Motivation requires a clear vision, courage, and persistence. And it takes resiliencenot giving up or quitting when faced with difficulties and challenges. A resilient person maintains a positive attitude even when faced with difficult situations. Students who are resilientwho bounce back quickly from difficult situationswill be more successful in college and in life. They stay focused on achieving their purpose. Learning to keep going when things are hard is one of the most important lessons you’ll learn in this class.

There are many other terms that are used to describe resilience and determination. One of these terms is grit, a combination of perseverance, passion, and resilience. Psychologist Angela Duckworth has studied grit and has found that people who are “gritty” are more likely to be both academically and personally successful.2 Another term that encompasses resilience comes from Finland: Sisu is a word that dates back hundreds of years and is described as being central to understanding Finnish culture. It means going beyond one’s mental or physical ability, taking action even when things are difficult, and displaying courage and determination in the face of challenge and repeated failures.


Resilience is such an important concept in psychological health that the American Psychological Association has developed a list of resilience strategies: “10 Ways to Build Resilience.”3 These are as follows:

  1. Make connections. Good relationships with close family members, friends, or others are important. Accepting help and support from those who care about you and will listen to you helps you to become more resilient. Some people find that being active in civic groups, religious organizations, or other community groups gives them support and encouragement. Assisting others in their time of need also can benefit the helper.

  2. Avoid seeing crises as problems that can’t be overcome. You can’t change the fact that highly stressful events happen, but you can change how you view and respond to these events. Try looking beyond the present and think about how things will be better in the future.

  3. Accept that change is a part of living. Obstacles might keep you from achieving certain goals. Accepting situations that cannot be changed can help you focus on those that you can change.

  4. Move toward your goals. Develop some realistic goals. Do something regularlyeven if it seems like a small accomplishmentthat enables you to move toward your goals. Instead of focusing on tasks that seem impossible, ask yourself, “What’s one thing I know I can accomplish today that helps me move in the direction I want to go?”

  5. Take decisive actions. Don’t wait for problems to disappear on their own. Take decisive actions, rather than staying away completely from problems and stresses and wishing they would just go away.

  6. Look for opportunities for self-discovery. Struggles often make people stronger and teach them what they’re made of. Consider what you have learned about yourself from going through tough times.

  7. Develop a positive view of yourself. Developing confidence in your ability to solve problems and trusting your instincts helps build resilience.

  8. Keep things in perspective. Even when facing very painful events, try to consider the big picture and keep a long-term perspective. Avoid blowing the event out of proportion.

  9. Maintain a hopeful outlook. An optimistic outlook enables you to expect that good things will happen in your life. Try visualizing what you want, rather than worrying about what you fear.

  10. Take care of yourself. Pay attention to your own needs and feelings. Engage in activities that you enjoy and find relaxing. Exercise regularly. Taking care of yourself helps to keep your mind and body ready to deal with situations that require resilience.


Don’t Let Anything Stop You Show your grit. Have sisu. Be resilient. If your goal is to graduate, overcome the obstacles that get in your way, no matter what they are.

There are other ways to deal with challenges and stressful situations. For example, some people write about their deepest thoughts and feelings related to trauma or other stressful events in their life. Meditation and spiritual practices help some people to build connections and restore hope.

Think about your own reactions to frustration and stress. Do you often give up because something is just too hard or because you can’t figure it out? Do you take responsibility for what you do, or do you blame others if you fail? For example, how have you reacted to receiving a D or F on a paper, losing a student government election, or getting rejected for a work-study job? Do you have trouble making connections with others in class?

Negative experiences might cause you to question whether you should be in college at all. Resilient students, though, look past negative experiences, learn from them, and try again. For instance, what could you do to improve your grade on your next paper? Perhaps you didn’t allow yourself enough time to do the necessary research. Why did someone else get the work-study job that you wanted? It’s possible that you need to work on your interview skills. How can you feel more comfortable in your classes? Maybe it would help to join a study group or go to the learning center. You were born with the ability to be resilient.

Many well-known and successful people overcame tough circumstances and failure. For instance, J. K. Rowling, the author of all the Harry Potter books, was divorced and penniless when she wrote the first Harry Potter book. That book was rejected by twelve publishers before it was finally accepted. Walt Disney’s first animation company went bankrupt, and he was fired by a news agency because he “lacked imagination.” Michael Jordan was cut by his high school basketball team. Jordan has been quoted as reporting that he missed 9,000 shots in his career. These people and many others did not let failure get in the way of their ultimate success.

So far in this chapter we have asked you to consider how thoughts and feelings affect behavior. We’ve discussed motivation, attitude, and resilience and have asked you to explore what motivates you, to think about your own attitude and how it helps or hurts you sometimes, and to reflect on whether you are able to bounce back from difficulty. These topics are part of a broader discussion of emotions, which we turn to next.




Think about a challenge you faced in the past. How did you feel and respond to this challenge? Be prepared to discuss your strategies in dealing with this challenge in class.