Resilience: Building stronger emotional ‘muscles’

MUSA was in 400L  at the university and was in good standing to earn a First Class honours degree. However, Musa was also very enterprising and sold all sorts – shoes, shirts, artwork, photography, each and every venture that could earn him extra money – Musa was involved in it.

How he managed to maintain his excellent grades despite his numerous business ventures was a mystery to his classmates. But the truth is that he often studied late into the night every single day.

So, it was a shock to everyone when he was summoned in 400L and informed that his academic record was incomplete. He had submitted his college results with five distinctions and two credits but his English language result was withheld.

At the time, he already had an external GCE result wherein he had a distinction in English. However, at the time, the university had stopped the combination of college results from more than one seating as a basis for admission.

But on compassionate grounds, after he had written a letter of appeal, he was allowed to complete his registration with the expectation that his English language result will be released in due course. He subsequently forgot about it and the result was never released.

Until his final year when the records staff were going through the documentation of each final year student and collating their scores. And then they realized he had incomplete results. He could not register for the exams again as the dates will be incongruent. Painfully, the university authorities called him to notify him that he was going to be withdrawn from school.

Musa was devastated as were his classmates and lecturers. And he was from a struggling family, where his parents were hopeful that he would get a job after graduation and begin to offer financial support to his younger siblings.

What would he do now? Who could he turn to for help? He had to sit for the college examinations again and then hoped to gain admission and start all over. How is he going to fund this long pathway to attain a university degree after such a devastating setback? What would happen to his aged parents and younger siblings who were looking up to him?

He decided to go into full-time business while preparing for the WAEC examinations again. It took him two years to raise the necessary funds, pass his examinations and gain admission into the university. He did not hang his head and feel sorry for himself, but he took the blow in his stride and started working hard to overcome the challenges.

He graduated with a first class and instead of looking for paid employment, he established his own business. Within a few years, he was doing very well and employed 20 young men and women. He is very passionate about encouraging young people – especially students, to learn entrepreneurial skills.

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Lessons for us all

The reality of life is that we are all going to be faced with situations similar to Musa above, where life may appear to have treated us unfairly – despite our hard work and sincerity. In such instances, what do we do? Hang our heads and withdraw into our shell?

Refuse to come out and interact with society for fear that others may be laughing at us behind our backs – or even to your face? Give up and stop trying to achieve your goals? Or would you dig in and seek to learn from the situation and make necessary adjustments? Would you shrug it off, and continue to work hard, like Musa above, until you attain success?

What makes the difference between individuals who respond differently to setbacks with one person giving up and becoming overwhelmed; while the other individual appears undeterred, and perseveres until he succeeds – no matter the odds? The difference can be captured in one word: RESILIENCE.

Can we learn to become resilient in the face of adversity?

Certainly. It requires patient hardwork and it is a slow process, but we can train our emotional reactions in the face of adversity. Similar to body-building exercises, which do not translate into big muscles overnight.

But if you persist in lifting weights, in weeks to months, your muscles become bigger and stronger. Likewise, we can train our emotional responses in the face of setbacks, until we master and take control, and become better at handling negative life circumstances or setbacks.

We owe ourselves this skill, to build our emotional ‘muscles’ and become resilient; because no one owes you a duty to make you happy. It is your responsibility to take control of your happiness. You cannot control how other people will treat you, but you certainly CAN control how you respond, or how you allow such actions to impact on your emotional well-being.



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