Is Resilience More Important than Happiness?

From my perch in the tree of life, nurturing resilience is more important than nurturing happiness.

Resilience is that ineffable quality that allows a person to be knocked down by life and come back stronger than ever. Resilient athletes, artists, patients, entrepreneurs, lovers and others inspire me. Raising resilient children drives me. Feeling resilience after losing the game, my creativity, more money pursuing my dream, a loved one—comforts me.

Happiness is ephemeral; resilience is a character trait. Happiness comes and goes, but a resilient person is a resilient person, and probably a more-satisfied-with-life person too.

I’ll even go so far as to declare that the pursuit of resilience is as important as the pursuit of happiness. The Declaration of Independence tells us to pursue “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” But pursuing resilience seems far more likely to lead to the independent, free and happy lives envisioned by our Founding Fathers.

So how does one pursue resilience? And doesn’t living in our “perfect” North Shore make it harder to be knocked down by life in the first place?

Avoid the perfection trap! Instead be inspired by the success stories in our midst to set big goals and give yourself permission to fail on your journey to achieve them. You will learn about yourself, contribute something to the world, be a better person for the effort and inspire others because you tried. Your resilience should grow with each stumble. And eventually you will achieve that dream, or something even better.

Giving your kids permission to fail, along with unconditional love, is important for nurturing their resilience, too, according to expert Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg, who is speaking on this topic Thursday, November 17 at 1:00 p.m. in Winnetka and 6:30 p.m. in at New Trier High School in Northfield.  His book, “Building Resilience in Children and Teens: Giving Kids Roots and Wings,” is particularly insightful.

One big advantage of living here—if you miss Dr. Ginsburg, we have many other outstanding resources to help you nurture resilience in yourself or your kids. Here are a few of our favorites:

  • Parenting: Stop the Pressure, Stop the Panic
  • 9 Tips to Help Your Child Cope with Stress
  • Connecting with Your Teen
  • Negotiating Friendships and Cliques
  • The Resilient Child: When to Help and When to Hold Back
  • Breast Cancer: A Story of Strength and Resilience
  • Fighting Cancer: Honoring Julie Schaffner
  • Left Behind: Surviving the Suicide of a Loved One
  • Resilient Women

Another advantage is that interesting people with their own stories of resilience abound, and can inspire you. Please send me your own story of resilience or a recommendation of someone whose resilience has inspired you.