Unbreakable Spirit

It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the most responsive to change — Charles Darwin

I recently travelled to Zimbabwe. I marveled at the level of resilience of the folks I met. In particular a relative narrated how he was beaten in the post 29 March hostilities. He shared how he struggled with the serious hunger that ravaged Zimbabwe last year. He was earning less than 30 US cents per day as a porter and has a wife and four children.  As if that was not enough, he almost died from cholera at the height of the epidemic late last year. This is a lot to happen to anybody in any part of the world.

There is something which I found striking about him – he laughed about the experiences and demonstrated a readiness to reclaim his life. One word explains his spirit – RESILIENCE! None of these experiences broke his spirit. He has bounced back from a time of severe challenges. After my chat with him, I was refreshed than depressed. He is the symbol of the resilience of many in Zimbabwe who have experienced more than 10 years of extremely difficult conditions but have not given up on their dreams. You need to develop this unbreakable spirit in order to overcome any challenges on your voyage to greatness.


The word resilience comes from the Latin word resile which means to leap back. Resilience is the ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change. It is also the capability of a strained body to recover its size and shape – to bounce back – after being subjected to adversity or stress. If you subject a spring or a stress ball to pressure it will come back to its original size and form. If you have resilience it means when you are subjected to pressure or adversity you do not lose your orientation or focus.

Resilience is a combination of faith, love and hope. The faith to see your dreams in the land of hope far ahead. The love to pursue your dreams with the passion of a zealot, and a readiness to sacrifice without complaining.

Dimensions of Resilience

1. Self-Assurance

You need to view the world as complex and challenging but filled with opportunity. Hold a positive self-perception and self regard. Be confident in your ability to meet any challenge with hope and realistic optimism.

2. Personal Vision/Purpose

You must have certainty of what you believe in. It must be something to live for and if necessary to die for. Have a clear vision of what you want to accomplish/achieve. Approach adversity and stress with a sense of hope. Belief and purpose carries you forward in life. With no vision you are like a cork floating in water…you will go anywhere, or a ship on dry ground, you will go nowhere.

3. Flexible/Adaptable

“Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape” – Dr Michael McGriffy

Flexibility is about being aware of and sensitive to changes in the environment. In business we talk of operational agility. It is the ability to shift gears in response to what is happening. Remain true to your purpose/vision while making room for other ideas and opportunities. The giant oak which does not bend when the wind comes is uprooted. It must learn from the grass which survives the wind because it knows how to bend.

4. Organized

You need to create structures and methods to bring order and stability on your own terms. Set realistic goals for yourself. Manage the stormy moments with calm and clarity of purpose. The best way to deal with times of uncertainty and great difficulty is to be organized. Organising brings certainty to uncertainty.

5. Problem Solver

Think critically and reflectively. View impossible problems as challenges and opportunities for learning and growth. Anticipate setbacks and missteps. Solve problems for the long long-term. View failures as opportunities for inspiration to do better.

Never allow anything to break your spirit. Even 27 years in jail would not break Nelson Mandela’s spirit. This is the power of resilience. I could share about Viktor Frankl in Nazi camps or how President Jacob Zuma bounced back from the political wilderness to win convincingly. The measure of a man is the way he bears up under misfortune. No one sees your courage in the sunshine. It takes difficulty and darkness to prove bravery

Resilience is the shield which protects your dreams from the fiery darts of adversity!

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