A Gold Medal in Resilience

Resilience: Ability to recover readily from illness, depression, adversity, or the like; buoyancy

The Winter Olympics recently wrapped up in Pyeongchang South Korea, and it was Canada’s best showing ever. Our athletes finished the games with a total of 29 medals, 11 of them gold. It was an excellent two weeks, with many highlights, but one major aspect stood out to me: the resilience of Canadian athletes.

A few examples:

  1. Kim Boutin. This speedskater won three medals overall, two bronze and one silver. She overcame online abuse, resulting from her being awarded a bronze medal after a South Korean skater was disqualified. Some Korean fans blamed Boutin for this development.
  2. Kaetlyn Osmond. Osmond won a bronze medal in women’s figure skating, but nearly wasn’t even in these Olympics. She almost retired from skating after breaking her leg during the 2014 season.
  3. Mark McMorris. McMorris won a bronze medal in men’s slopestyle snowboarding, yet just last year, he nearly died. McMorris was snowboarding with friends in March 2017 when he suffered serious, near-fatal injuries, which included a fractured jaw, fractured left arm, ruptured spleen, pelvic fracture, rib fractures, and a collapsed left lung.

All three of these athletes demonstrated remarkable resilience, managing to overcome injury and hardship to not only compete at the top of their sports, but also to win. All of us could benefit from their example, especially young people, who have not always been taught what it means to be resilient.

We’re living in a time of instant gratification, where young people often want to see results immediately, and aren’t willing to give things time. The rise in helicopter parenting has only compounded the problem, with parents often rushing in to protect their children from failure and disappointment. They are doing them a disservice however, since in the real world, failure is inevitable. Those who know how to cope with it, and use it as fuel to move ahead, will ultimately be successful.

Imagine if any of the athletes I mentioned above had decided to give in to frustration or despair, and had stopped competing. They never would have been at these Olympics and never would have experienced the triumph and pride in winning a medal for their country. They can look back and say they overcame these obstacles and are stronger for it.

When it comes to careers, being able to adapt to change and bounce back from disappointment and failure, is crucial for success. Further, people are increasingly finding themselves doing contract and freelance work, and full time positions are becoming harder to secure in many industries. Workers who are resilient will generally have an easier time navigating these challenges, and be more successful in the long run than those who are not. We need to do more to help our young people develop this quality, so that they are better prepared to face the future, and to thrive in whatever situation they may encounter.

For now, they could certainly benefit from studying the examples set by the athletes I’ve described here, and so many others like them.