26 September 2023

” The bamboo that bends is stronger than the oak that resists ” – Japanese Proverb

By Birsen Çevik Akgünlü

We all chase happiness in our lives. Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s tough. Sometimes life throws overwhelming experiences at us, making it seem like they’ll never pass, like we’ll never recover. However, the most crucial thing is to hold onto hope.

Hope is our lifeline, helping us endure and adapt to changing circumstances. Even when life shakes us, we can stand up and keep going. This is where resilience comes into play.

Resilience means being flexible, robust, and able to bounce back quickly. In psychology, it’s defined as the ability of individuals, communities, or ecosystems to endure irregularities or stressful situations without losing their fundamental elements and relationships.

Have you heard that warriors from the Far East compare themselves to bamboo?

Garr Reynolds’ TEDx Tokyo speech beautifully explains the importance of resilience using bamboo as a metaphor. Drawing from this speech and other sources, here are five vital lessons from bamboo:

1.       Facing Reality and Emotions: The most crucial skill is confronting facts and emotions. Resisting challenges and pretending to be strong is a mistake. Instead, we succeed by adapting and acknowledging our vulnerabilities. Sometimes, hitting rock bottom is the first step to rising. Think about the slender bamboo— They sway and bend during life’s storms, never breaking.

2.       Belief in Inner Strength: Do you know that bamboos have hidden strength within that can heal and rebuild them? Your perspective and attitude toward what happen to you matter most. Trusting in your ability to make a difference is essential. Maintaining a balanced outlook and being grateful for the good things in life always gives hope and strength.

3.       Always Be Ready: The key to adapting to change is continuous learning, questioning, and personal growth. These qualities renew us and prepare us to face life’s surprises, just like bamboo, which is the world’s fastest growing and renewing plant.

4.       Healthy Living: Being physically, mentally, and spiritually healthy is crucial. Only individuals who have built personal integrity can bounce back from setbacks. Additionally, the support we give and receive from our social circles is vital. We should know when to seek help and when to offer it.

5.       Remember Your Life’s Purpose: During difficult times, we may lose sight of the bigger picture due to our emotions. But we all have strong, deep-rooted reasons for living. By doing simple things, we can make a significant difference in our lives and society.

In the end:

  • When we find positive meaning in our lives,
  • When we believe in our ability to influence outcomes,
  • As long as we maintain physical, spiritual, and mental balance,

it becomes much harder for life’s storms to defeat us, just as bamboo remains slender, unassuming, yet enduring, flexible, and constantly renewing itself through self-repair.

Birsen Cevik Akgunlu

Updated: September 2023

Resources for those who want to read more, research: • TEDx Tokyo: Lessons from Bamboo • Book: Viktor Frankl –Pursuit of HappinessThe Resilience Center