Discussion questions for True Resilience

  1. Dr. Wagnild says resilient people demonstrate five characteristics: purpose, perseverance, calmness of mind under stress, self-reliance, and authenticity. Do you feel you own all five characteristics? If not, which presents the most challenge to you? Why, and what might you do to meet that challenge?
  2. Resilient people meet up with unavoidable difficult situations, just like everyone else, but they stay calm, adapt faster, and recover without becoming emotionally or physically ill. Can you recall a situation where you were sickened by a difficult situation? Looking back, how might you have handled it more resiliently?
  3. Are you feeling lost in some area of your life? Dr. Wagnild likens the feeling to hiking the Horseshoe Hills in her native Montana. They cover thousands of acres but are all about the same height, so there’s no higher vantage point from which to find a landmark or gain perspective. Revisit chapter three and peruse her ten suggestions for gaining perspective. Would any of them help you?
  4. Self-care is an important part of resilience, Dr. Wagnild says, because without your best health you won’t be able to live a full and meaningful life. Indeed you might not even survive. Yet many people neglect their health or confuse indulgence for nurturance. Are you taking care of yourself? If yes, what convinced you to do so? If no, how can you be kinder to yourself?
  5. Resilient people know failures are for learning, not stopping, according to Dr. Wagnild. Is there a failure in your life that still affects you? What can it teach you, and what would you have to do to accept the lesson and let go the feeling of defeat?
  6. Fear can cause us to retreat from life or abandon our purpose. But avoidance doesn’t grow resilience, according to Dr. Wagnild, who cites the example of South African leader Nelson Mandela. He could have avoided years of hard labor if he refused to compromise his political position, but he did not. Is there a fear that you’re avoiding? What is the avoidance costing you in terms of your health, independence, and frame of mind?
  7. Balance doesn’t mean giving equal time and effort to every part of your life. Resilient people balance their lives around what’s important to them. Is there time in your life for what is important to you? If not, why not? And what do you have to do to make room for your own priorities?
  8. In True Resilience, Dr. Wagnild cites the work of Paul G. Stoltz who puts people into three camps when it comes to responding to adversity—the quitters; the campers, who reach a certain level and stop; and the climbers, who continue to strive, grow and improve. In a huge study of companies, Stoltz found most people camped and only 5 to 15 percent climbed. To which group do you belong? What change do you have to make to ensure you climb to the highest point you’re capable of achieving?
  9. By making every effort to stay engaged in life, Dr. Wagnild writes, you will build and strengthen your resilience. That’s because staying engaged requires you to adapt to change and respond positively to challenges and changes. Do you agree that resilient people rise up to meet life, instead of retreating from it? Have you retreated from any area of life?
  10. Self-esteem and self-confidence are widely thought to lead to success. But in chapter four Dr. Wagnild weighs in heavily on the side of researchers who contend the real key to success is self-control. Thinking you’re great, she writes, is not the same as believing you can achieve something. Do you have both self-esteem and self-control? How does each impact your life?
  11. When will you know you have achieved resilience in your own life?

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