While writing the book Intentional Resiliency with my colleague Lynn Schmidt, I've become so much more aware of powerful examples of people in the world who are thriving despite experiencing great adversity. I recently came across an amazing example on Ted Talks: Congresswomen Gabby Giffords.
A key premise of our book is that when faced with career adversity, people can make a choice to do more than merely survive or bounce back from tough times; they can be transformed and thrive. This idea is clearly evident in the Ted Talks interview with Giffords:
Interviewer: Gabby, has your recovery been an effort to create a new Gabby Giffords or reclaim the old Gabby Giffords?
Gabby Giffords: The new one -- better, stronger, tougher.
In addition to making an intentional choice to grow from tough times, highly resilient people thrive when they draw meaning from their adversity. One of the best examples of this is Viktor Frankl, author of Man's Search for Meaning. Frankl was a psychologist who survived the Holocaust. He recalled that one of the reasons he and others survived was that they drew meaning from the experience. Frankl noted how he envisioned himself after escaping the concentration camps lecturing to a class of psychology students about his experience. In essence, the meaning he derived from the experience enabled him to keep hope alive.
In similiar ways, Giffords explained to the interviewer how she was drawing meaning from her own painful experience:
Interviewer: And of course, the two of you go through these challenges of a slow and difficult recovery, and yet, Gabby, how do you maintain your optimism and positive outlook?
Gabby: I want to make the world a better place.
Interviewer; And you're doing that even though your recovery has to remain front and center for both of you. You are people who have done service to your country and you are continuing to do that with a new initiative, a new purpose. And Gabby, what's on the agenda now?
Gabby: Americans for Responsible Solutions. That's our political action committee, where we are trying to get members of Congress to take a more serious look at gun violence in this country, and to try to pass some reasonable legislation.
Congressman Gabby Giffords faced a terrible fate that day she was shot on January 8, 2011. Despite that tragic event, she is courageously transforming her life and our world while modeling what it means to be intentional resilient.
(c) 2015 Kevin Nourse, PhD