I’ve got to stop judging movies before I see them.

I’d heard Nomadland was a little slow-moving, maybe a little bit of a downer.  That seemed like the last thing I wanted to spend time with during a pandemic.  In reality, it was one of the best things I could have seen.

After finally watching Nomadland yesterday, I totally get it. A film about overcoming restlessness won the Best Picture Oscar during a year when the whole world was literally fenced in. In a poetic, elegiac, heartbreaking and heart making way, this movie about the Explorer story type has something more profound to say about resilience than anything I’ve seen all year.

This is my sixth post in a 12-part series on resilience.  I wrote the first five posts last fall, in five consecutive weeks, and then I kind of. . .wandered off.  Like an Explorer.

Each of these posts has been about a different story type, and the highly individualized ways people can discover and leverage their natural resilience based on characters they relate to most.  I’ve also been writing about what each type looks like in a non-resilient state and how to shift that energy back to positive ground.

In the past few months, I’ve taken my own advice and spent time focused on what Creator types like me need to do that (which is imagine and invent/re-invent things).  Among other projects, I’ve designed and delivered a new online coaching program called Worklife Reset with my colleague Dana Theus.  It’s built on helping people find a meaning-based path to professional joy and contribution.  And that brings us right back to Explorer.

The most essential journey any Explorer takes is a search for meaning. That search can come in many shapes and sizes—and can play out quite consciously or very unconsciously.  However it unfolds, the Explorer’s best response to the non-resilient trigger of restriction is activating a growth mindset and moving toward something that matters.

We could all stand to take a lesson from the Explorer right now.  After a long year of restriction and the restlessness that comes along with it, many of us have a chance to make more purposeful and authentic choices for ourselves (and to have an adventure or two along the way!).  Whether we use that privilege and any new-found freedom to be impulsive or to follow a meaningful impulse is entirely up to us.

As one critic put it, Nomadland is about a group of vandwellers who follow the impulse “to leave society in the dust.”  The catalyst for that decision was economic for most of them, and there’s nothing romantic or uplifting about a choice-free descent into homelessness.  The nomads who decided to follow a “houseless” path are a different story, though.  After facing adversity, they chose a life on the road–finding resilience, beauty and freedom there; along with connection to nature, to others and to themselves.

Understanding the Explorer’s gift

Being an Explorer type doesn’t mean you’re going to set out for a life on the road. If this type is deeply core to who you are, you’re likely to be naturally independent, authentic and motivated to follow a unique path, though.  You may be energized by scouting for new opportunities, possibilities or approaches.  You’re probably excited by new experiences, and/or to seek growth and meaning in the things you do.

And that’s where the Explorer story type has a resilience gift for all of us, especially right now.  The most important journey any of us takes is the one where we find ourselves.  What better time has there been to find out who we really are and follow a growth-minded impulse towards more meaningful choices?  It’s the antidote to restriction and restlessness in anyone’s life.

I’ve always been inspired by this section of a poem by T.S. Eliot.

“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, remembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.

—T.S. Eliot, from “Little Gidding,” Four Quartets (Gardners Books; Main edition, April 30, 2001). Originally published 1943.

The vandwellers in Nomadland learned to become still by being on the move, and to listen to the voices insides themselves.  Once you’re open to that kind of exploration, you can find your own unique path forward and recognize the resilience-building gift and focus you can best activate in the world.  Here’s what that looks like for the seven types these posts have explored so far:

Type Non-resilient state Resilience-building attribute or gift Resilience-building focus Related values
Ruler Insecurity Confidence Progress Responsibility, Role Modeling, Influence
Everyperson Voicelessness


Empathy Solidarity Community, Justice, Fairness
Caregiver Overwhelm Compassion Human potential Service, Kindness, Development
Innocent Disillusionment Optimism Hope Ideals, Faith, Values in Action
Hero Exhaustion Mastery Achievement Action, Drive, Making a Difference
Creator Lifelessness Imagination Re-invention Invention, Ideation, Expression
Explorer Restriction Growth mindset Meaning


Discovery, Individualism, Experience

 Activating the Explorer resilience quotient

Becoming a more resilient Explorer (or tapping in to that energy) involves a shift from feeling restricted to taking on a growth mindset and meaning-based focus—all of which can be fueled by having new experiences and making new discoveries.

Consider these questions as prompts for your next steps:

  • What impulse would you most like to follow in your life or your work right now?
  • What do you need to leave for the time being (knowing as the vandwellers do that there are no final goodbyes)?
  • What “survival” skills do you need to learn?
  • What kind of adventures would you like to have?
  • Where could a growth mindset take you (one where development is always possible and options are easy to see)?

I’m personally not planning to leave society in the dust any time soon—but I do plan to following the most authentic impulses as I dive back in.  Hope you’ll join me!

Cindy Atlee is a Creator type who loves to help professionals, teams and organizations understand and express who they really are in the world.  She’s the co-author of the Professional Strengths, Values & Story Survey (take the free version here: https://www.storybranding.com/take-the-svss-survey/.  Learn more about the Worklife Reset program here: https://worklife-bliss.com/.