There are many opportunities for us to feel sad, angry, frustrated, or depressed. It can be challenging to celebrate living, loving, and staying joyful when we observe suffering and unhappiness in our lives and worldwide. However, life challenges and experiences are the keys to helping us build resilience, which fuels our perseverance, stamina, and longevity.
How we perceive our lives is entirely individual. You must ultimately make decisions or forfeit the right to choose how to spend the rest of your days. Do not allow yourself to procrastinate or listen to those debilitating comments from others or in your own mind telling you that you are too old to do the things you love or dream of doing. If you do, then you are allowing them, or it, to dictate your future.
If you can find within yourself the ability to draw out the passion and joy you had as a youthful man or woman, you will find the energy and inspiration to dust off your resilience to recreate your joy and zest for life’s new chapters.
What Do Resilient People Have in Common?
Resilient people have a lot in common. Some traits set them apart from the average, living day-to-day individual. There are seven traits of resilient people – which can you identify with?
This is not a woohoo, pie-in-the-sky attitude. It is a conviction that the opportunity for success is real. It starts with that emotional connection to an idea or goal and having a realistic application to make it happen.
Despite life throwing countless challenges and obstacles at me over the years, I always felt guided, and motivation came from within. Fear was never one of my traits; I moved out of my parent’s home at 17, somehow confident I would be O.K. Over the years that followed, I traveled to six continents, wrote nine books, enjoyed various careers, and never looked back.
Now, I don’t think life was easy. But I didn’t let anyone else’s experience become my reality. For example, I am now 62 years old and, as an actor and model, women my age are not highly sought after. We hear this reverberate from many Oscar-winning actresses. However, I remained resilient and persistent.
It’s important to experience your passions in all areas of your life. For me, those passions include acting, modeling, cooking, home decor, sewing (repurposing clothing), singing, writing, loving, and more. Life is for living, and I want to get all I can.
Resilient people can see their lives play out how they desire. They focus on what they want, not what they don’t want.
Everything begins with an idea—a thought. In your mind’s eye, you created an image of how your life, career, and relationship experience would look. What do you want to be when you grow up? I grew up, and up and up, but I digress. What I want to be has changed over time due to life experiences and just plain old living.
As I grow older, I compare my age to what I accomplished in those years. I had to be resilient like the willow in my life storms and guess what? My old self blossomed into much more than my expectations. I reinvented myself many times.
Always a daydreamer, I saw myself in most situations I lived out in my adult life. For example, the car I drove, the houses I lived in, the men I dated, the clothes I wore, the locations I traveled, and the career path I followed. I wanted control over how I lived, and without a map of where I wanted to go, I could have ended up anywhere. Instead, I actively guided my life down a path I saw myself journeying.
Poised and Controlled
Learning to observe and respond accordingly is a challenge for me. I am, however, a fiery Aries.
In these days of angry tweets and mean comments, displaying composure is an art and a talent. The ability to pull your ego out of the equation and watch things play out like a movie trailer is a valuable trait. You are then disconnected from the outcome, can assess all sides, and see the bigger picture without consequences.
It’s like the story of the willow and the oak tree in a storm; The oak, known for its strength, held solid and rigid against the winds. However, the oak tree, stripped of its leaves and bark, was left broken. The willow was flexible, bending and moving with the wind. It survived. I liken the willow’s flexibility to the traits of staying poised and controlled. Knowing he had no control over Mother Nature, he maintained his flow to weather the storm.
Malleable and Willing to Learn
As long as you live, it is important to continue to learn and stay engaged. No one person knows everything. Remaining open to new ideas, discoveries, and technologies expands your opportunities to evolve and grow.
During Covid, we experienced a flood in our home. While decluttering, I cleaned out my clothes closet, which resulted in me needing and wanting new clothing items. I decided to jump on YouTube to research the latest fashion trends. While there, videos with instructions on how to repurpose clothing and sewing videos began to pop into my feed. As a result, I rediscovered my love for sewing. I signed up for a pattern-making course and created many new clothing styles, solving the boredom issue and refreshing my wardrobe.
Ikigai is a term the Japanese use to describe a passion that brings joy and value to one’s life—a reason to get up and live. Older adults can learn new crafts or talents. These individuals don’t understand retiring and sitting at home feeling useless. There is still a lot of life left in you; time to find your ikiagi.
Resilience is the ability to adapt in the face of adversity or any significant stressful situation. For example, it’s not unusual to encounter stress with family, relationships, health, financial, or career challenges. You are resilient if you “bounce back” from stagnant, complex, or painful life experiences. Tapping into your strengths, talents, skills, experience, knowledge, and support system enables you to develop personalized processes to motivate you and help maintain your vision for your success.
Delete any expectations you have of others. It’s a setup for disappointment and failure. When you look through the eyes of experience and knowledge, you know no one else will ever see the same situation the same way. Is it impossible for someone to dream your dream? Perhaps, but they are blinded by their own. Placing expectations on things or people can have devastating outcomes. Relying on expectations is gambling with your life, finances, and heart.
Mold and shape your actions to focus on realizing your cherished dreams. Create a process that gets you going. You’ve got to move to improve your life. Find the strength, courage, and wisdom within to help you achieve your goals, your dreams, and desires. It’s never too late.
