Bob Ross gave us many inspiring messages, but I think one of the most important is helping his audience learn to be more resilient. The television artist is fixed in the mind of Gen Xers, millennials, and is now reaching a new generation through Netflix and YouTube.
When I see an image of the man with his warm smile, trademark fluffy hair, and paintbrush in hand, it brings a good feeling. I’m sure I’m not the only one. If I saw him on the street, I’d hug him and invite him over for dinner. Not because of the art he created but because of the impact he had on others.
Bob Ross exuded compassion, and he made you feel he truly believed in you, even if we knew our artistic talent was zilch. Aside from Mr. Rogers, there are few other television celebrities who have been able to make such a positive mark on millions of lives.
So what do I mean by resilience, and what has Bob Ross got to do with it?
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What Is Resilience?
In a nutshell, resilience is the ability to bounce back after experiencing a challenge—to pick yourself up and keep moving. This might mean you recovered from a difficult situation or it could mean you’re adapting and finding a way forward in spite of your circumstances.
We’re talking about being able to emotionally navigate all the speedbumps of life.
It’s normal to feel sad or stressed when bad things happen. But when faced with adversity, how easily are you able to get yourself back on track?
If you learn to be more resilient, it can help you better deal with problems in your life.
Take the free mom burnout quiz to see how much you’re at risk.
Can Resilience Be Learned or Strengthened?
Yes! There are a number of things you can work on to improve resilience. We all have it, but some area better at it than others.
Research has shown that both genetics and life experiences play a role resilience. In those who display more resilience, the planning and decision-making part of the brain takes over more quickly from the emotional and fear center of the brain after a stressful event.
That’s just one piece of a pretty complicated process, but the bottom line is, psychologists and scientists agree that there are things a person can do to strengthen resilience.
Here a few ways you can learn to be more resilient, with a little help from our artistic friend.
Bob Ross Teaches Self-Confidence
A big piece of resilience is having confidence in yourself and a positive view of your abilities. Bob Ross’s main message was, anyone can do something if they put their mind to it!
He would create majestic mountains with the flick of a spatula. As you sat in awe, he’d repeatedly tell you that it was nothing special. He learned to do it, so had many other regular people, and you could too.
A lack of innate talent was no matter—all you had to do was put your mind to it and practice. Not only did he believe you could paint picturesque landscapes if you wanted, he just believed in you generally.
“And if you can do this, you can do anything that you believe you can do. Anything, anything. I know you can do it, and if I know, you certainly do.”Bob Ross
Messages of positivity are peppered throughout his Joy of Painting episodes. He speaks directly to his viewers, building you up and making you feel cared about.
When I’ve had a rough day, watching an episode can be pretty therapeutic, and it’s not just because I get to see views of nature appear from globs of color. If you listen to Bob Ross enough, his calm, soothing voice can make you believe in the goodness of the world and the power within yourself.
So if you’re feeling like life or a situation is just beating you down, conjure an image of the great Bob Ross in your mind telling you, “you can do this.”
Practice believing this message and believing in yourself. Multiply the effect by surrounding yourself with people in real life who are supportive and believe in you. Create your own tribe of Bob Rosses.
Bob Ross Teaches Flexibility
Being flexible—in other words, good at problem solving—is another key way to build resilience. There’s more than one way to accomplish something. When you encounter an obstacle, train yourself to look for another strategy rather than giving up or getting stuck in a cycle of self-pity.
Even if something doesn’t go as planned, Bob Ross shows us we can make the best out of it, and even gain something from the experience. Viewers love his “happy little accidents” concept, because it’s admitting we all have moments when things go awry, but we don’t have to view them negatively.
Paintbrushes don’t have an eraser. He doesn’t get mad and throw his canvas in the trash if something doesn’t look the way he likes (I might be tempted). By being creative and forward-thinking, he’s able to keep moving and turn these mistakes into something positive.
He also doesn’t blow things out of proportion. It’s just a painting after all, and it’s supposed to be fun.
When those “happy little accidents” happen, the painting may end up looking different than he originally intended, but he doesn’t let that get him down. What’s more, viewers don’t even notice an error in the final product.
While something may not seem like a “happy little accident”—a personal tragedy for instance—the concept teaches you that you can recover when things don’t go the way you expect. Even from the worst situations, you are often able to gain something, even if it is recognizing your own strength in the ability to move forward.
Bob Ross Teaches a Positive Outlook
One of the reasons it’s so relaxing to watch Bob Ross is because his whole outlook feels so positive.
He shows that you have the ability to create your own world and to make it a happy one. You can put happy little trees, happy little clouds, and happy little animals in it. You can shape your surroundings with your mindset.
Envision what you want and go for it. Take an active role in influencing the things you can control, including your own attitude.
Have hope for the future. Know that things ahead can be different rather than dwelling on the past. Bob Ross teaches us that everyone has dark days, but that doesn’t mean those have to be permanent.
Try not to let worry or a negative attitude take over. You have a choice in what you believe, and a positive mindset can help you be successful.
Here we’ve reviewed a few of the big ways you can learn to be more resilient using guidance from the legendary Bob Ross.
It’s easier to make a change when you have a model to follow. So conjure your memories of the familiar smooth-talking painter and work on the pieces outlined here.
I hope the methods described will give you a solid footing to start practicing. When you’ve gotten strong with these, you can review other ways to improve resilience.
Start by applying the strategies to the minor annoyances that happen every day. Think about how you react and how you could do things differently. By being more intentional about how you recover from smaller challenges, you’ll be more resilient when major issues come up.
Having stronger resilience can help in so many areas of your life. You may find you have a better mood, increased self-confidence, and spend less time worrying and more time influencing things that are in your control. Your effort to learn to be more resilient will be worth it.
And think of the great example you’ll be setting for your kids!
In the words of Bob Ross, “Believe that you can do it, ‘cause you can do it.”