It is a great word: resilience. Just saying it out loud causes you to want to sit up straighter, breath a bit deeper, look to the horizon. Some of us were born with the roots of resilience woven into our DNA; some of us have had to work lifetimes to hone it. But we all need it these days. In the early weeks and months of 2020, I know that I kicked into a different gear to navigate those challenging times. Each of us was challenged to power through. Resilience is about our capacity to recover, to be restored.
Dr. Kenneth Ginsberg is a pediatrician in Philadelphia, credited with naming seven crucial elements for building resilience, the ‘7 C’s’: competence, confidence, connection, character, contribution, coping and control. He writes about this in the context of helping parents raise resilient children, but I think the list is informative and helpful for each of us as we battle racism, pandemics, climate change and hyper-partisan political landscapes and challenging business conditions.
I have been spending a little time looking for inspiration on resilience; here are my role models so far:
- The staffs in emergency rooms and COVID units around the world; it is hard to imagine how deeply some of them are needing to dig for the resiliency to respond as the pandemic takes another scary turn in its path through our lives. The competency they collectively exhibit is inspiring; their capacity to cope has had to be stretched, largely through relying on their connections to each other and the confidence they have in each other. Collective resilience.
- Teachers who have been thrown so many curves in the past 18 months: there is no way to overstate their impact in keeping students at the center of the learning process even as the ecosystem was blown up. Like medical staffs, there are aspects of ‘team sport’ for teachers in a school – the sense of connection and collaborative coping. But there is also something entrepreneurial about resilient teachers: competence for sure, and a confidence that enables them to present as controlled when so much is really not under control. Creative resilience.
- Communities ravaged by wildfires or flooding; having people with the character to come together, pick up the pieces and rebuild is awesome to follow. I have never experienced having my home or business burned down or extensively flooded: I honestly cannot imagine how heart-breaking it would be to go through. And yet millions of people each year do go through it and build the next generations of those communities and neighborhoods. Civic resilience.
- Olympians! Athletes have always been remarkable examples of the resiliency potential of human beings – but watching the Tokyo games takes the observation to a whole new level of awesome. Simone Biles is a poster child for all of the ‘7 Cs’: competence, check; confidence (in her teammates), check; connection, check; character, check; contribution, check; coping, check; control, check. And that her teammates (two from Minnesota!!) rose to the occasion is as important an example as Biles’ own—every member of that USA women’s gymnastics team ended up with a medal of one color or another. Competitive resilience.
I have no illusions that I can be a world-class athlete any more than I could be a beloved teacher or a life-saving nurse or physician. But I so appreciate the opportunity to learn and explore my capacity for resiliency in my own spheres of influence and accountability. Good luck in your journey.