Resilience Is Overrated

In the non-linear trajectory of life, change is vital

Hope Reese
Forge

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Colorful spring is all tangled up against a bright red background.
Photo: Sven Krobot/EyeEm/Getty Images

In recent years, resilience — or “grit” — has emerged as the ultimate self-help virtue. As John Patrick Leary recently wrote in Teen Vogue, the “resilience industry acknowledges that we all go through rough patches, but it insists that our setbacks will only make us stronger,” which clearly appeals in these unpredictable (and deeply unequal) times. But in reality, how we respond to big changes—rough patches and achieving dreams, alike—does not follow a straight path or timeline. The idea that life is a series of stages that we pass through in a certain order is worse than misleading — it’s detrimental to our wellbeing.

So argues Bruce Feiler in his latest book, Life Is In the Transitions: Mastering Change at Any Age. To make the most of our circumstances, we have to embrace the unpredictability of change and let go of expectations around when transitional moments can or should happen. More than ever, transitions—or what Feiler calls ‘lifequakes’—are a significant part of life.

Forge recently talked to Feiler about challenging our attachment to resilience and linear narratives, and how the stories we tell ourselves can define our outcomes.

The interview below has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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Hope Reese
Forge
Writer for

Writer (currently) in Budapest, bylines @NYTimes, @TheAtlantic, @Undarkmag, @VICE, @voxdotcom & more; follow on Twitter @hope_reese; hopereese.com