I’ve been thinking a lot about resilience lately.
I remember the first time I played chess with Liam. He had been learning via a Kindle app, but when we played, he was adamant that I was not allowed to capture any of his pieces… but he was still allowed to capture mine.
It’s pretty hard to play chess that way, let me tell you!
I also remember the first time he played a video game and he was about to “die.” He totally freaked out. I told him it was ok, that he would lose and then he could start over and try again. And sure enough, he did.
Both these incidents happened a couple of years ago, and we’ve since been working with Liam on failure, imperfection, and focusing on trying your best.
Connect 4 has been a great game for this, as its faster turnaround feels less high stakes and allows for more experimentation than chess does at this stage. And as he’s explored more games on his Kindle, he’s also become more accustomed to losing, learning and trying again.
All this has been supported through the curriculum at his school, which has a really amazing social and emotional component. I was impressed to see how much Liam had internalized these concepts when I asked him to record a video last summer giving advice to his brother and other kids entering kindergarten.
Totally unprompted, he said:
“When you get to the hard stuff that you’re unfamiliar with, and that might seem confusing to you, it’s not all about being perfect. It matters that you try your best and you have fun, and as long as you do those two things, you did perfect.”
Amazing, right? And as a lifelong perfectionist who has a hard time with failure myself, I need to remember this as much as anyone.
In fact, I’ve been learning about resilience alongside my kids.
A few months ago, as I was grappling with some of my own failures, my business strategist recommended that I read Carol Dweck’s book “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.” This turned out to be the perfect book to literally be in the middle of reading as the election results came out on November 8th, and in the ensuing aftermath.
Dweck explores the concept of a growth mindset vs a fixed mindset, applicable in all areas of life from business to sports, art, creativity, education, relationships and more.
She proposes that while we are all born with inherent talents, skills, and traits, none of them are fixed, and all can be learned. Failure, then, is not a reflection on who you are or what you are capable of, but rather an opportunity to learn and improve.
In fact, Liam’s second-grade class has been studying the growth mindset too! You can check out http://ideas.classdojo.com to see videos on concepts such as “your brain is a muscle,” “the magic of mistakes” and “the power of YET.”
What does joy have to do with this?
One of the things I’ve been grappling with since the election is - how do you move on through grief and trauma of any kind? How do you normalize your life without normalizing a situation that is horrifying and completely unacceptable?
I wrote about this shortly after the election, and about five things that were helping me - self-care, gratitude, saying how I feel, action rather than blame, and faith not fear. I’m still working on those things, and those things are still helping me, but I also wanted something simple and distilled, a touchstone that I could come back to over and over as we move forward into a new year.
And what I came up with was: resilience through joy.
Because while we get to feel our feelings, giving into depression and the often resulting inertia does no one any good on a long term basis.
Because, as I’ve said before, they don’t get to take away our joy.
And because, as I’ve said before, joy can be a form of resistance, of defiance and a surprisingly powerful tool for resilience.
I have to admit that I’m not 100% there yet, and I don’t know that I’ll ever be there. But that’s ok. You can’t mandate joy, any more than you can mandate any kind of feelings.
But what I know is that it works, and how it works for me is:
a) being open to it
b) looking for it and
c) celebrating it and expressing gratitude for it when I find it.
I have literally been photographing my way out of depression by using my camera to do this - to find resilience through joy.
And I have even created a hashtag for it on both Facebook and Instagram that I invite you to check out and join me in using if you too would like a way of normalizing your life without normalizing the situation.
Use #resiliencethroughjoy to share the joy in your life while still acknowledging the fight we are in.
This is not something I necessarily plan on heavily promoting, but more a personal tool that I am offering to you to, for your own use, if it resonates.
For more on finding joy and connection through photographing your kids, I invite you to check out my free 7-day challenge on taking better photos of your kids using only your smartphone. You can sign up for instant access.