As we mark the close of another challenging year, my word of the year for 2021 is “Resilience+.” And actually, it’s my leading contender for word of the decade. (Yes, I know it’s early, but it’s hard to imagine anything displacing it in the years ahead.)
Just as streaming platforms from Disney+ and Apple TV+ to Discovery+ and Paramount+ have now rolled out hours and hours of on-demand content, Resilience+ is the on-demand feature we all need in the new year. 2021 was the year we watched the pandemic go from something we thought and hoped would have a defined end to, at best, an endemic virus that will always be part of our lives. And our thinking about resilience is evolving in the same way. Resilience is not, as so many of us thought in the early days of the pandemic, an end state we can reach. It’s a constant process of becoming. In the presence of endless uncertainty, apocalyptic weather events, political instability and new variants that upend the best-laid plans, Resilience+ is the on-demand quality we cannot do without — a constant process rather than a final destination. Not a marker to reach, but a mindset.
It’s similar to happiness, actually — another quality we tend to idealize as an end state. But as Professor Richard Davidson at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has shown, we can actually train ourselves to be happier through practice in very tangible and measurable ways by giving ourselves the resources to deal with the ups and downs of life. Similarly, we can train ourselves to be more resilient through practice, and that’s the essence of Resilience+.
In a sense, as we look back at the year behind us and look ahead to the new year, as we come to grips with the realization that there will be no idyllic “post-pandemic” future, we’re moving into adulthood as a culture. When we’re children we think there will come a day when we’ll have arrived, when we’ll have everything we want, when we’ll feel settled and complete. But when we grow up, we realize that day never comes, that life is a constant process of change and evolution. Similarly, we’ve gone from waiting for a return to normal to realizing that there will never be a static normal, that we’ll never be able to just do maintenance over our lives.
It brings to mind one of my favorite quotes, attributed to philosopher Alfred D’Souza: “For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin — real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life.” As we enter 2022, it’s dawned on all of us that this uncertainty is our life. And such uncertainty certainly calls for Resilience+.
Merriam-Webster’s word of the year for 2021 is “vaccine.” The Oxford English Dictionary’s choice is “vax.” But Resilience+ is both our vaccine and our booster for life. And just as boosters are essential for our physical immunity, a daily process of strengthening our resilience is essential for our emotional and mental immunity.
So that’s my wish for a thriving New Year: that we take with us into 2022 whatever routines, habits and well-being practices help us to continually build our resilience. And unlike the streaming platforms, which are designed to hook us and, if we binge-watch through the night, deplete us, Resilience+ is about refueling and replenishing so we can meet whatever challenges 2022 holds with less stress, more joy and endlessly renewable stores of resilience.
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