We are living in an age of loss…a tragic confluence of unrest, turmoil and trauma. For those of us old enough to remember, it’s the most tumultuous the world has been since the 1960s. As we mourn the victims of today’s wars, riots, shootings and disease, the larger challenge for us as survivors is to move forward…even as the losses continue to mount. We are loss leaders.

Who would choose this role? None of it seems necessary. I mean, we are more enlightened and informed than any era in human history. Yet here we are. And the hardest part of this may not be surviving our losses, but surviving each other.

How do we do this? With fortitude.

Not guts, heroism, moxie, nerve, daring or fearlessness…but fortitude.

What does that look like? I’m glad you asked! Here’s a checklist:

Fortitude in action is

It’s quiet on the inside and placid on the outside. It does not churn or thrive on conflict. It seeks peace and understanding.

Addressing the challenges of the day free of anger and aggression. Provocations are met with patience and caring.

Stating your resolve plainly and clearly. Ensuring that neither language nor emotion cloud your judgement and communications.

Feeling secure that you know yourself and others. It provides context and perspective for everyone’s actions.

Caring for yourself first and then extending that caring to others. Fortitude is understood by the mind and fed by the heart.

Knowing your values and your purpose. These things provide self-assurance in the face of challenges and adversity.

Staying in a flow of positive energy and avoiding negativity. Everyone deserves to improve their quality of life.

Remaining focused on your long-term goals and the path that gets you there. Don’t let obstacles take you off track.

Pursuing your goals with a tenacious perseverance that builds momentum. Letting up and catching up is unnecessary and exhausting.

Acting with bravery and valor. You know you can take on any challenge, no matter how unwanted or uncertain.

Adding to a long list of human achievement. Your long game outlasts short-sightedness and self-interest.

Leaving a legacy that contributes to the greater good. We live in the moment, but the mark we leave on the world is timeless.

Of course, checklists are easy…being human is hard. We have a strong emotional response to pain, loss and injustice. We tend to react to force using greater force. And we define our lives by wins and losses. It’s all part of how we survive as a species. But if we let these things drive us, they drain us.

Fortitude honors our humanity while keeping us focused…effective…resilient. It keeps our dignity in tact and allows us to treat others with respect…even when it’s not reciprocated. Fortitude lets us reset the present and redefine the future.

As an educator, fortitude makes you a better leader

  • in your classroom
  • on your faculty, and
  • across your networks

As a human being, fortitude keeps you centered as you

  • confront ignorance
  • relieve suffering and
  • stand strong in the face of inhumanity

You don’t have to be born with fortitude. It’s a mindset, and this checklist helps to target its key components as you practice and develop it over time.

We will get through this, you and me, with fortitude.

We will survive…no…we will do more than survive…we will shine…and together we will move beyond the age of loss. What do you want the next age to be?

Walter McKenzie is Senior Director for Constituent Services at ASCD, leading its affiliate, connected community, professional interest community, student chapter and emerging leader programs.

50 years ago this anthem brought closure in a time full of unrest and uncertainty.
May it provide us solace once again in these turbulent

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