Nella Coiro

Cultivating Resilience – “Still, I Rise”

Do you ever wonder why some individuals seem to handle adversity better than others? Given the same circumstances, why do some people give up, while others stand and fight, overcome the challenge at hand, and emerge stronger?

This week, I would like to blog about how we react when we’re presented with challenges or adversity, and ways that we can cultivate resilience. Below, I want to share some insights that I’ve learned over the years that help me. 

Learning Lessons  

Every difficulty or challenge is accompanied by a learning opportunity. In the midst of adversity, even though it can be difficult, we need to step back and ask ourselves: “What’s the lesson here? What am I supposed to learn from this?”

In order to rise above fear, we need to keep our focus on the learning opportunity rather than the obstacle at hand.  And, it’s not always easy. However, One of the most important truths that I learned in life is that if we don’t learn the lesson the first time, it will just keep repeating itself until we do so. The situations might be different, but the core lesson to be learned will be the same.


Regardless of how dark the road might seem, it helps to focus on the glimmer of hope. Hope is powerful. We can live without water for 2-3 days, without food for about 4-6  weeks, but I don’t think that we can survive very long without hope. There is simply no motivation to forge forward if the only thing that we see is never-ending darkness. Conversely, if we have a strong sense of hope, we can survive just about anything. At least, this has been my experience.

Hope is a optimistic frame of mind, and it is cultivated by the thoughts we choose to focus on. When we have hope, then we believe that we will overcome any challenges or obstacles in our path.

Although we don’t always have control over our circumstances, we have complete control over our thoughts, and we can re-train our minds to shift our focus and redirect our thinking. 


I’ve learned that if I draw upon my spiritual connection, somehow God/the Higher Power, gives me the strength to deal whatever is presented to me. Every morning, I save this prayer: “Dear God, please help me to remember that nothing can happen to me today that you and I,  together, can I handle.” 


In 12-step recovery groups, accepting (what we cannot change) is paramount. In fact, the “Big Book” of A.A. asserts that: “… acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing or situation – some fact of my life – unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment. Nothing, absolutely nothing happens in God's world by mistake… I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and in my attitudes."

The tricky part is the ability to discern situations that we have the power to control versus those that are beyond our control. Moreover, we will not be able to attain inner peace until we can gain “the wisdom to know the difference.” (The Serenity Prayer – Niebuhr.)

Impermanence – Everything Changes

The Buddhists believe that all of our suffering is caused by our desire to cling to things in our physical world. Since everyone and everything is impermanent, we suffer when we lose that which we cling go. If we recognize that everything is impermanent, we will accept change and loss with pain, but without suffering. Pain is transient, but suffering is ongoing and lingering.

My father-in-law was a serene person. He did not react to the drama and disruption created by others. He went with the flow, and he lived in a state of peace. So, it’s not surprising that his favorite mantra was: “This too shall pass.” To this day, his influence and these words still help me through every difficult moment in my life. Everything changes. More importantly, every trauma passes. 

Finesse’ and Grace

Regardless of what happens to us in life, we always have the power to control our reactions. Although we might be carrying particular burden or obstacles, the way in which we choose to carry that burden (our attitude) will make all the difference. It’s so inspirational to watch someone handle adversity with grace.

I’m a big fan of Dr. Maya Angelou, and I particularly love her poem “Still, I Rise” because I believe that it eloquently expresses the essence of resilience. When I encounter personal obstacles, I repeat these words cited below, and they always strengthen my heart and lift up my spirit:

“Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise.”

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