Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Courage is not the strength to go on, it is going on when you don’t have the strength.” He knew from personal and professional experience that life is a series of challenges that must be overcome despite enormous setbacks. Perhaps his signature quality was resilience. Resilience is critically important because we will face adversity throughout our lives. How we overcome adversity, more than the actual nature of the diversity itself, prepares us for the future. This is especially true for our children.
Over the last several months, Americans have faced a raft of adversities. Some have lost jobs; too many have lost a loved one to the scourge of COVID-19. High school and college students graduating in 2020 have experienced a unique type of loss: the customary rites of passage associated with the shared joy accompanying the transition to a new phase of life. Being trapped inside their homes, separated from friends and extended families, has only amplified the challenge. The key to overcoming this pain is to help our young men and women challenge this adversity, turning it into purpose while keeping it all in perspective. This unique time in our history is an opportunity to genuinely care for our families’ well-being and to give even greater attention to helping our children develop the building blocks needed to thrive. Take this time to have meaningful conversations with your kids. Stay positive in your messaging. Point out that, for most of us, things could be much worse. Encourage them to do at least one thing each day to improve themselves mentally, morally, or physically. Every day is a chance to turn pain into purpose, to teach, and to reach others.
By definition, resilient people recover faster from adversity. Knowing these sad times will pass, their positive outlook lends them more energy. They foster greater hope, treating challenges as an opportunity to grow instead of descending into depression and despair, and they spread that optimism to those around them. They avoid self-pity, realizing things could be worse. Having solved difficult problems on the path to resiliency in the first place, they take imaginative approaches to overcoming the obstacles in their path. They embrace humility, knowing that so much is beyond their control. We should all strive for these qualities.
As the co-founders of SAFE Project, my wife Mary and I overcame the horrible loss of a loved one to try to make a difference in the epidemic of addiction fatalities across our nation. We join Governor Gary Herbert to support Utah Resiliency Month. While this is a time of transition, separation, love, anxiety, and excitement for our fantastic young people, it can be a time fraught with risk, mourning, and change. So, as the days count down for this year’s crop of seniors to attend their Tic Tok proms, Zoom graduations, and other virtual events planned this month, we say congratulations! Look up! We’re proud of your willingness to embrace a changing world, and we honor your grit, hard work, and ability to endure. Stay hopeful and continue to be resilient.
By Admiral James Winnefeld, Founder, SAFE Project