Altruism is everywhere, social media, blogs, and much of “old” media is publicising feel-good values like empathy, contribution, working for the greater good, do-unto-others. Nothing wrong with that, but we must not forget that if we don’t keep our own minds and bodies in good shape, we will not be much use for helping others.
It seems that in the politically correct rush to adopt and shout about the good things we should be doing, we can easily forget the fundamental values like resilience and perseverance.
When technology and societal trends come together to offer unlimited opportunities for instant gratification and distraction it can be too easy to abandon anything that becomes difficult and move on to the next new cause, fad or activity.
Despite regional conflicts in various parts of the world, the recession, economic difficulties in Southern Europe and spasmodic terrorist acts, most of the developed world is experiencing a long period of relative peace. No cold war tensions, no threat of global nuclear destruction, no Vietnam war, no atrocities in the Balkans, the winding down of our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our involvement in the Syrian and Egyptian conflicts almost certainly limited to being concerned spectators.
Without those historical, mind-numbing fears for our continued existence, it is natural for increasing numbers of people to focus attention on new, popular causes. From saving seals to saving souls, educating children in Africa to eradicating global poverty, saving the environment to persecuting bankers. All worthy, all good causes, for many of us our conscience can be eased by giving money. But opening our wallets or providing our credit card number does not build resilience or perseverance.
Millions of people in the West are still struggling to overcome adversity, are unemployed, have lost their homes, been forced to radically adjust their life-styles, millions in parts of Europe are suffering badly. Those are people learning about resilience the hard way, their new-found strengths will help them the next time they hit a bumpy patch on life’s highway. But most of us are surviving quite well, not needing to depend on resilience or perseverance to live comfortable lives.
That’s dangerous, it sets us up for panic if and when the wheels do fall off a big part of our lives, business failure, sudden unemployment, major injury or illness, death in the family, divorce. Any of these can change our lives in a heart beat, it is up to us whether we have the resilience to survive the changes.
You can develop resilience in many ways, having the courage of your convictions is one, standing up for what you believe and defending that belief when challenged. Refusing to be coerced or intimidated by authorities when you know in your heart you are right.
I recently had two experiences when resilience and perseverance helped me succeed in disputes, one with a government organisation and one a business.
In the first, I dug my heels in when I was (I believed unfairly) penalised by the tax collectors in 2010. The penalty was not huge, a few hundred dollars, The background is too long to relate here, but I was convinced it was unjustified and vindictive. My choices were either to contest it by using a lawyer, or to apply to have it overturned by explaining the facts and requesting a reversal myself. The first option would have cost more than the penalty itself.
After 3 years of writing letters and refusing to back down, last week I received a letter advising that the penalty and interest had been reversed. In financial terms, a small victory and probably a Pyrrhic one in that the time I spent writing letters and telephoning cost me more than I saved. But in terms of standing up for principles, fighting for what I knew to be the right thing to do, worth every minute. It would have been easier to just pay the penalty, but at what price to my core values?
The second case involving an investment in another country where persistence in the face of several flat refusals to listen to my request is now getting results.
Without the resilience, perseverance and persistence, developed over many experiences of adversity, I would not have stood a chance of winning these two small battles.
How about you? Are you resilient? Do you persevere?
Leave a comment with your thoughts.
Wishing you an extraordinary life.