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  • Francine Habib

Resilience - How do I get it?

Get better at handling turbulent #change, relentless pressure, and life-disrupting setbacks.

Obstacles can be overcome with a growth mindset
Obstacles can be overcome with a growth mindset

Psychological #resilience is often associated with the ability to endure; mental toughness. That's not quite right.

It's about adaptability in the face of rapid change. Mastering the unexpected and learning from it. It isn’t just about returning to a state of equilibrium after adversity, but actually growing from it and becoming better than you were before.

Resilience discourse has developed quickly in recent years because of our need to achieve balance in the face of stressful work schedules, wavering economies, disruptive technologies and a pandemic that may go on for many months more. It fits contemporary ideas of well-being which favour a holistic model of health. The Western biomedical model separates physical and mental health while Eastern models have long considered mind and body as intimately connected. The increasing acceptance of the close links between mental and physical health, has made personal resilience a priority.

Genetic research and neuroscience tell us that some people are innately resilient, while others are more vulnerable to stressful situations. The genetic influence is nevertheless only 30% of the story; 70% of our resilience is learned through stressful life-experiences. But do we have to wait for disaster to manifest or can we practice the coping skills and ways of thinking of highly resilient people? While most clients seek out resilience development once faced with a problem, it is a great preventative tool that can be used to reduce your levels of stress when the unexpected hits.

I have helped many people from all walks of life boost their resilience. I teach clients how to be flexible enough to overcome challenges and setbacks. They overcome constraints on their performance and build on their competencies to get more of what they want out of life.

Flexibility and Adaptability is key
Psychological flexibility is key to resilience

So what's the process?

People who are resilient have a vital attribute - the willingness to learn. They believe that they can bounce back from setbacks by learning from their experiences, doing things differently and thereby getting an improved outcome next time. Your intention to develop resiliency methods that work for you is what determines your success or failure. Building resilience, like any skill set, involves creating a solid foundation of basic skills before advancing to higher levels.

How do you handle to setbacks?

People react to life challenges in different ways. Some become angry, propelling their fear and anxiety out into the world around them, while some collapse into a state of helplessness or victim-hood. Very resilient people adapt to unexpected change fast, and thrive when faced with challenges. Critically, they expect to succeed.

“Access and unlock the latent abilities that few people use very well.”

Research by psychologist Dr. Al Siebert into coping, optimism, creativity, emotional intelligence, and the survivor personality identified the main attributes of resiliency. The key goal is a combination of self-awareness and understanding that we can all learn and improve.

Someone with a ‘fixed’ mindset believes that success is a result of inherent traits, so any failure is a sign of weakness or incompetence. Because of this, they try to maintain the impression of success at all costs. This causes them to:

  • Avoid challenges and the possibility of failure

  • Quit when they aren’t winning

  • See practice as futile

  • Disregard all criticism

  • Be intimidated by others’ success

However, brain plasticity means that when we learn something new, the neurons in your brain build a new pathway specific to what you have just experienced or discovered, so repeating the experience strengthens the connection. The neural structure of the brain changes. When we understand this, we begin to believe we can improve and expect to do so with our own efforts. Practicing a resilient way of thinking on a regular basis can help develop a growth mindset and personal power. The more you do it, the easier it should become.

Increasing your resilience is a process of uncovering how you see yourself in the world and clarifying where you want to be. Learn to view events as temporary and make adjustments to a plan of action you've created.

Know Yourself

I help clients respond to challenges through improving their personal insight. You need to put yourself under a microscope. This means practicing clear thinking about yourself, others and circumstances, through a structured process of questioning and action. Below are some sample questions you might consider in each area.

1. Know yourself

Self-knowledge is the crucial foundation for constructing resilience. Most people do not have a deep understanding of who they are or what they want. They perhaps identify a few traits or produce short notes such as “I have a quick temper” or “I’m ambitious”. The first step is to get to know yourself through detailed questioning. Identify dispassionately your strengths, limitations and personal motivations. Observe and reflect on the effect you have on others and how that helps/hinders reaching your goals. This is the starting point from which to explore your current situation and future choices.

