is making a conscious decision to take what you learned into consideration and apply it to something better suited to you. Life is short, and there is a point of diminishing returns when it comes to persistence.
Resilience, however, is something of high value. We may not have enjoyed the journey of building it, but resilience serves us well in good times and bad. Losing a job, losing a loved one, or surviving a serious illness are all examples of experiences that build resilience. And having resilience is the core characteristic that helps us make it through life’s toughest challenges. Many less intense situations also build resilience; having to take a course over, ending a toxic relationship, recovering from a twisted ankle to start running again. Each time we face something that is a challenge, it builds our resilience. Each incident is another rubber band to add to our resilience ball. The rubber band ball is a perfect example of the ability to bounce back. The combined bands of experience, working together over time, provide us with strength and flexibility.
The rubber band ball represents the Superpower of Resilience! May yours be colorful!