Belief is a powerful tool. It is the fuel of Resilience. When we have a strong sense of belief, obstacles become challenges and we find comfort in feeling uncomfortable. Knowing and understanding our strengths creates a calmness that allows us to persist; to be intensely present and disciplined despite the pressure and reality of situations that test our courage.
I have always loved the message that comes from the experiences of United States Navy Vice Admiral, James Stockdale, who served during the Vietnam War. After his aircraft was shot down, he was held captive in Hanoi prison, North Vietnam. Being the most senior ranking officer in the prison, he was forced to endure seven years of the most severe level of brutal torture. From the beginning of this unimaginable period of his life, Stockdale formed a mindset that would provide him - and many of his fellow prisoners - with the resilience to survive. In his best seller ‘Good to Great’, Jim Collins deemed this thought process as the Stockdale Paradox. Despite his world of living hell, Commander Stockdale found a way to survive through embracing both the harshness of the situation with the belief and vision of its eventual end. He summed this up perfectly following his release;
“You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end – which you can never afford to lose – with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be”.
When asked who didn’t make it out, Stockdale answered, “Oh that’s easy – the optimists”. He went on to explain that they wouldn’t accept reality and would pin their hope on being out at Easter or Christmas etc. As the months and years ticked over with no release in sight, he chillingly finished his explanation saying, “they died of a broken heart”.
Acceptance enables control. Belief fosters mindfulness which allows us to stay intensely aware of the present and defuses unnecessary anxiety. There are many rewards that await us as a result of our ability to be resilient.