The Women's Journal

Cultivating Resilience – Get Stuff Done

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By Fred Dawson,

Author, Entrepreneur

When things go sideways (or, as the British delightfully put it, “pear-shaped”), what do you do?

Are you motivated — or immobilized? Do you evaluate options – or wait for someone to tell you what to do?

Resilience is defined as “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties.”

Look at your heroes — the women and men you look up to, the mentors you turn to, the friends and colleagues you admire. You’ll discover they all exhibit resilience in some form or another.

Feel like you’re not especially resilient? That’s okay. It’s a quality you can develop, with a little bit of practice.

It’s normal to feel daunted

Whatever the challenge you’re facing — a “pear-shaped” situation, an experience that’s activating your inner critic, a desire to step up to new levels in your career or personal life — it’s normal to feel hesitant and even anxious.

Melinda Gates wrote, “The world is full of what seem like intractable problems. Often we let that paralyze us. Instead, let it spur you to action.” Think about that. Consider your options. This isn’t a commitment to act; it simply opens your perspective to possibilities.

Uncertainty and the unknown

The writer Anais Nin said, “In chaos, there is fertility.” Think about that for a moment.

We tend to hold back when we’re uncertain — in chaos. Women especially have been taught that it’s unsafe to be wrong. Practically from the womb, we’re expected to answer questions — and not by saying, “I don’t know!” But what if it were okay to not know — and explore?

What do you want?

Part of being resilient is knowing your values, goals, and desires. But women are often taught to want what they’re told to want. My heart breaks when I hear a woman say, “But I don’t know what I want.”

Dig down below the “shoulds” and other people’s rules. 

To quote Melinda Gates once again, “Make sure you continue to trust what you know now about yourself, and stay true to what you believe in.”

When you know what you want, you’ll have a foundation and guide for action.

Writing to discover

Take out a sheet of paper. Pick up a comfortable pen. Write a sentence describing your challenge.

Then write a question for yourself. It could be, “What are my options?” Or, “What do I need to move forward?” “What do I want?” Or even, “What’s holding me back?”

Write your answers. Keep writing. Don’t try to make it pretty or grammatical. Just write.

Thinking about a problem tends to loop endlessly through the same thought-rut. Writing clears the surface layer of thoughts and allows new ideas and insights to arise.

What’s the next smallest step?

We often hesitate to move forward when we don’t know the whole path. But sometimes we just need to take the next smallest step.

As the aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart said, “The most effective way to do it, is to do it.” And Navy Rear Admiral Grace Hopper would add, “If it’s a good idea, go ahead and do it. It’s much easier to apologize than it is to get permission.”

In the end, resilience is more than being able to bounce back from adversity when things go pear-shaped. Resilience is knowing what you want and cultivating the determination and, yes, courage to move forward, no matter what’s happening around you.

About Fred

Fred Dawson is a writer, musician, businessman, speaker, and community leader. The author of Pearls: Women Who Radiate Success, Fred celebrates successful women who have found satisfaction after years of work, struggle, or discrimination. Inspired by his mother, whom he describes as “fiercely determined,” Fred donates the books’ proceeds to the Fresh Start Scholarship Foundation, a nonprofit awarding scholarships to women who wish to transform their lives through education but lack the means.



“…these remarkable women deserve to have their stories told. Without them, who would be our mentors? Pearls is a well-written, heartwarming read, and I enjoyed every word of it. Five well-deserved stars!” ~ By Kristy Volchko

“This inspirational book will truly motivate you to ‘feel the fear and do it anyway. The women featured have shown that with the right attitude and willingness to face challenges head-on, you can achieve anything.”~ By Lesley Jones

“Pearls by Fred Dawson is the continuation of Books I and II and, like the earlier ones, will give peace and strength to readers to see how the women in the book have risen above their personal difficulties and found a balance in their workspace and personal lives. Every story and every woman mentioned will encourage readers to find their worth. These women from different walks of life, be it education, politics, law, entrepreneurship, and business, have written their own success stories. Books like this one help women to pursue their dreams and stand their ground.”~  By Mamta Madhavan