Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic
April 01, 2015 08:45 AM

Whether she is confronted by a career challenge or a health scare, Angelina Jolie lives by an old piece of wisdom.

The actor-director – who recently published an op-ed in The New York Times detailing her decision to undergo preventive surgery due to her cancer-stricken genetic history – opened up about facing difficulties in both film and her personal life by applying a classic mantra.

“I do believe in the old saying ‘What does not kill you makes you stronger,’ ” Jolie, 39, told Elle in an interview posted Wednesday.

“Our experiences, good and bad, make us who we are. By overcoming difficulties, we gain strength and maturity,” she continued.

The Maleficent actress reflected on directing the Louis Zamperini biopic Unbroken, explaining that Louis’s story taught an important lesson about learning from hardship.

“Like many of the greatest human stories, it is about the capacity of regular men and women to rise above adversity,” said the mother of six.

“It reminds us never to give up, and that having the spirit to fight is what really matters. It is powerful because it speaks to the potential inside all of us,” she said.

Jolie recently made headlines for speaking out about her decision to remove her ovaries and fallopian tubes after her doctor detected a possibility of early onset cancer due to a BRCA1 gene mutation that affected numerous female relatives, including her mother Marcheline Bertrand, who died of ovarian cancer at the age of 56.

“You can seek advice, learn about the options and make choices that are right for you,” she wrote of taking control of her situation. “Knowledge is power.”

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