04: Resilience: Your Leverage to Grow Through Life's Challenges

04: Resilience: Your Leverage to Grow Through Life's Challenges

On occasion I'm asked to describe myself using one word. Current mood can affect my response though I typically default to a specific word…


But in this context I'll dial-it-up and go with...


Basically, resilience enables you to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions. It’s being “strong” or “sturdy.”

I wish I was resilient all the time. But no, I have my moments (and days) where I retreat and wait-for-the-storm-to pass.

Nonetheless, resilience is my goal!

Here’s the basics of what that looks like.

Resilience is synonymous with what Angela Duckworth refers to as “grit” (referenced by James Clear in his excellent content about “mental toughness”).

Being a resilient person means you’re more likely to:

  • Recover from setbacks
  • Embrace hardship as normal rather something to be resented
  • Have hope regardless of your circumstances
  • Take action when you don’t feel like it
  • Bend further than you thought possible
  • Respond appropriately even against popular opinion
  • Grow when the environment isn’t conducive to growth
  • Be flexible in a rigid environment

You get the idea.

Resilience fuels personal growth and longevity

Being resilient is a core ingredient of personal growth and longevity. Realistically, nothing you pursue can be achieved without it.

If you’re weak in resilience you might eventually achieve your goals. But you’ll arrive sooner rather than later if you develop resiliency.

Growth happens naturally. It’s the process that’s challenging.

Nature reveals that a seed must push through hard-packed soil to produce. The resilience of a seed proves that environment doesn’t always determine fruitfulness.

What’s true for seeds can be true for you.

Being resilient beats being a victim

Victimhood blames others, circumstances, conditions, and a ton more for the current state of things. Changing your state increases your resilience.

And when you’re increasingly resilient you’ll be less likely to “play” the victim.

Face it…life is hard!

I say that not to be insensitive to whatever you’re going through. On the contrary, I encourage you to pause and tell yourself right now…as you’re reading this…that whatever hard thing you’re facing right now is real!

When you confront the “brutal facts” you’ve begun to develop more resilience.

Admiral Jim Stockdale was well acquainted with the “brutal facts.” Jim Collins highlights Stockdale’s inspiring story in his book, Good to Great.

Admiral Stockdale was the highest ranking United States military officer in the “Hanoi Hilton” prisoner of war camp during the peak of the Vietnam War. He was tortured over 20 times during his eight year imprisonment (1965 to 1973).

Stockdale lived without rights, any knowledge of a set release date, and no certainty of survival or seeing his loved ones again. The details of his story are chilling and captivating as noted in the book (In Love and War ) he later published following his eventual release.

Collins had the opportunity interview him after being enamored by his story and related book. He wondered, “…how on earth did he deal with it when he was actually there and did not know the end of the story?”

’I never lost faith in the end of the story…I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my life, which in retrospect, I would not trade.’” 1

True, your circumstances are perhaps nowhere near the deplorable conditions Stockdale faced. But your challenges, nonetheless, are yours to "own" and they can feel equally as hopeless and daunting regardless.

Resilience worked for Admiral Stockdale…and somehow it will for you!

How to be more resilient and overcome victimhood

Face the facts (and take action anyway)

The facts don’t change. But you can (change).

Refuse to allow reality to define your decisions. Accepting what’s right in front of you isn’t admitting weakness.

It’s better to give yourself permission to admit that what you’re dealing with is hard. It won’t break you unless you become inflexible.

Remember a mark of resilience is being flexible when necessary. Bend your will to fill the gap between where reality has you and where you desire to be.

Facts lose their power over you when you introduce yourself to them. Then use them as stepping stones to create a new reality.

Form an alliance with others and the resources that help drive you to increase resilience.

One thing was interesting in Stockdale’s story as shared by Jim Collins.

”Who didn’t make it out? ‘Oh, that’s easy,’ he said. ‘The optimists…they were the ones who said, ‘We’re going to be out by by Christmas.’ And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then they’d say, ‘We’re going to be out by Easter,’ And Easter would come, and Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart.’
Another long pause,…Then he turned to me and said, ‘This is a very important lesson. You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end - which you can never afford to lose - with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.” 2

Optimists and an optimistic outlook mean well. And often an amount of positive energy will propel you through whatever you’re facing.

In the end, it’s your personal rugged faith that allows you to face “the most brutal facts of your current reality.”

  • Align yourself with others who share your prevailing faith. This is the beauty of the community, support-group, squad, and tribal-ness that you need to survive.
  • Be optimistic and positive without discounting the reality of your circumstances. Tell yourself, “This is happening…I cannot change the fact that it is…but I CAN change my response to it!”

People of faith hold firmly to Jesus’ perspective and wisdom,

”In this world you will have trouble…(That’s reality. No sugar coating!) But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (This your rugged faith-based leverage in the face of reality.) 3

Fix your resolve on a future outcome through new and better habits.

Motivation doesn’t last. The “grit” to push through occasionally fades.

Resilience isn’t sustainable via mere inspiration or courage (although they help). You become more resilient by developing daily habits.

It’s about being consistent…not seeking convenience.

Circumstances create opportunity.

Opportunity ignites action.

Action is sustained by habits.

Habits develop resilience.

  • Start small. Life change happens in steps.
  • Leverage a new, simple routine to get moving on a specific goal or task.
  • Be consistent. Focus on the action not the results.
  • Expect setbacks. Own them, get up, start again.

Challenges in life cause most (including you and me) to focus on something easier and less challenging.

If you want to be resilient…

Determine to stay consistent. Deploy courage. Develop resolve.

You've got this!

Press on...


  1. Jim Collins, Good to Great-Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t, pp. 83-87.
  2. Jim Collins, p. 85.
  3. John 16:33, Bible, New International Version