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What does Resilience Mean?

Resilience, and how we can build our resilience has gained a vast amount of interest over the last few years.  One of the challenges of trying to build our resilience is that we are not aware of how successful our attempts to build resilience are until, we are faced with a situation that tests us.

When trying to build resilience its important to firstly understand what resilience means.  The most common belief is that resilience is the ability to bounce back in the face of adversity.   Resilience is more than this it has three strands to it and  also includes the ability to stand strong when faced with adversity, and the ability to grow following on from a difficult situation

The three types of resilience

 Bounce back – a tree in a storm bends, but it comes back

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Resistance, Stand Strong- Strong roots mean a tree doesn’t bend in a storm

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Reconfiguration– Change-  a tree looks slightly different after a storm

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Resilience is a skill  that can make the difference between struggling and flourishing.   Having higher levels of resilience does not mean that you don’t experience distress when initially faced with a challenge, it’s a dynamic process that allows you to work through the situation to produce a positive outcome.  As resilience is our capacity to cope with life events, our levels of resilience impact on our overall wellbeing and quality of life.

What traits do resilient people demonstrate?

In order to build our resilience its important to understand how resilience manifests in individuals with higher levels of resilience.  Typically highly resilient individuals may demonstrate some of the following traits:

  • Sense of Purpose
  • Confidence
  • Learning from success or failure
  • Self care
  • Taking ownership or responsibility
  • The past is the past- don’t get stuck on the negative
  • Empathetic
  • Flexibility
  • Persistent
  • Strong social support
  • Good interpersonal skills

Five Ways to Develop Resilience

1) Discover Self- Compassion

Developing self-compassion can be done by focusing on the following areas:


Being aware of an recognising the feelings and emotions in yourself and others.  By doing this and naming your feelings you are gaining an understanding of how you are coping in a given situation.  This process in the brain then has a link to self-control and self-regulation ensuring that we maintain control in difficult situations.  This self-control also helps us remain focused and persevere on a task even when things are tough.

Common Humanity

Acknowledging to yourself that challenging situations can happen to everyone.  Life is not perfect,  and taking the time to learn from what has gone wrong can help you improve your skills for the future.  It is also important to share with your support team what you are facing.  Leaning on your support team and using your social skills to express how you are feeling is one of the most important skills when dealing with adversity.

Self Kindness

Becoming more aware of how you react when facing adversity, and be kind to yourself when acknowledging the way you are feeling.  Imagine yourself talking to a friend in a similar situation, talk to yourself with the same kindness that you would talk to your friend.   Taking time to recognise what pushes your buttons, and becoming aware of your thinking patterns without judging yourself is an important part of resilience building.  Self kindness includes self care, as poor health, lack of energy and fatigue can reduce resilience.  It is key in times of adversity that you maintain your health and self care habits as they contribute significantly to resilience.

2) Build confidence and self esteem

Positive Self esteem, and self confidence are essential for building resilience.  In order to build your self confidence and esteem a good place to start is increasing the awareness of your strengths.  A good tool to help increase your awareness of your strengths is the VIA character survey.   Knowing your strengths and the more you use your strengths increases your confidence and engagement in your daily life.  When you know yourself, you know your boundaries, understanding how much you can do and when it might become too much.

3) Set realistic goals and expectations

Knowing and setting goals and expectations are essential for resilience.  There are a number of reasons for this:

1)   Setting realistic goals helps you to commit to your goals and making progress in achieving them is because they enhance your self efficacy and sense of control .

2) Goals give you a sense of purpose and meaning in life’s which all contribute to your resilience.

A great tool for setting goals is the Hope Map, which allows you to visually set out your goals, ways to achieve the goals (pathways) and plan for any obstacles that may get in your way.  If you would like a free copy of a Hope Map email

4) Develop a personal resources list.

Knowing and believing that you have the capacity to deal with challenges and adversity makes you more resilient.  The reason for this is you feel that you have some control over your situation which then is also linked to your willingness to handle difficulties rather than avoid them.   A tool for developing the confidence in your capacity to deal with challenges is: 1) Put together a list of personal resources that you have to call upon when you are faced with an adverse situation.  2) Think back to a time that you dealt with an adverse situation.  Look at your list,  could you have used any of the personal resources differently to help you handle the situation differently?

5) Build you levels of optimism

Higher levels of optimism are one of the strongest predictors of resilience.  Optimism can be defined as the expectation that good things will happen and your levels of optimism relate to how you interpret a situation.  Optimism is also linked with positive outlook and positive emotions that are also all shown to increase resilience.   A tool for building optimism is finding silver linings:  

Think of a situation when things didn’t go your way, describe the situation in writing and list three things that will help you see the bright side.

Finally If you would like to understand more about how building your resilience levels and Positive Psychology life coaching could support you and your situation email