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Resilience: What About the Guy Pushing the Rock Up the Hill?

Resilience: What About the Guy Pushing the Rock Up the Hill?I think we all remember the guy pushing the űber-big rock up the hill only to watch it roll back down again.

His name was Sisyphus and he was repeating this action for eternity because he had upset the gods big time.  Why? For being so full of himself.

So here you have someone repeating an action over and over with no end in sight.  If you turn this situation on its head, you could say that Sisyphus is amazingly resilient – so resilient that he persists in pushing the monstrous rock up the hill repeatedly despite the same sorry outcome.

After all, isn’t resilience all about staying with a task until it is accomplished no matter what the circumstances?  And isn’t resilience the current buzz word that every educator is talking about in instilling in our kids today?  You’re right on both counts. So where’s the difference between the apparent resilience that Sisyphus has in spades and the resilience you want your daughter to have if she can’t figure out a math equation at school?

A couple of things actually.

Both Sisyphus and your daughter are disappointed when they repeat their tasks and the outcomes are not achieved.  The rock doesn’t stay put at the top of the hill, and the math answer remains incorrect.

They repeat their processes respectively: with her teacher’s encouragement your daughter has hope that when she repeats her computation, she can anticipate a positive result.  In Sisyphus’ case, however, he will repeatedly push that rock without hope for the anticipated outcome.

Lacking hope, Sisyphus is also locked in without choice. Talk about being between a rock and a hard place. On the other hand, your daughter has choice for an outcome that is achievable bringing her short-term satisfaction and long-term success. This reality gives her reason to hope.

The two key ingredients that make resilience worthwhile are hope and choice: the hope that the outcome will be positive and the choice to do or not do the task in the first place.  If these factors are missing, then I can bet you, you’ll be feeling like Sisyphus pushing your rock up the hill and watching it roll back down again and again.

For more posts by Kita Szpak please visit here.

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