David Wray

DeterminationOvercome ChallengesOvercoming AdversityResilienceSkills

Bouncing Back Stronger after a Life Changing Event

Malala – Mobilizing millions to support the cause

Malala, an Inspirational Example

Malala’s graduation from Oxford University this month is a great example of the possibilities following a life changing event. It begs the question: how is it done? And why do some thrive more than others in the face of obstacles?

Let’s recall briefly Malala Yousafzai’s story. In 2012, she and two other girls were shot by the Taliban while on their way home from school. Her life was saved and restored by medical teams in Pakistan and the UK. A life changing traumatic event by any measure! Since that event, she has not only survived but grown well beyond it. Galvanizing millions of people to help fight suppression of the young and for equal access to education. A feat for which she earned the Noble Peace Prize (2014). She published her story in “I am Malala” and inspired a new generation while still in her teens. 

What can we learn from Malala?

It is a moving story which sparked my curiosity. How does an individual take control to not only bounce back from a life changing event but go on to thrive?

What must be true in Malala’s world for her to make the decision to educate herself in the first place, despite conflicting cultural norms and direct threats to her life for doing so? Which beliefs would she need to give her such convictions knowing the risks? Keep in mind that this is a right many of us take for granted. 

Malala has voiced her driving conviction: “education empowers girls to raise their voices, to unlock their potential, and to demand change”. Her deeply held beliefs are inspired by her father’s courage, and actively guide her today. Perhaps so much so, and to every child’s benefit, she sees a future in politics.

This brings us back to considering what are the differences in some that result in resilience following a life changing event? Why do some people choose sympathy and others activism?

Applying the Lessons to Your Life

Malala’s extraordinary example prompted me to think about life changing instances in my own world. What is learned from other resilient individuals? It distills into three distinct elements:

  1. Predisposition to seek the positives in life
    • Choosing to focus on the good aspects in life and managing through the less desirable aspects.
    • Sometimes bad things happen to good people. They become learning and defining moments, so the choices we make thereafter belong solely to ourselves.
    • We can change what we own (or, control). We become masters of our thoughts, our self-defined limitations (or lack thereof) and our beliefs. Recognizing this fact creates a limitless ability to manage outcomes!
  2. Depth of conviction in one’s life purpose/calling
    • Making choices that align and achieve big picture objectives in life, including social, business, community or self-focused ones.
    • Laser focus on what matters helps ensure the outcome can happen regardless of distractions. Our convictions enable us to achieve remarkable and meaningful things in life, often more than we ever thought possible. 
    • How many high performing athletes say they dreamt of the moment just achieved? Accomplishment starts with a dream and conviction that drives every significant decision thereafter.
  3. Letting go of what we cannot control
    • We can choose to expend energy on activities over which we cannot control the outcome. Or, we can choose to invest energy where there is a real ability to influence and reap benefits. 
    • I use the phrase “just in time worrying” to promote reducing effort expenditures without a worthwhile payback.
    • It is simply about living in the moment rather than several possible moments; many of which never realize.

Malala’s incredible story evokes reactions in each of us. What risks could you undertake knowing you are resilient no matter the outcome?

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