Most dictionaries define resilience as ‘the ability to recover quickly’ and ‘the property of a material that resumes its original shape after distortion.’ We understand the meaning by considering the antonyms for resilience: words like ‘fragility’, ‘inflexibility’ and ‘weakness’.
In times of continuous pressure and change, resilience is often cited as one of the key attributes of successful leaders – a positive ability to weather the storm that rages around.
In successful adult learning, resilience is also a key factor. Those who learn most effectively are those who can try, fail and try again, managing the negative feelings associated with difficult learning experiences.
So, traditionally, we have thought of resilience as something to be admired: a resilient individual or community is one able to withstand the stresses of a radical challenge to the status quo, one that does not crumble under pressure.
But what if resilience is also the very thing that inhibits necessary change? In other words, can we be so resilient that we withstand forces that ought to lead to change and ought not to be resisted? Put another way, could our very positive ability to weather storms, for example, make us unable to understand that the storms are linked to global warming and therefore need to be addressed rather than simply weathered?
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