In July 2004, scholar Barack Obama introduced us to the concept of what he labeled as “the audacity of hope”. In 2006, his widely popular book The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream challenged all of us to re-conceptualize our views and become better rooted in fundamental values for decision-making. Our charge was to establish a sense of optimism while delineating inventive paths forward. At the heart of his book he called for “a vision of how we can move beyond our divisions to tackle concrete problems” and he grapples with the role that faith plays in democracy.
Fast forward to November 2016–once again, I am motivated to conduct soul searching and deep thinking about who we are at the core. I am faced with drawing on the power/strength of my ancestors and mentors who have contributed to an unbreakable foundation as to why we honor the countless vials of blood, sweat, tears and back-breaking work of the many individuals that fought for civil rights, women’s rights, and basic human rights. I am faced with a “reality check” and “wake up call” for ensuring that I model ethical leadership, empower others to celebrate diversity, and inspire colleagues to disseminate evidence based science to support advances to health equity.
We are resilient. In philosophical terms, it can be understood by the concept of conatus: a word variously translated as striving, endeavor, tenacity, striving & effort; and also with meanings related to power, will, and desire. Conatus is an essential attribute of all things, and in particular of human beings. It is our perseverance towards self-maintenance. For health researchers, resilience is an interactive concept which refers to the capacity for successful adaptation in adversity, the ability to bounce back after encountering difficulties, negative events or hard times (Rutter, 2006). It includes a sense of self-esteem, self-confidence, patience, the ability to adapt to changing circumstances, and a belief that problems can be solved (Connor and Davidson, 2003). It is a process of adapting well in the face of emotional difficulties, adversity, trauma, tragedy, and overwhelming/unrelenting stress that reflects personal & social cognition.
We must strive to take better care of ourselves—mentally, emotionally, behaviorally, physically, and spiritually. Optimal overall health and wellness is critical. Building resilience can in part start with some basic areas of focus to consider: 1) Self-Awareness and Monitoring-be conscious of your level of functioning and when a break is needed, 2) Stress Management and Relaxation-engage in pleasurable activities that work for you, such as, meditation, reading, listening to music, spiritual fellowship, mini-vacations etc., 3) Stop Self Destructive/Defeating Behaviors-refrain from negative self-talk, excessive use of alcohol, smoking tobacco, and/or engaging in risky activities, 4) Social Support-establish a network of people in your life who are positive, empowering, and uplifting, and 5) Self-Care-conduct tasks that encourage health, such as, routine exercise, adequate sleep, healthy eating, & seeing a doctor(s) for regular check-ups.
We are strong, persistent, and dedicated to ensuring that our families and communities flourish. It is remarkable how we have survived and even thrived, in many cases of unrelenting, atrocious, systemic historical, socio-political, economic, and environmental adversities. I contend that fortifying ourselves in various supportive ways can serve as a positive impetus for guarding against negativity and coping with deleterious situations. Let’s move forward as competent, thoughtful, and fierce professionals.
“When They Go Low, You Go High”
~Michelle Obama, First Lady of the United States of America~
Connor, K., Davidson, J. (2003). Development of a new resilience scale: The Connor-Davidson Resilience Scale (CD-RISC). Depress Anxiety. 18:76–82.
Fluker, W. E. (2009). Ethical Leadership: The Quest for Character, Civility, and Community. Augsburg Fortress.
Obama, B. (2006). The Audacity of Hope. Crown Publishers, New York.
Rutter, M. (2006). Implications of resilience concepts for scientific understanding. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1094(1), 1-12.