Seven Qualities of Resilience

Kathryn Den Houter has been a teacher and psychologist for forty-five years.Currently, she is retired and enjoying writing and reading all the books she had pondered. The last thirty years of her professional life was spent in Grand Rapids, Michigan. This is where she raised her four children with her late husband, Len. Her children Jon, Jenna, Jess and Benjamin are embarking on their own careers. She has remarried and lives in Indian River County in the winter and Leelanau County in the summer.

As a practicing psychologist, I was often puzzled why one individual would surmount unbelievable challenges to lead a happy life, while another was “spinning their wheels” with half the worries. What made these individuals respond differently when confronted with life’s struggles? I became aware of seven resilient qualities that emerged when working with my most successful clients. These same qualities are present in the life stories of prominent personalities.

The first resilient quality is the ability to connect with nature. When nature becomes a soothing agent and a personal trainer, physical and emotional challenges are manageable. Teddy Roosevelt was a president that connected with nature to alleviate pain from family tragedies and to heal his childhood asthma. Many of my successful clients had the ability to find an inner peace when taking long walks and communing with nature.

The second resilient quality is having a tireless curiosity. Being adaptable and being able to handle change is the earmark of someone who is resilient. Maria Montessori is the famous person that didn’t take “no” for an answer. She defied stereotypes and had a driving curiosity that helped her find the truth. Her legacy was revolutionary because it changed the way we look at how children learn.

Learning how to walk through and make sense of the dark is another resilient quality. One’s dark side can take many forms. It might be blindness, fear of being alone or it might be a huge personal loss. Whatever it might be, it has to be understood in order for an individual to be resilient. One of the most resilient individuals is Stevie Wonder. People told him he had three strikes against him: you’re black, you’re poor and you’re blind, but Stevie said, “God said to me ‘I will make you rich in the spirit of inspiration, to inspire others, as well as, create music to encourage the world to a place of oneness and hope and positivity.’ Stevie chose to believe what God said.

The fourth resilient quality is being able to overcome scarcity with creativity. When faced with a short fall, what does a resilient person do? They find creative ways of solving this scarcity. One of most resilient presidents we have had is Abraham Lincoln. He was able to overcome poverty with a resourceful use of opportunities in his environment. Also, he is the only president who has a patent on record which he developed after he was able to avert a disastrous shipping accident. He used creative problem solving strategies.

Another resilient quality is the ability to connect with helpful people. Franklin Roosevelt was an individual who successfully garnered the help of others. His rise to the presidency and the teamwork he engendered to help him with his polio paralysis was truly remarkable.

The sixth indicator of resilience is the power of reflection. In order to change and make circumstances better for yourself, it is essential that the individual take the time to look back and evaluate their behaviors. By doing this, one is able to make the necessary changes. Charles Wesley, a minister and musician was woefully unhappy with his life. Even though, he followed all the proscribed religious rules, he felt trapped. With a painful, but necessary reflection, he found freedom of expression by writing and sharing over eight thousand hymns.

Finally, the last quality of a resilient individual is finding a purpose for living. A mission or goal for life, provides a reason for being and helps a person maintain momentum to have a resilient life. Mother Teresa is a prominent person that had a clear mission. She was able to keep her eye on her goals. This kept her from distraction and gave her the strength to move forward and be a resilient person.

Many people have a reservoir of inner strengths that can be cultivated to create resilience. It is something that can be learned. These qualities are right at our fingertips.



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