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Finding a purpose

Resilience is displayed through a person’s mental strength, physical strength, social networks and spirituality.

Resilience is displayed through a person’s mental strength, physical strength, social networks and spirituality. People endure hardships many times throughout their life, and they rely on their resiliency to get through it. (U.S. Air Force graphic by Senior Airman Christopher Maldonado)

SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. -- Everyone goes through hard times throughout their life. Whether it be the death of a loved one, financial issues or an internal struggle, there are ways to get through troubling times.

While enduring hardships, people rely on their resiliency to get through it, whether or not they realize it. Resilience is displayed through a persons’ mental strength, physical strength, social networks and spirituality.

“Resiliency is important because it not only helps you overcome tough or difficult situations, but it enables you to recover more quickly,” said Senior Airman BrieAnna Stillman, 20th Fighter Wing resilience trainer assistant.

The purpose of the resiliency program is to help people find and focus on their purpose in life. It is about learning to be positive, having a good self-image, creating strong social networks and staying true to your values.

“Resiliency changed my life,” said Master Sgt. Christopher Giles, 20th Fighter Wing master resiliency trainer and resiliency coordinator. “The program helped me correct my own attitude and see that it wasn’t all about me. It really changed everything about me. It changed perspective. It changed what kind of leader I am. It changed my outlook on the Air Force. All for the better.”

Giles went on to say how he talks about purpose being the foundational cornerstone of resilience and how we lose purpose because we lose focus on the different areas of our life.

“We color it a lot of different ways and call it a lot of different things; we try to get people to have optimism and get people to learn how to better communicate with others and build relationships and gain social support,” Giles said. “We have our four pillars: social, physical, spiritual and mental, but all those are focused around providing purpose in life and helping people identify with what that purpose is.”

Giles continued to say how many people may only have one or two strong pillars in their life. So, if there are problems with one or both pillars at the same time, it may be easy for that person to lose their purpose. This is when people behave destructively. Leaders usually either focus too much on the result of the problem, which is the behavior, instead of zeroing in on actual problem, which is either something a person is going through in their life or something that they have lost: their purpose.

“I became an RTA because it is important for me, personally, to hone my resiliency skills and be able to take on anything that is thrown at me,” Stillman said. “Being able to do that allows me to help others hone their resiliency skills and, hopefully, create a butterfly effect.”

When someone’s pillars start breaking down or when a person loses their focus or purpose in life it may lead them to extremes, such as depression or even suicide.

“If we are struggling to manage our life, it’s because there’s a breakdown somewhere, and that's where having those resilience toolkits is helpful,” Giles said. “When we struggle with the purpose in our life, it drives symptoms. It’s like a sickness. When we lack purpose in our life in any area, it’s going to drive certain symptoms. What resilience does is it gives us toolkits to deal with those, to identify the actual problem, and to address it, so we can fix it and move on, to gain back the purpose.”

Giles went on to say when one has a purpose, just like on the job and mission, they have a goal; they have something to strive for. When they have something to strive for, then they know the direction they are going. Having purpose is the foundational truth of what resiliency does.

“Resilience and performance go hand-in-hand,” Giles said. “If you are a resilient person, then your performance will mirror that because you will have the courage and strength, and you’ll have a place to get those attributes to press through and look for opportunities to better yourself. That’s where you not only survive the horrors that life throws at you, or the significant events, but rather, that’s how you grow and thrive in the face of adversity.”