Full Mettle Jacket – Why Does Resilience Matter?

Resilience is a mechanism that gives us the opportunity to protect ourselves, and the things we value. As with any mechanism, the more sophisticated it becomes, the better it serves you.

Resilience is how we experience growth, and the outcome is the development of many different kinds of intelligence, as described by Gardner [1]. Resilience impacts many of these types of intelligence, from intrapersonal – the understanding of yourself, through to logical – the ability to make and prove hypotheses, existential – the sensitivity to explore the deeper meaning of life, and interpersonal – awareness of people’s feelings and motives.
It’s one of those amazing things, like love and happiness, that you can never have too much of. In fact, it helps you to nurture these aspects of your life, for the simple reason that it is the quality that stops you from hitting the ‘fuck it’ button when something goes wrong.
This is because resilience gives you the ability to focus on what’s
important, instead of focussing on the situation. It allows you to take
ownership of your failures, without taking a victim stance.
When I was younger I spent so much of my time trying to validate
myself, but as I educated myself to let go of abuse, I began to understand
why. There’s a lot of talk about glass ceilings in business, but I’m going
to stay down to earth, and, paraphrasing Portia Nelson, I want to talk
about glass walls [2].

Picture a road with glass walls stretching from side to side. You’re
walking along quite happily, when suddenly you get smashed in the face.
You hadn’t been on the road for long, and had no way of knowing there
was a glass wall across your path. You didn’t see it coming, so when it
knocks you down you’re not to blame. You pick yourself up, get over it,
and carry on.
You have learned there’s a chance you could hit a wall, because it’s
happened before. As the walls are made of glass you still can’t see them,
and so when you smash into the next one you’re not to blame, but you do 

need to start taking responsibility. This is the point at which it’s ok if you
were a victim, but it’s not ok if you continue to be one.

You can keep smashing into walls, or you can find a way of seeing them.
You might carry a super-soaker and spray as you walk, so that you can
reveal what’s ahead. You’re starting to build resilience, and beginning to
develop strategies to protect yourself.
Once you see the walls you can start to go around them. You’re owning
your failures – the times you hit the wall, and taking responsibility for
yourself by ensuring you don’t keep on hitting them.
After you’ve found a way of seeing the walls and have started going
round them, the next step is to get off the road with the glass walls and
choose a better path.
Resilience frees your mind. And once you’ve freed your mind, everything
else follows.

  1. Gardner, H (1993). Frames of mind: the theory of multiple
    intelligences. New York, NY, BasicBooks.
  2. Nelson, P (1994). There’s a Hole in My sidewalk: The Romance of
    Self-Discovery. Beyond Worlds Publishing.