BUILDING RESILIENCE: Lessons from a Tiger

Life often throws us unexpected challenges, pushing us to our limits and testing our resilience. In the face of adversity, the tiger stands tall as a symbol of unwavering strength and adaptability. By understanding and embodying the tiger mentality, we can cultivate resilience and navigate life’s ups and downs with grace. Today, we will explore the invaluable lessons that the tiger teaches us about mastering resilience and bouncing back from setbacks.


Some years ago (2006], after signing with Ajax Cape Town, my excitement was over the top and I couldn’t wait to play my first match. That first match was a home game which we won. What a nice feeling to kick off in a new club with a win. A week later, we had an away match in Johannesburg, you can imagine how pumped up I was to show the world what I could do as a new signing. Unfortunately my overzealousness to perform got me in trouble. I fanatically launched a tackle to recover the ball, but ended up twisting my ankle. This was the least of things I expected to happen a few weeks after signing with the club. I was heartbroken and devastated, the results of the injury showed that I was going to be out for at least 8 weeks. You may not have twisted your ankle like I did, but have surely experienced a twisted situation that hit you hard.


How do you bounce back from such a set-back and come back stronger and as a better version of yourself? The key word is ‘RESILIENCE’. This simply means, the process and outcome of successfully adapting to difficult or challenging life experiences, especially through mental, emotional, and behavioral flexibility and adjustment to external and internal demands. Here are a few tools that helped me braze through that period which I believe would be of help to anyone reading this blog.



One of the main struggles most deal with during a set-back is to fully accept the reality of what has happened. Psychologists say, a negative or bad experience lingers around much longer than a good one, especially when you have physical things that trigger such emotions easily. Being in denial of what has happened will only increase the influence of negative emotions. It took me some time to accept that I was injured and couldn’t reverse it. When you learn to quickly accept your situation, you will find it easy to channel your energy into healing and problem solving. Accepting the situation does not mean giving up, it means channeling your focus and energy towards your healing and recovery, or whatever you need to sort out.



Fear and doubt can be significant barriers to the path of recovery from a set-back. The voice of doubt and fear can cripple hope and inner strength. One of the things I did was to reflect on huge setbacks I had in the past and remind myself of how I overcame them and bounced back. My own previous victories and stories of others who had overcome similar situations gave me a boost of energy to subdue the fear and doubt. Fear and doubt like every other force, needs something to feed on to grow strong. You need to feed your faith and starve your doubts. Fear and doubt would try to intimidate you using your pain, your weaknesses, your limitations and failures. You must look at them square in the eyes like a Tiger and say ” I will eat you all like meat”. While doubt and fear paralyzes many, for the tiger, it instead stirs up excitement. Don’t give fear and doubt the room to thrive,  instead use them as fuel to sponsor your come back.



Change is said to be the only constant in life. One of the fundamental aspects of resilience is the ability to adapt to change and uncertainty. My injury was a big change that had happened, and things were not the same. I had to learn to walk for some months on one leg with crutches, stay home, go for countless rehab and watch others play. This can push you to start forming new unhealthy habits like watching too much TV, eating junk food, and drinking irresponsibly. These are all forms of coping mechanisms. Habits showing up as escape routes in denial of the reality you have to face. The truth is, such moments are crucial as you are most vulnerable. On the other hand you can use moments like this to create new habits that are growth oriented. You can see it as an opportunity amidst adversity to empower yourself and build new life skills and capacities. Without change, there is no growth, for change is the initiator of progress and transformation. The injury I experienced helped me build character, patience and a heart of gratitude towards all that God has blessed me with in life. A setback is an opportunity sometimes for you to slow down on life which could be on a fast pace, so you can think and reevaluate your life and the direction you want to go. The major changes in our lives usually happen during periods of setbacks.



Resilience is not a solitary pursuit- it thrives in  the presence of support and collaboration. During my injury, I made sure I drawed all the comfort, encouragement,  support I could from family, friends and loved ones. Make sure you seek support from those around you, your family and communities, so as to harness the power of collaboration and the strength from shared experience. One of the major traps you don’t want to find yourself during a set back, is to isolate and distance yourself from others. You will need all the energy possible to help you scale through and get your way back to your best self. There would be moments you feel overwhelmed and would want to isolate yourself. It’s a normal feeling, but don’t give in or give space for it to dominate you.



Resilience is not an overnight feat, it is not something you wish for or pray for, it is an ongoing process and not a destination. Building resilience does take time and considerable efforts. In life we will face different complex situations and setbacks. Some will be seriously overwhelming,  while others may seem pretty normal. The process through which I was able to get myself to full fitness from the ankle injury, helped me build new resilience which I didn’t have before.


The football season after also came with it’s own setbacks, I fractured my hand during a preparatory match. This was another new challenge which needed new resilience to deal with. Your resilience is the culmination of all the different challenges you have successfully overcome. The lesser your challenges the lower your resilience, to achieve great resilience, you must have dealt with tougher and numerous setbacks. When you see resilience as a process, you will view setbacks as a workout session which an athlete uses to improve themselves, develop their muscle, increase their stamina, and increase their performance. When you embrace your challenges and setbacks as huge opportunities for growth and self development, resilience becomes easy to build.



Your today is not like yesterday, neither will your tomorrow be like your today. One common thing is, every single day will come with it’s own challenges and setbacks. That’s why you need to embrace each day like a Tiger, being mindful that resilience is in your everyday life, it’s a lifelong journey and a powerful tool for personal development. As you build resilience and embrace the beauty of your life journey, know that you are a champion, you are a winner, you can awaken the tiger in you and face whatever obstacles you face.


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