Not No but Not Yet: The Key to Thriving

by Nathan Chua

One of the wonders of research is finding out how we can be as similar to each other, as we are different. Our ability to know how others are doing as compared to ourselves, has brought researchers to countless studies that attempt to proffer explanations to such a phenomenon. We have all wondered how it is that individuals with the same faculties, are able to achieve different levels of thriving or surviving. Why is it that some of us end up as highly resilient individuals with a capacity to adjust to varied life stressors, while some seem to get stuck in limbo, with very few options in life?

The works of some who have pondered over this question, have shown different results that range from the controversial, to the inspiring. Some believe that we are set for life, by the genes that we inherit, which is rather bleak and discouraging. There’s one study though that caught my eye as inspiring. The study attempted to find out in what ways the thinking process of the thriving, differ from those who are merely surviving. The answer they came up with was simple and yet profound.

In therapy, one of the things we want to develop is a resiliency that can overcome much of life’s difficult tests. However, that can be a long shot for those who have no place to draw their resiliency from. What is it that can motivate someone to bounce back from their setbacks? In the aforementioned study, they have found out that people who flourish did not see permanence in their state. This segment of the population does not see failures as an end to their hopes and aspirations. In other words, these people just cannot take no for an answer. They believe that no’s are temporary, and may not be the eventual result of their striving. They have their eyes set on the prize, the light at the end of the tunnel.

This is the key to resiliency. A failed exam? It’s just a setback towards another crack. A botched job interview or a rejection from a major company? It’s simply their loss. A lousy job that is not within your interest or does not pay you as well as you think you deserve? It’s just a step towards your goal. Let me wait this out for a few years and I will eventually get to what I truly want to do with my life!

In short, people who have exhibited resiliency have been found in the study to say, a no is not their final destiny, but it is rather, a not yet. Hence, they accept the stages that they go through, and are willing to wait it out until they finally meet their goals.

So next time we fail, which I know we all will, let’s learn to forgive ourselves and keep working towards our goals, which may not yet be here, but may someday be ours. Whether we achieve it or not, we hold on to our hopes, which is what keeps us alive, and resilient.