Building Personal Resilience
Resilience can be learned! Here’s the skills that can be built for thriving through life’s inevitable uncertainty and hardships.
To some degree you are already Resilient. Depending on the life you’ve lived (and the number of children you have!) your Personal Resilience has already been building over your lifetime as you’ve loved, lost and learned to overcome adversity, change and setbacks in different situations and events. It feels and sounds great to be able to say “I’m Resilient!”, but what is Resilience, when is it needed and most importantly how can someone learn to cultivate their Personal Resilience?
Having explored several decades of psychology research and literature on Resilience and human endurance, Personal Resilience is best described as…
Resilience is a set of abilities
that enable good outcomes
despite serious threats.
What’s most interesting about the research findings is that certain Resilience ‘processes’ are something we are simply born with (or not), but the good news is there are many Resilience abilities that can be enhanced through learning. That’s where Resilience Training comes in.
Skills learned in Resilience Training
Resilience can be determined by a Person’s ability to cope and thrive in 3 environments…
- The physical environment = Biological Resilience! e.g. Protection against sickness, fatigue & burnout.
- The psychological environment = Cognitive Resilience! e.g. Positively managing workload stress, major uncertainty & change.
- The social environment = Social Resilience! e.g. Navigating conflict, negative feedback & isolation.
Born with Resilience, or not.
Inborn traits such as having an easy temperament, a good sense of humour, or strong cognitive abilities and problem solving skills are found to enable Resilience when faced with adversity or conflict. These traits make problems seem easier to deal with and less stressful to overcome. We also have a predetermined level of genetic or Biological Resilience which enables us to be biologically ready to overcome threats in the environment, such as viruses.
Learning to take care of our physical wellbeing therefore helps to build our Biological Resilience, but many of the situations that we face today, such as adversity, change or uncertainty, are more ‘mental’ than ‘physical’. We therefore need a more rounded approach to building Personal Resilience, that enables the development of our Biological, Cognitive and Social Resilience combined.
Resilience abilities that can be learned
The following ‘processes’ have been identified as increasing our overall Resilience, and are better described as a set of abilities that can be enhanced through learning:
Self-awareness – the ability to pay attention to your thoughts, emotions, behaviours, and psychological reactions.
Self-regulation – the ability to change one’s thoughts, emotions, behaviours and physiology in the service of a desired outcome.
Mental Agility – the ability to look at situations from multiple perspectives and to think creatively and flexibly.
Optimism – the ability to notice and expect the positive, to focus on what you can control, and to take purposeful action.
Connection – the ability to build and maintain strong, trusting relationships.
Strengths of Character – the ability to use one’s top strengths to engage authentically, overcome challenges, and create a life aligned with one’s values.
So if these Resilience abilities can be learned, or enhanced through learning, what’s the first step in building more Personal Resilience?
Resilience is NOT
There’s some common misconceptions about what it means to be Resilient.
NOT About ‘Bouncing Back’! – Life’s reality is we cannot go back. What happens to us becomes part of us. Resilient people have learned healthy ways to embrace hardships, get the job done, and still become a better version of themselves in the process.
NOT About enduring more and more stress! – Working relentless hours does not indicate Personal Resilience. How we recharge is just as important as how hard we work. Resilient people have mastered optimal ways to monitor and maintain their physical and emotional wellbeing, to give stress the boot.
NOT Simply learned! – As we’ve explored above some Resilience traits are born e.g., strong cognitive abilities for problem solving, ‘good’ DNA that means we rarely get sick, and certain personality factors that drive us such as an easy temperament. But science has proven Resilience is mostly nurtured (or it’s not!).
The world’s more Resilient people, including Athletes, Military Personnel, and Frontline Healthcare Professionals, receive Resilience Training for learning and honing a practical and proven set of abilities for thriving in life, not just surviving.
Why Resilience Training?
Right now it’s likely your (and your Teams) Resilience is being tested in any (or all) of these circumstances:
1. Steering through everyday stressors (such as work or family or social pressures).
2. Recovering from adversity or trauma (such as dealing with conflict or loss or failure).
3. Overcoming other risk factors (such as surviving in an uncertain environment that is emotionally or physically wrought with insecurity or danger).
The benefits to individuals who build Personal Resilience include; psychological well-being and mental health, greater academic and career success, more positive social relationships and lower risk for depression. This translates into teams who experience less conflict and more psychological safety. For businesses this translates into a 33% reduction in employee absenteeism, presenteeism and workplace
Interested in building the Personal Resilience of your team or workforce?
Book a call if you’d like to learn more about our practical and proven Resilience training. We’ve built the Personal Resilience of individuals and teams in 25+ countries and multiple languages.
Brunwasser, S. M., Gillham, J. E., & Kim, E. S. (2009). A meta-analytic review of the Penn Resiliency Program’s effect on depressive symptoms. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 77, 1042–1054.
Gillham, J. E., Reivich, K. J., & Jaycox, L. H.(2008). The Penn Resiliency Program. University of Pennsylvania.
Masten, A. S. (2001). Ordinary magic: Resilience processes in development. American Psychologist, 56, 227–238.
Masten, A. S., & Reed, M. G. J. (2002). Resilience in development. In C. R. Snyder & S. J. Lopez (Eds.), Handbook of positive psychology (pp. 74–88). New York: Oxford University Press.
’The Rising Resilient’ – Aon (2020) – Retrieved from: https://risingresilient.s3.eu-west-2.amazonaws.com/aon-rising-resilient-report-en.pdf.
‘Why Mentally Healthy Workforces matter’ – Retrieved from:
‘Creating a Mentally Healthy Workplace’ – Retrieved from: https://www.headsup.org.au/docs/default-source/resources/