Sample questions:

· What words describe you at your best and worst?

· What does a satisfying life look like to you?

· What has been your biggest disappointment?

· What are you most proud of?

· What compliment and criticism do you hear most often?

· What secret does nobody else know?

· What motivates you?

· What makes you anxious?

2. Hold a broad and long-term perspective of stressful events

The judgments we make about events and people (`good' or `bad') control our feelings about them, which in turn greatly influences our behaviour. We then treat our feelings, behaviours and judgements are facts. Yet everything can change instantly with a change of perception and a corresponding change of meaning.

Change Perspective, Change Meaning
Meaning derived from thoughts, feeling and behaviours

New meaning alters how we feel about ourselves and the situation. Changing perspective is simply seeing a situation form a different position or learning to ‘zoom out’ by questioning the validity of our thoughts and feelings about it.

Sample questions to reflect on:

  • How much will it matter in 10 years?

  • What is the hidden opportunity?

  • Who else has successfully navigated this experience?

  • How did they view it?

  • What skills do you have that can help the situation?

  • What further skills might help and who has those skills already?

  • What has worked for you in the past?

3. Have a plan

Most people are spectators to their lives. They may plan their career, their home or even a holiday, yet it never occurs to them to plan their life — it seems too large a project or too vulnerable to the winds of fate. However, if you don't design your own life plan, you'll likely end up in someone else's plan where your happiness won't be the priority. Unplanned lives result in people reaching a certain age, reflecting on where they are, and wondering why they're unsatisfied. The great news is it's never too late to start planning! With some thought and preparation, you can map out your future your way. There are lots of tools available to help you and it can normally be done in a day.

Plan your life; don't be a spectator to it

Sample planning questions:

  • What do you really want?

  • Why?

  • What does it look like?

  • How much do you want it?

  • What are the steps for getting it?

  • Would they be any different if you knew you couldn't fail in your efforts?

  • When you get it, how will you know?

  • What are you willing to sacrifice to get it?

  • What are you not going to give up?

  • What decisions do you face now?

  • What else do you want?

4. Be ready to change your plan

Inevitably there will be external pressures on your plans that have to be considered. Akin to steering a boat to an island, minor adjustments to the rudder are frequently needed and the secret is keeping an eye on your destination. It is crucial to continuously monitor your thinking and decision-making so that you don't over-adjust or talk yourself out of your plan altogether as soon as you're knocked off course.

Learn to systematically:

  • Identify and verify exactly what has changed

  • Accept circumstances that cannot be changed

  • Take decisive actions

  • Adjust your route rather than your goal

  • Expect good things by putting your competencies and skills in action.

  • Learn how to keep your goal firmly in mind

5. Cut yourself some slack

Resilience is a combination of optimism and confidence that gives you the courage to persevere in the face of challenges.

Resilient people also have ups and downs, but their long-term view and acknowledgement of their skills helps them to understand that the lows are a phase and will inevitably pass.

Not hitting their target with their first shot doesn't mean they can’t shoot. They just learn from the result to adjust their aim and try again. They inevitably hit their target in the end.

Keep yourself supported when things aren’t going to plan:

  • Develop/maintain good relationships with your support network of friends and family

  • Learn how to ask for help and get it

  • Improve self-care: exercising regularly, paying attention to your own needs and feelings and engaging in relaxing activities

  • Settle the issues that hold you back. Face up to any self-sabotage and put in place the means to resolve or bypass it

  • Design your own game plan and measure your progress

Resilience is a foundational psychological tool which empowers the individual to feel capable of handling uncertainty. Resilience training is an investment in an individual’s overall health and well-being. If you'd like to be able to manage life's challenges with greater ease, and thrive though the tough times, then start today.

For more information about building your resilience, please contact me at or visit

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