Power of Resilience
Updated: Apr 27, 2020
‘It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the area, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.’ Theodore Roosevelt
I came across this piece of writing a number of years ago and due to the powerful effect it had upon me, I frequently reread it and find fresh meaning behind the words. It motivates me when the going gets tough, when it seems like life has relentless challenges and little mercy. Yet when I read through the quote, it makes me think differently about my situation and it reminds me that even though I haven’t managed to get to exactly where I want to be in life, I can still try again. It makes me realise, it’s not over until I have accomplished whatever it is I set out to do. I guess you could say that Roosevelt’s words have become a sort of mantra and they kick start me into picking myself up and trying again; it gives me renewed strength.
Let me begin by saying that as a coach, I am still susceptible to the same broad spectrum of emotions as everyone else; I am of course human. What coaching has helped me to do is become more aware of who I am, what I want in life and how committed I am to the outcomes I want to achieve. It’s also made me more aware of the impact I can have on others and it’s helped me to cultivate a more resilient and determined mind-set. Even though I am a coach, generating a creative and positive attitude is something I still work on every day. I truly believe the learning in life never stops, which is why I think Roosevelt’s words resonate so deeply with me. They tell me that I need to learn from the mistakes, the missed opportunities, the challenges, the frustrations, the near misses so that instead of lamenting over them, I can learn what I can do differently and find new ways to accomplish whatever it is I have set my mind to. If you put Roosevelt’s words into a modern day meaning, then I think he is talking about the power of resilience and how you need it to ignore other’s criticism, pick yourself up and find innovative ways to achieve your personal success.
For me, I use Roosevelt’s writing when I catch myself becoming my own worst enemy; when I hear that sarcastic inner critic knocking my self-confidence and causing doubt. I have come to understand that my inner voice is a lot more important than I originally gave it credit for; it has the power in life to elevate or dampen my thoughts. Those thoughts impact my outlook and my belief that I can reach whatever it is I want to achieve. Even without being goal-orientated, working on your self-talk means you can start to feel better about whom you are and what you are aiming for.
Roosevelt’s words have spurred me on to the realisation that ‘It’s not the critic who counts’ in the slightest, in fact all ‘the credit belongs to the man who is actually in the area’ because that person (no gender discrimination) is giving it all their might for a cause that they believe in. Just by being in the area, they are giving it a shot and let’s be honest, just stepping into that space whilst hearing others doubts can feel like the hardest thing to do. So my theory is that in order to make that step, you need to ignore any outer or inner negative talk. Sure, be aware of risk before you jump into something, consider the best possible action rather than acting without any thought to the consequences, but don’t let risk aversion run your whole life. So surround yourself with people who are going to pep you up, who will give you feedback with the intent to help you and who desire to see you progress and then notice what difference that support group makes to your future.
As a coach and a coachee, I have learnt that it is through the process, through continual and concentrated efforts and ‘devotions’ that the person learns how to make their mark and therefore become triumphant. Usually whatever we are working towards poses both ‘enthusiasms’ and challenges, yet Roosevelt’s words say to me that we must face both; persevere through the unknown and keep the faith time and time again for the simple reason that ‘there is no effort without error or shortcoming’. Action gets result and that means you have more information to guide you so that your next attempt is yet more informed; learn from the ‘shortcoming’ and move on.
The experiences we have are just different forms of feedback that we can use to our advantage and which can help us stand tall amongst those outer critics. Anyone of us can point out ‘how the strong *man stumbles’ (*person) or ‘where the doer of deeds could have done better’ and let’s be honest, we all have said ‘told you so’ at some point. But that’s the easy bit isn’t? It’s much simpler to watch from the side lines rather than being the one toiling, sweating, striving and facing the possibility that all those efforts could not bring results. The critic, the judge, the bystander, even the ‘helpful’ friend risks nothing when being an observer. But the player, the person in the arena of life who takes a risk time and time again, the ‘credit belongs’ to that person who perseveres through the obstacles and remains constant to achieving their desired result.
It’s not easy to create change and pursue a vision that only you can see; it takes a great deal of faith. So to work on your vision you have to be willing to start to come out of your comfort zone, even if it seems just a little step. The evidence of taking action and putting in the hard work is that metaphorically you are ‘marred by dust and sweat’; that’s evidence that you are committed. It’s your ‘worthy cause’ and it could take everything you’ve got but no one else is going to work at your vision like you are and no one will feel the sense of satisfaction and pride that you will once you have accomplished it.
It all starts with some belief in yourself that you can make it somehow and some way. We all know there are but two guarantees in life and that’s why we have to push ourselves and move past the doubts that surround us. To be that person who ‘strives valiantly’ we have sometimes to ‘err’, to make blunders in order to go forwards. Often when we think back, we question why we did it that way at all. Simply, it’s because we don’t know then what we do now. We have to go through the experiences in order to have the learning curves to then have the ability to develop; knowledge comes through actions.
I think it takes a bold and courageous attitude to hold on and chase your dreams, to be patient ‘for the triumph of high achievement’ without any guarantee of success. It can be a lonely path to venture outside of your comfort zone and break away from the trends of those people around you. In today’s world there are so many platforms and channels through which we can be judged, it can be hard to remain constant to your vision and your rationale. But I say think about the risks you want to take (there will always be some) and weigh them up so that you can find out what actions work for you. Do make sure though, that you take some action and don’t let other people’s doubt or negative opinions sway you from what it is you are trying to achieve.
If you are committed to going that extra mile for what you want in your future then only use criticism to spur you on and to give you further motivation. Better still, see it only as neutral feedback (with neither positive nor negative contagions) that can help you to rethink ‘while dare greatly’. Then you have the creative attitude to come up with a new and improved strategy. If you don’t try, if you don’t take some action then what will happen? Most importantly, what will you regret if you stay where you are? If it’s too bigger jump, what smaller jump could you make to get you started?
For me, I want to work towards being the character Roosevelt describes in his last lines, the person ‘who, at the best knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.’ I think to really get the most out of life, we have to be pushing beyond what is familiar and experiencing the experiences that life has to offer. Do I mean go and scare yourself silly by quitting your job, spending all your savings and chasing what you want without any idea or plan? Only if you want to; that’s very much a personal and extreme cause of action. But hey, who am I to judge? Another solution might be to break it down and do one bit of your dream, project, aspiration, task, goal (whatever you want to call it) at a time. Just break it down into chunks so that you give yourself that best possible chance to get achieve those milestones and create that momentum.
I think Roosevelt is saying that to be alive is to experience both the highs and the lows, it is to feel, learn, move, sacrifice and to be passionate in the pursuit of what we consider to be a ‘worthy cause’. To experience both ‘victory’ and ‘defeat’ is to know that we have been daring enough to follow what we consider to be a worthy pursuit. So I invite you to pause for a moment and consider, what’s stopping you from taking a step forward?
(c) Katrina Ramsden