Jeanine Cogan
Executive coach

Jeanine Cogan

Heads Cogan Coaching and is on the faculty of the Center for Continuing and Professional Education at Georgetown University.


Bouncing back

Q: "Precious," a critically acclaimed new movie starring Gabourey Sidibe, chronicles the journey of an abused 16-year-old girl struggling to overcome her parents' brutality. What can we learn from those who are able to survive terrible circumstances? What's the most inspiring survival story you've encountered?

Part of being human is dealing with life's humiliations and defeats. The main character in "Precious" shows her ability to be resilient and overcome devastating conditions.

Resilience is the ability to overcome adversity and surmount life's challenges. It is about "bouncing back" when life knocks you down, in some cases, over and over again. Resilience distinguishes those who thrive in adverse circumstances from those who sink, and is key for success in life.

Research shows the individual factors that contribute to resilience are many, and include such skills or qualities as good intellectual functioning, perseverance, coping skills, problem-solving, self-efficacy, optimism, and high goals or expectations. Contrary to popular belief, everyone has the capacity to be resilient. And as it turns out, most people are indeed resilient. Studies show that 70 percent to 75 percent of children who experience adversity do somehow manage to live decent lives.

When you ask about inspiring survival stories I actually think of my mother and her family who lived through Nazi Germany. They lost everything during the war including their beloved father and oldest brother.

After experiencing and witnessing so much suffering my mother made her way to Spain and received certification as a translator in four different languages (Spanish, English, French and German) as she worked for the Salvation Army. She later became an instructor for the University of Maryland (their overseas branches), and worked her way up the ladder as an employee of the U.S. government for the past four decades. Plus she raised a family of three children. Her brother came to the United States to attend university and built such a successful business he was a millionaire and received an honorary doctorate from a prominent business school.

There are so many stories like this one. There are so many heroes right here in our midst. They are our mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters. In what way have you showed resilience in your life? How has that served you?

By Jeanine Cogan  |  November 19, 2009; 2:31 AM ET  | Category:  survival as success Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Moxie and tact | Next: From setbacks to comebacks

The comments to this entry are closed.

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company