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Can we learn to be resilient?

Popular culture tells us heroes are special, but resilience research tells us there are plenty of everyday heroes
Man looking into the distance
© Getty Images
Popular culture tells us heroes are special, but resilience research tells us there are plenty of everyday heroes.

Luke Skywalker, the original hero of the Star Wars films, exemplifies what’s known as the hero’s journey. His family and village are destroyed, and he sets off to face unknown tests to restore balance to his life and his community.

He certainly has to be resilient to overcome all the challenges thrown at him.

Film heroes who go on these kinds of adventures often simply crash through with one ingenious stunt after another. Star Wars has plenty of stunts, but it also presents Luke’s adventure as a process of coming to trust his inner voice.

Luke not only learns from the wise master Obi-Wan Kenobi and the earthy Han Solo, but also learns to draw on his own inner strength and resources. He learns to trust ‘the Force’.


This is what psychologists would call developing a sense of ‘self-efficacy’: a confidence in your ability to complete the task at hand. This is a complex skill to learn, but it can be learnt and it’s crucial to developing resilience.

Developing self-efficacy involves learning to focus our attention. It involves learning to set aside those nagging internal voices of self-doubt. It involves learning to reflect on our past successes and failures as guides for future success.

There’s no proven set of steps or guidebook for learning resilience. However, research is beginning to uncover a linked set of skills and capacities – like self-efficacy – that can open up more resilient responses.

Each of these skills and capacities can be developed and improved. When taken together they enable you to learn important ways to increase resilience in your life.

© Deakin University
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