Have you ever considered what history has to do with your present level of success and the likelihood of future success? It’s more than the proverbial statement “those that don’t know their history are bound to repeat it.” Recent social science research reveals that the knowledge of history improves our resiliency and increases our success Click & Tweet! .
Resiliency is a pre-requisite for success
Current social science research reveals that resiliency is a significant predictor of future success. Resiliency refers to our capacity to bounce back from traumatic life events or situations. We know that resiliency reduces emotional stress, increases life satisfaction and increases likelihood of success Click & Tweet! . Whether measuring athletic accomplishments or academic achievement, research shows that resiliency promotes optimal performance. In all areas of life individuals’ who have more resiliency experience more success.
We can not control where we start in life. Life often presents us with substantial challenges and negative situations beyond our choosing. However, Dr. Joy DeGruy’s research documents that knowledge of family history increases resiliency and success for at-risk youth. In other words, the more history a young person knows, the greater likelihood of success in spite of the challenges of the social environment.
3 Ways history can increase resiliency and success
#1. Knowledge of history creates a system of personal accountability
We stand here today as the result of great efforts from others on our behalf. Some examples of the individual and collective work done on our behalf include: our family’s efforts to provide for us until we could provide for ourselves, unknown soldiers fighting for our political freedom, and social activists fighting for our social and economic opportunities. Whether they know us by name or not, we are beneficiaries of of these people’s work. This knowledge places responsibility upon us to behave in a manner that honors their investments in us. I can still remember everyday before going to school, my mother’s instruction “Don’t do anything that will embarrass me.” It was clear to me from a young age that my behavior at school and in public did not only reflect me, but my mother as well. My mother is a woman of great pride and dignity who has worked hard to protect this dignity in spite of varied assaults and I would never want to do something that would bring shame to her. Detailed knowledge of the efforts of others for us instills a sense of personal accountability beyond ourselves Click & Tweet! .
#2. Knowledge of history provides emotional support
Although we may be physically standing in a classroom or boardroom by ourselves, our connection to our family and collective history reminds us that in spirit we are surrounded by a community of supporters cheering us on Click & Tweet! . This awareness provides us with the strength and confidence to succeed in spaces that are not necessarily welcoming or comfortable. It is difficult to be “the only.” The only person of color in a white classroom, the only woman in a male dominated field, the only person from a working class family in an elite profession. Visualizing our family with us is a way of claiming that social space as our own and asserting our right to be there. In situations where you are the minority, there are numerous subtle and not so subtle messages that you do not belong. However, when you recognize that you are not “the only” one and that you have a larger community of people standing there with you, there is a renewed sense of strength and belonging. This provides you with the confidence needed to succeed in the face of others’ questions about your ability.
#3 Knowledge of history identifies us as overcomers
Reviewing our history reminds us that people have faced similar or greater struggles and have overcome through determination and effort. That struggle could be as individual as your grandmother being left alone to parent eight children on her own but rising to the task and doing her best to make sure every child was fed and loved. Or it could be a collective struggle, like remembering your grandparents who survived the Jewish Holocaust or the Armenian genocide in Turkey. These personal stories remind you that you are not the first person to experience devastating hardship. You come from a people that have experienced intense suffering and yet have been able to survive and transform that suffering into personal triumph. You are a product of their success and you have inherited this legacy of being an overcomer. The same spiritual, social, and emotional resources your family and community used to succeed are available to you at any moment of need Click & Tweet! .
Fuel your success engine with history
You can now see the wisdom of Carter G. Woodson’s decision to start “Negro History Week”, which later became “Black History Month”. The activities of this month help to educate non-Black people about the value of the Black community’s contribution to America and the world. Yet I believe that the biggest impact of these activities is the strength and resilience it gives to people who identify as members of the Black community. These stories of history infuse Black people, young and old, with psychological and spiritual resources to succeed.
Regardless of whether you are a member of the Black community, I invite you to consider how you can participate in this powerful act of using your history to promote your success. Dr. DeGruy’s research reminds us that intimate knowledge of our personal family history is just as important as knowledge of our collective history in increasing our resilience and success. Take time to learn about and reflect upon your individual family’s history. How can you use these stories to increase your success? In addition, make sure to share your personal history with others as a means of promoting their success. Your experiences and choices have taught you important lessons about yourself and the world Click & Tweet! . These lessons don’t have to packaged in a neat bow or be confined to a particular month of the year; they are gifts of wisdom that can equip others with the resiliency needed to succeed.
If you would like to share a story about the gift of resiliency that fuels your success or the success of others, please do so below. You have no idea of the power of your story until you tell it.