Need Resilience? Take a Lesson From Scarlett O’Hara
Resilience and You
The American Psychological Association defines resilience as ‘the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress — such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems or workplace and financial stressors.’ Resilience is the ability to cope with, and recover from, whatever life throws at you.
In your life and career, you will face unsupportive friends and colleagues, failed projects, and decisions you regret. Develop your resilience and you will recover from these challenges, learn from them, and move on.
Scarlett O’Hara, Queen of Resilience
For a resilience role model, look no further than Scarlett O’Hara, the main character of Margaret Mitchell’s epic novel Gone With the Wind, and the blockbuster movie of the same name. Raised on Tara, a wealthy plantation in antebellum Georgia, Scarlett is vain, haughty, and selfish. She is also tough, focused, and determined to be the mistress of her fate. Her society gives women no power beyond looks and charm, but that doesn’t stop her. Scarlett breaks all the rules and says ‘Fiddle-dee-dee!’ to those who try to stop her.
A String of Disasters
Scarlett survives war, 3 bad marriages (to husbands she married for the wrong reasons), poverty and near starvation, the loss of family members, the death of a child, and the destruction of her entire way of life. Yes, this way of life was racist and built on the despicable institution of slavery. I am not defending that in any way. For Scarlett the character, though, it was the only world she knew.
Two Core Resilience Strategies
Scarlett uses 2 basic resilience strategies: A mantra and a clear focus on her long-term goals.
Scarlett’s mantra was ‘I’ll think about that tomorrow.’ When disaster struck, and her emotional reaction was at its strongest, Scarlett repeated this to herself. By the next day, she found a solution. Her mantra stopped a purely emotional reaction and gave her time to think; that’s one of the best strategies for dealing with life’s challenges. We often most regret decisions we make when upset or angry. Scarlett consistently makes emotional decisions about Ashley Wilkes, her unrequited love. They never work out as she plans, and she is forced to use her resilience to recover. Her decisions about money are always made ‘tomorrow’ and turn out much better.
After surviving the fall of Atlanta, Scarlett’s goal is physical and financial security. Time and again, she makes decisions based on reaching that goal. Whether marrying for money, or going into business and facing social ostracism, Scarlett keeps her eye on the final prize. Seeing progress towards financial security bolsters her spirit when her old social circle publicly disapproves. While Scarlett’s means are often despicable, her single-minded pursuit of her own goal, despite public approbation, shows her resilience. The next time a colleague criticizes you unfairly, remember Scarlett’s resilience strategy and persist.
Learn and Be Resilient
Scarlett is not someone I want for a friend. She sees people solely in terms of what they can do for her. It’s hard to think of a more shallow or self-centered character. But like most people, we can learn from Scarlett. Find your mantra. Remember your goal. And keep going, one step at a time. That’s resilience.