The Three Myths (and Truths) of Resilience
2 min read
What is Resilience? This definition of resilience that was developed from over a decade’s worth of qualitative interviews and collecting thousands of pieces of data, is as simple as it is powerful.
“Resilience is the ability to effectively address challenge, change, and complexity in a manner that allows us to be enhanced by the experience and not diminished.”
This definition is impactful because of what is and isn’t included. There are no phrases like “quickly recover” or “bounce back” because even though for years these phrases have been used in conjunction with resilience, they are actually myths.
They are not only untrue, but also effectively inhibit our ability to harness our resilience. We’ve been conditioned to believe falsehoods such as: “If I don’t go back to the way I was before a challenge, change, or experience of complexity, I’m not resilient”. Let’s dissect the three most prevalent myths in greater detail...
Myth #1: Resilience is about bouncing back.
Truth: Resilience is the act of bouncing forward, not back.
Challenges fundamentally and forever change us. Resilience is the process of experiencing challenges and allowing ourselves to be foundationally altered by way of engaging with our experience. Perhaps you’ve heard of the concept of neuroplasticity, the idea that our neurons are constantly growing and changing, firing and rewiring into networks that are mirroring our experiences. According to neuroplasticity, any experience we have changes us on the neural, molecular level, as our neurons reorganize to best serve us. Allowing ourselves to be changed by our experiences is a hallmark of our human resilience, not a weakness.
Myth #2: Resilience is about waiting for time to heal our wounds.
Truth: Resilience is an active process, not passive.
We often hear phrases in the English language like “time heals all wounds.” These types of messages suggest that healing is a passive process, rather than an active engagement in our personal, emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual evolution. While time does lessen the sting of wounds, losses, and grief over time, resilience is more akin to Andy Warhol’s quote “Time changes things, but you have to change them yourself.” This means that in order to effectively harness the lessons of our experience, we have to be present, active participants of our lives and learn from our challenges.
Myth #3: We are inoculated with a fixed amount of resilience at birth.
Truth: Resilience is dynamic.
Many people believe that you’re either resilient, or you’re not. Or believe that each person is inoculated with a certain amount of resilience at birth, and that’s all we get for our lifetimes. The truth is that resilience is like a muscle. The more we engage in resilient practices, the more we can enhance our resilience “muscle” over time. Challenge, change, and complexity tend to be the elements of our life experience that most strengthen our resilience.
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About The Author
Dr. Taryn Marie Stejskal
Dr. Taryn Marie is a foremost international expert on resilience, in both leadership and life. She is the former Head of Executive Leadership Development at Nike, Global Leadership Development at Cigna, and founded Resilience Leadership, where she serves as the Chief Resilience Officer (CRO), leveraging over a decade of research on resilience, that gave birth to the empirically-based framework, The Five Practices of Particularly Resilient People, leveraged for optimal sustainability, productivity, and creativity.