Written by Doctor G

The problem with resilience


If you, like me, went to elementary school (primary school for all the folks outside the US) in the 1960’s, 70’s or 80’s, you were probably tested in kindergarten or first grade to see how well you could read. Then you were assigned to a group. These groups did not have cute names or even neutral names like “blue group” or ” green group.” You were put in with the “slow readers” or the “gifted” or “regular” (they weren’t tryna fool anyone). And you stayed in that group for the rest of… forever. Because the prevailing wisdom was that, however smart you were, that was your truth and that was where you’d be forever. Even though some teachers did not think this model fit with kids’ reality.

In the 1990’s along came a team of researchers who validated those teachers observations, proving that kids could not only learn stuff, they could learn to learn more stuff better. They could change groups. That’s called the growth mindset.

If you’ve ever learned with me in person, you’ve probably heard me talk about how that growth mindset turns out to be true not only for academics. It’s also true for athletic ability, artisticness, musicality (I may be making up some of these words) and… resilience.

That’s right – our ability to handle tough situations, get through difficulty, navigate ALL change (see why I like resilience so much? We need it every dang day!) – can grow. The whole reason I wrote my next book – which is coming out in 4 weeks!! – is to help any one who wants to grow their resilience anytime they want.

The downside to this growth mindset research though, is what we don’t talk about as much.

Anything that can go up can also go down.

We don’t unlearn the ability to learn more or play sports better or create art or navigate change – but we can lose the strength to do it for a while.
Have you ever found yourself flattened by an experience or a responsibility or an interaction, while simultaneously feeling like “this shouldn’t be that big a deal” or “I’ve dealt with harder things before!” and getting even more frustrated?

Recently I was cooking dinner (because honestly, when am I not?) while my son was trying to fill out the online application for a youth group convention he’s desperately excited to attend. He was struggling with the answering of the things and the finding of the the other things and then the uploading of still more things with a website that timed out every time he switched apps… and I​ lost my grip. He was ok – all though filled with so many questions for me at every turn – but I got outsized frustrated over this totally common obstacle. Enough that it took a big reset for me to not dump the dinner on the people wanting to eat the dinner. 

Resilience goes up, and down. Often several times in the course of a day. Sometimes we can figure out why and sometimes not. What we can do is remember that it’s not a personal failing or an inability to rise to a challenge. This frustration is simply a manifestation of a lower resilience moment. Show yourself some compassion and then figure out what resilience skill you need to move forward. For me at that moment I needed to set a boundary – I was not going to be able to be helpful with the application until after we ate and the boys cleaned up from dinner.

Have you had a moment this week that sucked your resilience out and your lack of it added to your frustration? Hit reply and tell me. Sharing it makes it a little easier (different skill – build connections).

All my best,

Dr. G

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A widely recognized media personality, Dr. G is your go-to expert on resilience. Countless broadcast outlets rely on her contagious humor and illuminating stories to tackle tough topics. She is regularly seen on TV, as well as interviewed for print and digital outlets. Here, she’s answering your questions. Search for the answers you need, or ask her your question now!
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