Fort Worth ISD launched an historic partnership this week in the creation of the Fort Worth ISD Education Foundation. Ten years in the planning process with many starts and stops but never, not once, did the individuals supporting the work, give up on the idea. We may have put it on the back burner for several months or years, and were forced to stall discussion for one pragmatic reason or another, but in the end, when the time was right, it happened. It will be an organization that supports Fort Worth children and youth for years to come. Well worth the wait, I predict.
With experience, I have come to believe that the most important trait of a person’s happiness and success in life is our individual resiliency factors. With children living in poverty, developing resiliency is paramount to survival in many cases.
The following items were used in the International Resilience Project as a checklist for perceptions of resilience in children.
- The child has someone who loves him/her totally (unconditionally).
- The child has an older person outside the home she/he can tell about problems and feelings.
- The child is praised for doing things on his/her own.
- The child can count on her/his family being there when needed.
- The child knows someone he/she wants to be like.
- The child believes things will turn out all right.
- The child does endearing things that make people like her/him.
- The child believes in a power greater than seen.
- The child is willing to try new things.
- The child likes to achieve in what he/she does.
- The child feels that what she/he does makes a difference in how things come out.
- The child likes himself/herself.
- The child can focus on a task and stay with it.
- The child has a sense of humor.
- The child makes plans to do things.
Resilience develops as people grow up and gain better thinking and self-management skills and more knowledge. Resilience also comes from supportive relationships with parents, peers and others, as well as cultural beliefs and traditions that help people cope with the inevitable bumps in life.
Psychologist Barbara Fredrickson and her colleagues have found that positive emotions are the “fuel” for resilience. They help people find meaning in ordinary and difficult events. Finding meaning in life events leads to more positive emotions, this in turn leads to a greater ability to find meaning and purpose. Fredrickson calls this an “upward spiral” of greater well-being. They also found that resilient people still felt as many negative emotions as less happy people, often very intense ones. But they felt more positive emotions, and it was the positive emotions that accounted for “their better ability to rebound from adversity and stress, ward off depression, and continue to grow.” Their increase in happiness came from feeling good; not from avoiding feeling bad.
The reason positive emotions predicted resilience and greater happiness is that positive emotions help us build skills and internal resources. Positive emotions like kindness, amusement, creativity, and gratitude put us in a frame of mind to explore the world around us and build a larger repertoire of assets that we can draw on in stressful times. In other words, “Happy people become more satisfied not simply because they feel better, but because they develop resources for living well.”
Maya Angelou – an epitome of resiliency – shares with us a poem from I Know Why the Cage Bird Sings. Rest in peace, dear Maya, as your words will live on.
“A free bird leaps
on the back of the wind
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wing
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.
But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped
and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.”