Bad things happen. How we choose to cope with those bad things is the subject of Steven Southwick’s and Dennis Charney’s book Resilience: The Science of Mastering Life’s Greatest Challenges. The authors reviewed existing studies on the topic, conducted their own research, and interviewed highly resilient people, including former Vietnam POWs, Special Forces instructors, and regular people who overcame many different kinds of horrible circumstances.
Ten resilience factors emerged from their research: optimism, facing fear, having a moral compass, religion and/or spirituality, social support, role models, physical training, brain fitness, cognitive and emotional flexibility, and a sense of meaning. They explore each factor in a separate chapter while recognizing that all the factors are interrelated and often build on each other.
Resilience, they argue, is a skill that can be learned. They outline specific actions that we can take to increase our resilience. Even better, we can start anywhere; an increase in skill in any of the ten areas will help us with resilience in general and will give us leverage in learning the other skills.
The fitness takeaway message here is that not only do we get more fit when we engage in physical training, we improve our ability to deal with whatever life chooses to deal out to us. Fitness is a survival skill.