Resilience and how to nurture it | by Dr Gerhard van Rensburg

Dr Gerhard AltI am privileged to have the journals of my great grandfather and grandfather. In total, these encompass more than 500 pages of writing providing a reader with astonishing detail of their day-to-day lives, their struggles, thinking, faith, and resilience.

Mostly, these journals tell a story of survival in the harsh, unforgiving wilderness of the Northern Cape, and two lives spanning more than 100 years since the mid 19th century. For pure survival, these two individuals trekked for many decades with whatever they had and could fit onto the wagon, the number of cattle they had at any given point in time, and the hope to find water, pasture, and landowners' benevolence to help them for a while - with minimal success.

Resilience then
As you can imagine, their journeys included lots of physical challenges, illnesses, premature deaths, bitter disappointments, humiliations, and tests of faith. Reading their stories opens my eyes, makes me grateful for their sacrifices, but also makes me think about resilience.

Then resilience meant to get up in the morning, fighting the pains of aching muscles due to all sorts of hard labour. It meant to keep going physically, taking care of the basic things for survival. It was brutal and harsh, but fairly simple.

Resilience today
Why do we find resilience to be so topical currently despite, all the luxuries we have today in comparison to what they had?

I think we are challenged in a different way: We are challenged mentally - challenged with complexity, and confusion of the mind. Too many things have changed and are changing too fast. What is still right, wrong, good or bad? All these new things and conveniences are supposed to simplify our lives and yet, we experience the opposite. But, no different to the challenge my forefathers faced, we must go forward.

The challenges – and opportunities to build to our resilience – might look different today, but they do seem to go to the core of our being: our identity, our passions and dreams, our sense of self-worth and everything that makes up our character. In the end, we either choose - knowingly or unknowingly - to keep on learning and developing, or to give up. And that is how we build the resilience needed to survive and lead in the contemporary workplace.

Want to learn more about resilience? Take our resilience self-assessment test here.

This is a lightly edited version of a blog that was originally published by Dr Gerhard van Rensburg - a leadership & personal development coach. For more, visit

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Posted on July 10, 2018