Seek Positive Inspiration
Resilient people surround themselves with people who uplift and support others. They are ferocious readers to satisfy their appetite for upbeat and encouraging information. Optimistic people also distance themselves from drama, intolerance, and negativity. I encourage you to ponder these wise words from Mother Theresa:
“Life is a song; sing it. Life is a struggle; accept it. Life is an opportunity; benefit from it. Life is beauty; admire it. Life is a dream; realize it. Life is a challenge; we must take it.”
Your next chapter is yours alone to write. You have the power to create the life of your dreams. Unpack those dreams and goals and take one step at a time to make them a reality.
There is an analogy I use when speaking on resilience. By imagining my life as a giant picture puzzle, with each life experience, I earn a piece of my life in a portrait puzzle. The center of this framed puzzle is empty because I am still alive, thankfully. However, when the time comes for me to leave this life, the image will unfold. Everyone will be able to look at this picture and see what my whole life was about. This pictorial inspires me to do what I love and achieve my goal of creating my perfect story.
A lot of negativity surrounds us, but the same is true for beauty and inspiration. The late and amazing Betty White explained that she avoided giving advice but that her mother started telling her around age 5:
“Try to always look at the good side of things. We all go through tough times, but there is always something good going on somewhere.”
Seek out things that fill your heart with color and love. Plan to meet with those who make you smile and warm your soul. Travel to beautiful places and embrace the wonders of nature, cultures, and the world.
Empathetic and Mindful
Understanding and respect for every living thing, along with tolerance for choices and traditions. honors humanity. We all have the stuff that molds and shapes our views about life, love, and all that make up our beliefs about how one should live. Who are we to impose our views onto another? Why do any of us think we know better than the other person what’s best for them? Even our parent’s truth is not ours. We evolved along with the world, and it is very different from what they believed and how they lived.
Empathy is at my core because I am mindful of the pain others can cause. I’ll share here a bit of my story. I am a survivor of abuse, and my mother continued to live with my molester until her recent death. He was a predator, and she did not provide a safe place for me or my sisters to grow up. My mother was unable to act appropriately in the face of the trauma I suffered that her husband caused.
Because of the trauma and the patterns my mother set for us, I went into adulthood as a victim. That energy drew more abuse to me until I understood it was up to me to break the pattern.
After years of help, I decided I was not going to use my past experiences as a crutch in life. I looked deep within, and it was then I coined my favorite quote:
“When life is not working out, Start within.”
As the least common denominator in my happiness, it is all up to me. I think of myself as a rare brown diamond with many facets. With that realization, I began to rebuild every facet of my being. I never wanted to inflict pain on another. Empathy was the impetus for me getting my doctorate and becoming a couples and survivor therapist. I felt I could use my experience to communicate and articulate the pain of abuse for those who were voiceless.
Humanity Is About More Than Just Being Human. It is understanding the human experience and saving space for everyone to live out a happy, safe, and satisfied existence. We must examine our unconscious biases and see that each person is trying to accomplish the same happiness, love, and success. Those with children want to raise them in safe and empowering homes and communities. Each desires to live without boundaries that are not fair and equal. We don’t want to experience judgment for our age, race, creed, or color.
How Resilience Contributes to Longevity
Resilience plays a significant role in contributing to longevity and overall well-being. Resilient individuals are more likely to adapt to the changing demands and challenges of life as they age. Their ability to bounce back from adversity, cope with difficult circumstances, and maintain a positive outlook despite facing difficult situations helps them maintain independence and lead fulfilling lives as they grow older.
In closing, I know that you are resilient. You were born to be. You took your first steps and were determined to walk and voice your desires from a young age. Now is the time to BE resilient. Resilience is a skill you can develop and strengthen over time, so now is the time to embrace the happiness, joy, and success you dreamed of. You’ve come a long way, so why not get out of your way and get it?
About the Author: Dr. Kat Smith
Dr. Kat Smith is a Model/Actor, International & TedX Speaker, Author, and Resilient Survivor.
She left her modeling and acting career in 2013 to secure her doctorate at The Institute for the Advanced study of Human Sexuality in San Francisco, which led to her work as a couple’s therapist until 2020. After making the decision to close her practice, she rekindled her modeling/acting career.
For more information, for media appearances or bookings, go to DrKatSmith.com. In addition, you can see Kat in the upcoming movie, Never Alone for Christmas in AMCtheaters now, and will begin streaming starting December 3, 2023, on BET+.
FAQs About Resilience
Here are some common questions and answers related to resilience:
What is resilience?
Resilience is the ability to adapt and bounce back from adversity, trauma, or significant life challenges.
Why is resilience important?
Resilience is important because it helps individuals and communities cope with and recover from difficult situations, reduce the impact of stress, and thrive in the face of adversity, which in turn helps promote longevity.
How can I support someone in building their resilience?
You can support someone by offering a listening ear, providing emotional support, encouraging them to seek professional help if needed, and helping them identify and develop their coping strategies.
Can resilience be developed or improved?
Yes, resilience can be developed and improved through various strategies, including building strong social connections, developing problem-solving skills, and practicing self-care.