Pain is a part of life. More so for some people than others of course. It seems that some people have the resources or strength or luck or skills to work through their pain and come out the other side unscathed, almost as if they hardly felt a thing.

We comfort ourselves with the thought that such people are thick skinned or stupid or less sensitive than we who feel every slight, every sting to our wounded pride, every curse, every slur, every failure more deeply. For we secretly know ourselves to be failures; useless, hopeless and helpless in the face of defeat.

At such moments we reward ourselves to numb the pain. We act out with our favourite addiction, indulgence or fantasy. We sharpen our tongues and go on the attack at the least sign of a threat to our false pride. We let others know that they have no idea how much we have had to put up with and it’s about time they shared in some of the hurt. We laugh at their uncomprehending stares as we spin on our heels and march off wrapping ourselves in our own self-pity.

Are you really a loser? This kind of behaviour is the expression of damage, it is associated with depression. It is conducive to further failure in our relations with others and reduces the chances of our achieving our goals.

Who are those successful people who can turn defeat into triumph? Who can turn an obvious flaw into a source of pride? Who seem to have everything worked out without having worked very hard for it? Winners.

Yes, as obvious as it sounds, it also remains quite shocking to me that life is made up of winners and losers! How grossly simplistic! How Darwinian! How crude! Most of all, how cruel!

That is not to say that fate has determined the outcome for us. Winners can still become losers. A winner who is only ever seriously tested once in his or her life can lose his faith, his will to live, his hold on reality or his love for those around him, simply because he had not faced many tough challenges up to that point.

Likewise a loser can become a winner by sheer force of will, determined to learn what it takes to overcome life’s challenges and persevering long enough, working hard enough to change the outcome.

Resilience is what separates winners and losers. Good parenting, a secure childhood home, caring teachers and faithful friends nurture in a child the resilience to work beyond initial failure to eventual mastery.

Resilience is not the same as success. Success or excellence depends not only on mastery but opportunity and intentionality. One must have the firm intention to take advantage of every opportunity presented and one must have the knowledge and perception to identify when an opportunity is presented. In other words, successful people have goals, take risks, are persistent and work hard at what they wish to achieve. Why? Most say because they love it! Life becomes its own reward, a virtuous circle.

The unspoken gift shared by successful people is resilience. It is on this trait that their success depends; not on luck or good fortune, not on opportunity alone, or talent or greed. There is no long lasting success without risk, and since risk implies the threat of pain and failure, a winner knows that he can rebound, even from the worst case scenario. He possesses the secret of resilience, his key to mastery and eventual success. We commonly refer to this trait as confidence, although resilience has a deeper and more specific meaning.

The phrase “Failure is not an option” is untrue. Failure is always a possibility and therefore an option. It is perhaps more familiar to very successful people because they take more risks and with sometimes higher stakes. However for winners, “Not rebounding after a failure is not an option.”

Depressed people are damaged. The actual nature of the damage can vary from person to person, but one of the most significant results of the damage is a lack of resilience. This deficit is what keeps us in a downward spiral, a vicious circle. Without resilience our failures play back for us on a continuous loop. Nothing seems to work. We can’t break the cycle. We get exhausted. We lose optimism and confidence. We lack “drive” and are fearful of taking risks.

I believe that this serious damage usually takes place in childhood or early childhood making the person vulnerable to depression and “failure” later in life. That is not to blame the parents for every episode of depression, because the wider world can be a cruel and destructive place too, but those closest to us when we are in our formative stages have the most power to bestow or deprive us of our resilience.

The task of re-parenting ourselves is the task of developing our own resilience. To be aware of this is to be aware of the enormous responsibility the task entails and the huge amount of work it demands.

I said earlier that our progress through life is a series of challenges. Resilience is what allows us to attempt these challenges and to accept the next one when we have mastered each in turn.

Resilience is our fuel, our hidden resource, our suit of armor, our magic spell. It exists even in tiny doses inside each one of us. We have now to summon it and put it to good use. It is important to understand the honesty required of us in order not to confuse true resilience with self-deception or delusion. Resilience is not just wishful thinking. It requires a rigorous self assessment and admission of our weaknesses as well as our strengths. This is the quest I spoke of earlier. We must enter into a period of preparation that will help us map out the challenges ahead and the risks we face as well as the goals we hope to achieve.

Author's Bio: 

Mark Gillespie is the creator and author of the Aurora's Dreams website and blog, as well as the soon to be released title "Aurora's Dreams: Seven Steps to a New Life".
An adopted Australian by birth and a global traveller, Mark has lived and worked in various countries in Asia, Africa, Europe, The Middle East & North America. He has committed to his own personal growth through meditation, diet and over ten years of psychotherapy.