We love a good analogy. While the origins of this one about resilience are uncertain, the message is clear.

Think of resilience as similar to taking a rafting trip down a river. On a river, you might experience rapids, turns, slow water, and shallows. As in life, the changes you experience affect you differently along the way. While travelling the river, it helps to have knowledge about it and experience in dealing with it. Your journey should be guided by a plan, a strategy that you feel works well for you.

Perseverance and trust in your ability to work your way around boulders and other obstacles in the river are important. You gain courage and insight by successfully navigating your way through white water. Trusted companions with you on the journey can be especially helpful when dealing with rapids, upstream currents, and other difficult stretches of the river.

You can climb out to rest along the river. But to get to the end of your journey, you need to get back in the raft and continue on.

On the river of life, psychological associations define 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.

The keyword is adapting. When we are overwhelmed and lack confidence, it’s easy to give up too early or concede defeat. And while we may survive a one-off situation, life will continue with its twists and turns, no matter how well we’ve planned our journey. The more resilient we become, the easier it is to meet ongoing challenges that inevitably come our way. We cannot control every aspect of our lives, or foresee the future, but we can develop the ability to successfully work through problems and situations.

We all know someone who seemingly bounces back from everything life throws at them. No matter what comes their way, they magically emerge at the end of their trials and continue. A closer look likely reveals there is no magic involved – they have developed the ability to keep a cool head, prioritize, identify and use resources efficiently, and not take setbacks as a personal attack. 

Self-reliance skills are built through personal growth and lifelong learning. Wishing you had taken a first-aid course after your companion falls while hiking won’t help you. Signing up for one in advance means you’ll be prepared when you hit the trail. The same theory applies to your business. Learning the basics of good bookkeeping means when Canada Revenue audits your returns, you won’t be left scrambling for help. 

Resilience also means knowing when to ask for help. Build your circle of resources and contacts and be generous by offering your assistance when someone needs a hand. Mutual appreciation creates a good foundation. But don’t expect anyone to constantly rescue you just because they know how to paddle better. The idea is to learn from each other, build skills, and become reliant on your ability to meet obstacles head on.

Promise me you’ll always remember: you’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.

Christopher Robin to Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A.Milne