The Lost Art of Resilience

Without sharing how many rotations around the sun I’ve experienced, I can certainly age myself by simply reflecting on how much more resilient, and independent my generation was the the students in my current classrooms.

Decision making used to be a valued skill, with opportunity cost, and missing out on experiences natural consequences, and regular practice in life. We didn’t have everything we wanted, sometimes not even what we needed, but we figured out ways to manage. When something was sold out, it was gone forever. We didn’t log into Amazon, or Ebay, or search online relentlessly until we found our coveted objects; we went without. In the most opportunistic experiences, we settled for alternatives.

It appears that we are now constantly inundated with instant gratification fixes for our needs. Lost is the art of waiting a week for a new episode of a show; streaming allows us to binge watch an entire season without missing a beat for a snack or washroom break.

Information is constantly at our fingertips, so why bother retaining any of it? We don’t have to make choices, or decisions because myriad choices are thrust into our faces daily, so missing out today simply means having what you want another day.

Several years back, I was in a shop with two of my younger children. My youngest was struggling to choose two shirts because the shirt she wanted came in three colours. I was not buying her three shirts because the sale was “buy one, get one half off,” or something to that extent. My child was overtired, and probably hungry. We should not have been out shopping, but someone in the family had an urgent errand to run, and decided that ALL of us needed to join in.

There I stood in the shop trying to help my child choose two shirts while an epic tantrum erupted over wanting the third. The “well-meaning” salesperson decided to “help” She told my child that it didn’t matter if I didn’t buy her the shirt that night because I would absolutely return in a few days to buy it for her as a gift. She also stated that since the holidays were approaching, Santa would surly bring the shirt if I didn’t buy it.

Maybe it was my lack of coffee, or my lack of patience with everyone, and everything, but I did not hold my tongue when speaking to the salesperson. I recognize that she was trying to help, but she had no right promising my child that I would return to purchase the shirt, and her bold assumption that Santa would visit my house made me lose my mind.

We don’t participate in Santa, or other commercial aspects of holidays, but it was the bold assumption that my child would eventually get this shirt, no matter what really pissed me off to be honest. I firmly told the sales associate that she was wrong. I explained to both her, and my child that children who throw epic tantrums don’t end up getting what they want because negative behaviour is not rewarded.

My child never did get the third shirt, but to be honest, there were countless times when my children did get exactly what they wanted even after epic tantrums. Not immediately mind you, but delayed gratification as birthday, or holiday gifts. My point is, they rarely truly understand what it means to hear the word “no,” and have be followed through long term. Even if we didn’t provide them with the object of desire, someone else would end up gifting them financial freedom and they would purchase things for themselves. It’s frustrating beyond words.

I’m not sure why we try so hard to protect our children from “heartbreak.” Obviously, they will be upset in the short term if they don’t get what they want, and maybe long term, they will remember missing out, but it’s honestly a matter of picking battles and deciding what’s really worth missing out on.

The fact of the matter is, most people today are not emotionally equipped to deal with disappointment. Thing of the person that persists at asking someone out on a date. The first “no” should be a huge “stop sign,” however many people persevere, trying various approaches to try whittling their love interest. People are so accustomed to “no” being a gateway to an eventual “yes” which causes incredible issues with consent, but we’ll save that for another discussion.

It’s quite possible that the pandemic wore people’s motivation down, however I, along with many people I know have seen a tremendous drop in young people taking initiative, or having much motivation to do anything that isn’t “entertaining,” “fun,” “exciting,” or exactly what they want to be doing.

I’ve witnessed young adults choose part-time jobs based on how little work they can get away with doing. I’ve witnessed people in their twenties, or thirties refuse to work specific shifts, or do required tasks because they disrupted their personal life schedules, or required more effort than they wanted to exert. It’s scary!

In a recent math class, a fourteen year old student told me that he didn’t need to remember anything that I was teaching because he’d always be able to Google answers to whatever questions he had!

It’s great that we have such quick access to information, however, very few people, adults included actually know how to differentiate between facts, fiction, and opinions when they are reading information online. There is also an issue considering the fact that most people are not able to discern which websites provide unbiased, and proper information compared to armchair warriors spewing their ridiculously unfounded notions.

In many ways, this quick access to information, combined with everything being displayed on social media for open season hunting on everyone’s lives, creates a major lack of accountability, and motivation. Why should anyone TRY if they don’t have to? Why should anyone take responsibility when all around people are simply doing what they want to do?

During the pandemic, many responsibilities were put off. Many people learned that they could avoid responsibilities because there was always another day to get things done. There was little accountability for getting school work, or actual employment work done because no one knew how to face the situations at hand. Everyone was waiting for a better day. Everyone was waiting for something to get better.

I’ve noticed a horrible trend in children not being able to handle themselves in social situations. I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but, back in my day, if someone made fun of another person, the victim would stand up for themselves, resort to violence, ignore them, or in extreme situations, seek someone else’s help, sometimes an adult, usually a friend. Obviously, I’m NOT promoting violence. I am trying to express how when I was younger, my friends, and I were able to differentiate between deep insults that required action, and simple nonsense that people threw at us for petty satisfaction.

I was a bullied child. I had my shoes ripped off my feet and nearly flushed in a toilet. I had my locker vandalized, and someone chased me with a homemade torch. I’ve been called so many horrible names, I actually contemplated changing my first name because it was too easy to turn into an insult. I had it rough, but easier than some of my friends, and peers.

The difference between us, and the children now is that most of us built resiliency. We figured out how to navigate our issues. We solved our own problems. We bonded together and outsmarted the bullies. When absolutely necessary, we involved adults. We knew when, and why, other than that, we fought our own battles.

Now, I’m seeing children, and adults whining about every little thing without having the ability to let things go, or stand up for themselves. The level of entitlement that I’m seeing is mind-blowing!

Everyone seems to want the best of everything without having to earn it. People are complaining about having to work, or actually fulfill all of the aspects of their jobs. I’m so tired of hearing “That’s not MY job!” when something desperately NEEDS to be done. Obviously, we don’t want to be doormats, but there comes a time, and place when we have to sacrifice, and do things that don’t fall into our job descriptions in order to keep people safe, and healthy. Sometimes we have to help even if “it’s outside of our pay grade;” an expression, and attitude that turns my stomach!

I struggle with the concept of children receiving stickers for participating in a swimming class, or skating less. Isn’t being able to take part in the activity reward enough? Why does everyone need to get a participation trophy? Can’t there be clear winners? Why are we so afraid of allowing people to face disappointment? Not everything can come up as wins in life! There as to come a point in time where “NO!” has true meaning. There has to come a point in time when hard work is the norm, and expectation, not the exception to the rule. There has to come a time when people take responsibility, and accountability for their decisions, and actions.

It’s impossible to develop any form of resiliency without any growth, without any disappointment, without any sense of responsibility, accountability, trust, and choice. We owe it to ourselves, our children, and future generations to stop coddling, and start encouraging critical thinking skills, and growth mindset development.

We need a world of thinkers, not robots! We need a world of empaths, and creatives. We need a world full of resilient people who are capable of change rather than mindless zombies that wander around looking for their next instant gratification fix.

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