I recently finished the book “The Power of Meaning“.
This book is well summarized in a review by The Wall Street Journal “A persuasive attack on the idea that happiness is a goal we should aim for in life. A search for happiness is destined to fail…but by finding meaning outside ourselves, we can thrive.”
The author highlights research by Steven Southwick, who studied those who endured trauma and emerged stronger.
From various interviews ten characteristics were identified in those who emerged stronger from trauma.
- Foster optimism: Don’t be in denial. See the world clearly but believe in your abilities.
- Face your fears: Hiding from fear makes it worse. Face it and you overcome it.
- Have a moral compass: A strong feeling of right and wrong tied to altruism, selflessly serving others
- Practice spirituality: Transcendent source of meaning, strength and power greater than yourself. Be a part of a group that has strong beliefs.
- Give and receive social support: Social support, healthy relationships with adult to buffer against harmful effects of adversity.
- Imitate resilient role models: Or have people you know you do not want to be.
- Physical fitness: Exercise adapts your body to stress.
- Be a lifelong learner: Keep your brain sharp and it will give you solutions when you need them most.
- Have a number of ways to cope: Be like Navy SEALs and Special Forces operators — and laugh.
- Have meaning in your life: Have a worthy goal or mission in life. Don’t just do a job; have a calling and a purpose.
Interestingly enough, Steven also observes that “Many of them reported having a great appreciation of life, closer connections with family, and a new found sense of meaning and purpose because of their prison experience.”
This is an encouraging reminder that every single life event has a purpose, even the very, very hard ones.