Exploring the central principles of resilience through the portrayal of PoW Louis Zamperini in ‘Unbroken’

Resilience is a theme we have probably all been thinking about over the last year as we have been delivering in extreme circumstances with the additional pressures of home schooling and without the relief of being able to see family and friends.

I’ve been thinking about writing a piece on resilience since Covid hit and whilst I have given it a lot of thought, the inspiration to write would not come to me.  Until last night. 

If you follow my blog, you will know that inspiration for my musings often comes from film or television and the source of my motivation today is a result of the film ‘unbroken’. This true story of World War II veteran, Louis Zamperini, provided a raw demonstration of resilience which has moved me to write this piece.

The film shared the true story of a young airman who survived 47 days in the ocean after the bomber he was flying, crash landed and left him and two others stranded at sea. Only two of them survived the ordeal when they were captured by the crew of a Japanese war ship and taken to a prisoner of war camp.

Zamperini had been an Olympic athlete and, having not read the reviews, I had been expecting an uplifting film, focused on his triumphs and achievements.  Instead, this was a film about one man’s courage and his fight to survive through the darkest of days.

This extreme example has enabled me to sum up the central principles of resilience which I have observed in others and have been crystalised for me through the telling of this story. We are lucky that many of us will never have to face such an extreme test but many have over the history of time and here are some fundamental principles that can help us to get through challenging times.

  1. If you can take it, you can make it – Louis had a mantra that was instilled in him by his brother.  This mantra gave him focus and strength to endure through the most difficult of circumstances.  We know that negative self-talk is defeating so at all times, especially those which we find most testing, we need to repeat a positive mantra in order to overcome and keep going.
  2. One day at a time – when you are faced with a major challenge and no end in sight, you need to hunker down and face one day at a time. Louis was in the very worst of conditions, where thinking about how long he might be trapped in those conditions would only make the ordeal impossible to face. Instead, he concentrated on what was immediately in front of him and lived in that exact moment with the central belief that ‘this too will pass’.
  3. Values & purpose – being true to his values and purpose in life, gave Louis strength to face his tormentors.  There was a point where he was offered the chance to escape the horrors of the prison camp but what they were asking him to do went against his values and so he refused.  His character shone through, and whilst it angered the prison commander, it made him truly ‘unbreakable’.  As long as you know what you stand for and keep the reason for your being at the centre of your work, you will have a driving force that keep you going, no matter how difficult you find it sometimes.

Does this article resonate with you? Do you have a story to share about resilience? Let us know in the comments below.

3minuteleadership.org

Image by Pavlofox from Pixabay

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