As someone who studies resilience around the world, I’ve learned many inspiring truths about coping with adversity from children who have overcome life’s challenges. The more I learn, the more I understand that my own life, and that of my colleagues and friends, could benefit from many of the same processes that make it possible for children to do unexpectedly well in contexts where we would expect them to fail.
Here’s what I’ve learned: Most of us want to believe that if our children master the three Rs — reading, writing and arithmetic — they’re guaranteed a good future. While there is a connection between how well a child does in grade three and how much he or she will earn over his or her lifetime, a child needs a lot more than just these few skills to thrive. When life knocks our children off their feet, it’s resilience, the fourth “R”, that will predict how well they do. Adrianna Huffington observed much the same when she suggested in her book, Thrive, that we need a third metric for success. Power and control (what we experience at work when we have the skills to do our jobs well) only goes so far towards making us happy. Like children, we also need well being, wisdom and wonder.