Lesson 1: When stress hits, you need your "islands"
The key to Riley's sanity and happiness are her "islands" -- of family, friendship, playfulness (called "Goofy" island), and hockey, a sport she loves. But as she goes through the rough transition to San Francisco, one by one her islands crumble: She cuts off her friends from home, alienates her parents, and in her stressful state cannot even enjoy hockey anymore. Her sense of play goes out the window.
But as she recovers her sense of self, those islands are rebuilt, better than ever. You and I can't function without our islands, either. They might be your friendships, your beloved hobbies, your fitness routine, your favorite novels, your volunteer work. By spending time cultivating these "islands," you're not only enjoying yourself in the present, you're setting yourself up for support for future tough times. Each one provides support, and a place for you to retreat to and connect with.
Lesson 2: True joy isn't about being happy
In the movie, Joy tries to squelch Sadness. Her motivation is pure: she wants Riley only to be happy, and Sadness poses a threat. But her efforts are misguided. Riley needs to feel Sadness; doing so helped her tell the truth about her feelings, mourn for the life she left in Minnesota, connect to her parents, and make peace with being in San Francisco. The only way to feel joy again is to move through the sadness, not avoid it.
Your experience of sadness deepens your experience of joy. It makes it possible for you to move through the stressful event and reorient to the new reality you're in. Not only that, making room for sadness or other painful emotions makes you emotionally stronger, not as swayed or surprised by whatever emotions come up. You are more resilient because you understand yourself better -- and how your emotions can serve you, not rule you.
Lesson 3: Resilience doesn't eradicate stress
In fact, you can't eradicate stress, any more than you can stop the weather or live forever. There was no way for Riley to, say, change her parents' decision to move. Nor is she free from stress once she clears this one hurdle. And really, would you want to be? To do so would be like living in a padded room. Resilience is not meant to be that padded room; it's how you navigate a tough time and then get stronger -- more complex, capable, interesting, confident, kind -- from it.
The more resilient you are, the more challenges you may face, because you'll be ready to take it on. And the more rewarding those stressful times might be.
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