How Struggle Can Build Resilience
“Persistence and resilience only come from having been given the chance to work through difficult problems.”
― Gever Tulley
I’m not the first person to realize that life is inevitably difficult – some seasons more than others. An attitude that has largely shaped my life, however, is my unwillingness to embrace pain without meaning, and to sit actionless. You’ll see humans go through some of the most treacherous life experiences, and come out of the other side more loving, well-balanced, and appreciative for when things are good. This is largely the work of being forced into uncomfortable circumstances and learning how to survive and (if possible) thrive despite the challenges. Resiliency.
There are many ways that humans struggle, and consequently many ways that we build up resiliency. The one I’m addressing today is how my experiences of poverty and financial struggle enabled me to build resiliency tools to face it head-on, modify my behavior, and game-plan to change a generational pattern (and hopefully more to come). It is definitely not my intention to sound “preachy”, but instead to share what has been helpful in changing my behavior and actively seeking the ways I could break the cycle.
Here are some ideas that have worked for me in my journey:
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help – this doesn’t have to be financial. This can boil down to learning a new skill from somebody (like working on a car repair that’s expensive but able to be done with the right tools at home), or it can be asking a wise friend for advice. There are so many ways that asking for help benefits you. It’s a good practice in general, but it also benefits the other person too. Think of how it feels when you help somebody.
- Think creatively in reducing your costs – barter, look up coupons, ask about discounts, share expenses, get a roommate, split bulk food with friends – the list could go on.
- Learn how to delay purchases. It’s amazing what waiting 3 days will do to kill impulse buying.
- Use the resources available to you. If you don’t have money for food, use a food bank. If you need other general assistance, see if you qualify for assistance (i.e. Medicaid, Food Stamps, Cash Assistance). The entities running these programs create an application process to weed out those who need and don’t need this type of help – so you won’t find yourself wrongfully qualifying for it. You may come from the mindset that “those programs aren’t for you”, but truly, they’re designed to be temporary assistance to help you get a leg up, and they do exactly that if used correctly.
- One of my favorite quotes: “What gets measured gets managed”. This couldn’t be truer. Track your financial progress. When you can see a steady foundation being built one brick at a time, you are more resilient to the storms when they do come.
- Stay informed – ignorance is not bliss. Turning a blind eye to your financial situation does not make it go away. Taking a thoughtful look at our finances is the only thing that allows us to get it under control and stop buying things we truly can’t afford. And knowing exactly how much you spend and have in savings, can provide clarity and peace on a situation that you otherwise couldn’t have.
Implementing these ideas don’t constitute resiliency in themselves, but the accumulation of your actions and the effects of them builds a solid foundation that allows peace in some of the most stressful financial situations. It doesn’t mean things stop being hard, but taking action to make bad situations better, is the first step towards becoming a more resilient person.