Resilience | Eric Greitens

Summary of: Resilience: Hard-Won Wisdom for Living a Better Life
By: Eric Greitens


In ‘Resilience: Hard-Won Wisdom for Living a Better Life’, author Eric Greitens shares powerful stories and lessons from his experiences working with veterans, demonstrating the importance of resilience in overcoming various challenges. Through numerous anecdotes and examples, the book highlights that facing pain and hardships with courage can not only build strength but also bring about a sense of purpose – be it in work or relationships. The book encourages readers to forge a purpose through action and personal growth, emphasizing the role of positive habits, conscious decision-making, and accepting responsibility for one’s actions.

Resilience: Harnessing the Power of Pain

Life is full of hardships that can get us down, but we can choose to be resilient and grow stronger from them. Pain can build courage if we see it in the right light and choose to overcome it. Rather than bouncing back, the goal is to move through difficult experiences. The author learned this from working with veterans who faced loss and transformed it into something positive. This is exemplified in the story of Redmon Ramos, who lost his leg in Afghanistan but chose to confront his pain and eventually became a Paralympic medalist. Miguel de Cervantes, imprisoned in 1602, also found a way to transform his misery into something positive by inventing the story of Don Quixote. We can all follow their lead and meet life’s challenges with courage and resilience.

Choose Purposeful Challenges

Fulfillment in work and relationships is achieved by seeking purpose through meaningful challenges that push our limits and result in joyful states of flow. Lack of purpose is detrimental to our well-being and requires actively seeking out new experiences outside of our comfort zones.

We all aspire to have fulfilling work and happy relationships, but achieving them requires hard work and struggle. The key is understanding which struggles are worth undertaking, and the answer lies in discovering our purpose. Purpose isn’t something we stumble upon casually; it requires taking action and trying new things to create it for ourselves.

It may be scary to leave our comfort zones and take on new challenges, but we shouldn’t underestimate the value of facing them. Research by professor Mihaly Cziksztentmihalyi has shown that the best moments of our lives occur when our bodies and minds are pushed to their limits, resulting in a state of complete absorption called flow. These moments of difficulty lead to joy and a sense of fulfillment.

Not being challenged, however, can have the opposite effect on our minds. Without meaningful challenges, our mental well-being deteriorates just as our physical well-being does when our basic needs are not met. A 2014 Gallup study found that long-term unemployment led to depression in many cases due to a lack of purpose.

The goal of our lives, therefore, is not to avoid struggle, but to seek out purposeful challenges. Lack of purpose is as harmful as sleep deprivation in the long run, making it crucial for us to actively seek out new experiences and challenges that push our limits. By doing so, we can achieve the sense of fulfillment we yearn for in both our work and relationships.

Resilience and Responsibility

Resilience is about taking responsibility for your actions, accepting what you cannot change and redirecting your focus to what you have control over. History shows terrible consequences for refusing to take responsibility for your actions while wisdom and peace lie in reconciling with the uncontrollable. Even at their most powerless, some people find inner strength that can’t be taken from them.

Building Strong Habits

Building strong habits is the key to developing a strong character and spirit. Through repetition, we can reinforce positive behaviors and overcome hard times. The Ancient Greeks understood this concept and structured physical training around repetition. By cultivating habits of kindness, we can become kinder individuals and positively influence others. However, negative habits can also become ingrained through repetition, so it is important to train even harder to build positive habits.

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