Last month a former student visited my husband at the K-8 school we founded in 2004. He came to catch up, say hi and share that he was moving to Chicago for college.
I call Shawn an angel boy and here's why.
When he first showed up eight years ago, he was a scrawny 4th grader who couldn’t read. He also seemed hyperactive and had discipline issues at his previous school.
His adopted mother met with us and essentially begged us to “take care of her son.”
She was already on hospice and knew she had only a few more weeks to live. She was determined to find him a place where he could be loved.
Shortly after Shawn started school, his mother died and his adult sister – a biological daughter- took him in. Most days an elderly man that Shawn referred to as Dad, picked him up. About a year into school, we learned that this man was dying of cancer, too.
How unfair for Shawn, I remember thinking, to be adopted and then lose both of those parents.
But nothing seemed to phase him.
Shawn came to school every day to learn. He worked hard, easily made friends and showed a compassion and empathy for the younger children that was clearly beyond his years. They all loved him.
He kept growing too, getting taller and lankier. In the five years he was with us, he learned how to read, write, did countless oral presentations, conquered math and science, built his self-confidence and graduated.
He went on to a rough high school.
But instead of partying or getting into drugs, he played football and focused on his course work. That perseverance earned him a scholarship to college where I know he will soar. All because he wants to.
He came back, he told my husband, to say thank you.
What is it that allows people to overcome so much adversity and thrive?
Why do some people, who are handed everything, sink into addiction, and others, who can’t seem to get a break, thrive?
I look at Shawn as one of those thrivers. That’s why I call him an angel child.
It’s like every awful thing that’s happened to him doesn’t touch the core of who he is. As if from an early age he simply knew that he was more than a family, more than a body, that he was here with a divine purpose.
He humbles and awes me.
Recently I heard of another woman who overcame tremendous adversity, Amy Purdy. Have you heard her Ted Talk?
She became ill with bacterial meningitis that caused her to go into a coma. She lost her spleen, kidneys and legs below the knees. Yet she went on to be a top performing athlete and was recently on Dancing With The Stars.
How can we foster resiliency to better weather adversity and life challenges?
Here are 5 Ways
1. Keep Your Eye On The Prize
In other words, vision what you want.
Set you intentions and goals and be relentless in your pursuit of them, not letting anything stop you. For Amy Purdy, that was snowboarding. Even lying in her hospital bed, she saw herself up on the slopes, felt the wind on her face and was relentless in that vision.
Once you see your vision with absolute clarity, take action and don’t give up. It’s about fostering that spirit of determination, a willingness to do whatever it takes to get your goal.
Ask yourself, what’s the next thing I have to do?
3. Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff
When you stay focused on an intention or goal, let that be the overriding thought. If little things frustrate or obstruct you, simply move around them, knowing that you have a bigger plan. Don’t spend any time and energy concerned about the rejection letter, a missed tackle or a wipe out on the slopes.
This is all about how we look at life.
Did you get fired because someone hates you or because it was time for you to move on and get a better paying job?
When we can look at the circumstances of our lives and feel like they are happening for us instead of to us, we move from feeling like a victim into being empowered.
Another way to think about this is how my teacher Ma Jaya used to say it. “If you don’t consume the world the world consumes you.”
5. Connect To The Eternal Part Of You
An important component to fostering resilience is to remember that you are a soul having a human experience.
In this place, it’s easier not to take the world so seriously, to not experience the pain so intensely. This is earth school.
The easiest way to connect to this part of yourself is through having a spiritual practice and doing meditation. Other ways are through yoga or doing service work. Where can you volunteer or help?
Nurturing resiliency in ourselves is a key to not just surviving in this world but thriving. It’s time for you to claim your life. Step into what it is you came here to do. Life’s waiting for you.