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The foundations of personal resilience

Have you ever wondered why it is that some people seem to bounce back from adversity and misfortune in life relatively easily, whilst others fall apart?  It involves resilience, an ongoing process that requires time and effort and engages people in taking a number of steps.


How do we build this resilience and prepare ourselves for the inevitable misfortunes each and every one of us will face at some point in our lives? There are various character strengths we can develop to help us through. Whether it be a family tragedy, a financial crisis, relationship breakdown or employment termination, having a resilient attitude is key.

What is important to note is that resilience is not a trait that people either have or do not have. It involves behaviours, thoughts and actions that can be learned and developed in anyone. So where can we start?

  1. Accept that change is a part of living. Certain goals may no longer be attainable as a result of adverse situations. Accepting circumstances that cannot be changed can help us to focus on circumstances that we can alter.

  2. Keep moving toward your goals. Remember to always develop realistic goals. Don’t set yourself up for failure! Do something regularly, even if it seems like a small accomplishment.  This enables you to move toward your goals. Instead of focusing on tasks that seem unachievable, ask yourself, "What's one thing I know I can accomplish today that helps me move in the direction I want to go?"

  3. Nurture a positive view of yourself. Developing confidence in your ability to solve problems and trusting your instincts helps build resilience. Once again it’s maintaining realistic expectations of yourself.  A little self-love is crucial.

  4. Keep it in perspective. Even when facing very painful events, try to consider the stressful situation in a broader context and keep a long-term perspective. Avoid blowing the event out of proportion or ‘catastrophising’ – this is an unhelpful thinking style!

  5. Hold a hopeful outlook. An optimistic outlook enables you to expect that good things will happen in your life. Try visualizing what it is that you want, rather than worrying about what you fear or what ‘might’ happen.

  6. Love yourself. Pay attention to your own needs and feelings. Engage in activities that you enjoy and find relaxing. Exercise regularly. Taking care of yourself helps to keep your mind and body primed to deal with situations that require resilience.

  7. Pump up your positivity! Resilient people have an ability to experience both positive and negative emotions even in difficult situations. They grieve in loss and endure frustration, but they also find redeeming potential or value in most challenges. As the saying goes… we take the good with the bad!

  8. Lend a helping hand. Do some good in the world, give a little back to the community and be of service to others. This is a very powerful way to build resilience. Acts of kindness are simple and easy to organise, it may be a volunteering service or simply taking time out to help a friend in need.

  9. Be grateful. A daily practice of gratitude is another simple but powerful practice. When something adverse happens it is very simply to fall into the ‘victim’ trap and forget all the things that are going right for us. Showing gratitude for what is going well helps to put adversity into perspective.

  10. Build solid relationships. Good relationships are key. Accepting help and support from those who care about your and will listen to you will strengthen your resilience. Assisting other people in their own time of need can also help you.

Each and every one of us will experience times of loss, failure or trauma in our lives. How we respond to these will have a big impact on our wellbeing.

We cannot choose what may happen, but we can choose out attitude to what happens. The best part is this… resilience like many other life skills is one that can be learned!

What can you start today that will help build for a more resilient attitude tomorrow?


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