The Power of Resilience

by J.D. Roth

Seth Godin wrote recently about three ways to deal with the future: accuracy, resilience, and denial.

In Godin’s paradigm, accuracy is predicting correctly what will happen tomorrow, and is the most rewarding way to deal with the future. The problem, of course, is that’s tough to make accurate predictions. You have to invest a lot of time and/or money, have access to inside information, or be lucky to get things right.

Denial, on the other hand “is the strategy of assuming that the future will be just like today”. Like it or not, you live in a world of change. The people and places around you are constantly evolving, and as much as you like the status quo, you can’t assume things will remain the same forever.

If you accept that (a) things change and (b) you cannot predict what will happen, then the most effective strategy for dealing with the future is to foster resilience. Instead of betting on a single outcome, you prepare for a range of possible results.

Godin argues that our society fosters a “winner-take-all” mentality that emphasizes accuracy over resilience. This benefits the few who have made accurate predictions, but penalizes everyone else. And it forces many people to take the path of denial, where they don’t prepare for the future at all because they realize there’s no way they can reliably guess what the future will be.

Like Godin, I believe that successful people foster resilience. Recently at Get Rich Slowly, I wrote about financial resilience, the ability to bounce back from unexpected financial blows.

In psychology, adaptability refers to how well a person can adjust herself to changed circumstances. Because we live in a constantly changing universe, your ability and willingness to adapt is a barometer that measures both your ability to thrive and your capacity for happiness.

So, don’t simply assume that tomorrow will be like today. And don’t try to guess precisely what the future will hold. Instead, prepare for a range of likely outcomes. Be open to alternatives and new ideas. Allow yourself to grow in unexpected directions. Doing so will ultimately bring you a happier, more fulfilling life.

Updated: 23 January 2014

Do what's right. Do your best. Accept the outcome.
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