Why do Some Dig Deep and Others Give Up?

Have you heard of Mo Isom? She is an amazing young woman from LSU who became well known because of her desire to make the LSU football team as a place kicker. She didn’t make the cut last spring but LSU’s coach, Les Miles, said she has another shot at the position in August. That headline may get your attention, but when you learn more about her life and adversities she has overcome, that’s what will keep your attention.

Here’s the cliff-note version of her story:

  • She had a 4.06 GPA at Lassiter High in Marietta, Ga. She was Miss Lassiter, active in all the clubs, was a soccer star and won awards for volunteer work – a seemingly charmed life.
  • She was also bulimic. By her senior year Mo would throw up 10 times a day and worked out for six hours. Exhaustion hit and she realized the drive to be perfect could ruin her. She faced her demons and overcame her eating disorder.
  • Mo then went off to LSU and immediately became an Internet sensation by booting a 90-yard free kick over the other goalie’s head. It made ESPN’s Top 10 plays and has been watched almost 185,000 times on YouTube.
  • She continued to do well academically, was crowned Homecoming Queen and her life seemed charmed again. Then her father committed suicide.
  • Ten months later, she was driving home when a deer jumped out of the woods into the path of her Jeep. She swerved and hit an embankment, rolled over three times and landed upside down against a tree.
  • Mo had a broken neck, broken ribs, lung and liver damage and brain contusions. And now she is in top physical condition and in grad school at LSU!

So what it is with people like Mo who overcome big-time adversity to accomplish even more when others curl up in the fetal position when something challenging or unpleasant comes their way? I think it has a lot to do with resilience. I don’t think resilience is a trait you are born with, but instead it’s something that can be learned and developed over time. It involves behaviors, actions and a positive mindset.  Resilience is developed by working through emotions and the effects of painful situations.

Here are some factors that I think contribute to resilience. Resilient individuals:

  • Have close relationships with family and friends – feeling support from others
  • Possess a positive self-image and confidence in their abilities
  • Have self-control to manage feelings and impulses
  • Practice good problem-solving and communication skills
  • Look for the good that can come from bad circumstances vs. being a victim of the circumstances
  • Cope with stress in healthy ways (exercise vs. substance abuse)
  • Focus on and help others rather than wallowing in self pity

Just like muscle growth from exercise – it comes from the struggle…pushing against gravity. I think growth in resilience comes from having challenging experiences. “No pain, no gain”, right?

So how would you rate yourself on the list above? Take time to think about what you need to do differently if you’re not happy with that assessment.

Next time you’re faced with some adversity, look for the good that will come from it and read stories about people like Mo for inspiration. It’s a perfect opportunity to build your resilience capability!

Martha Duesterhoft is a Partner with PeopleResults. Follow her on Twitter @Mduesterhoft or connect via email at mduesterhoft@www.people-results.com