Three Strategies to Build Your Resilience

So what is resilience?

Resilience is the ability to be able to suffer a setback, mentally move back to the position you were in prior to that setback and hopefully be in an even stronger mental position than you were before the setback. Wow, what a mouthful!

Basically, the more resilient you are, the more quickly you will be able to move past obstacles thrown at you unexpectedly.

If we are being realistic, we know things aren’t always going to go as planned or as hoped in our lives – some of these things will be quite serious while others may just seem bad if you don’t have a good level of resilience in place to begin with.

What may seem significant to you may not be for the next person and vice versus. For example, if I forget to buy bread on the way home, it’s not a big deal to me – I’ll get it tomorrow. For my four-year old daughter, it means no ham & cheese toasty for breakfast in the morning, and that’s a big deal! Every small task, activity or action can seem like a setback if you don’t have the resilience in place to start with.

It is important to think of a setback more like an event in which you can train for, rather than waiting for the event to actually happen before you start training. If you decided you wanted to run a marathon, you wouldn’t wait until the day of the race to think about running – you would train for weeks, months even, leading up to it to be as prepared as possible. It’s the same with our resilience, don’t wait for the setback to be the catalyst to build it. That’s the time when you put your resilience skills that you should have already built to the test.

Is it really possible to build resilience?

Our brains are wired for defence and negativity, it’s how they keep us safe and alive. And it’s been hard wired to think a certain way about different scenarios and circumstances throughout your life. The good news is, we can rewire it to think differently. It won’t change overnight and will depend on the state of your current wiring – the stronger your negative wiring is, the longer this could take. But it can be changed. Neuroscience teaches us that we can’t undo existing wiring, we need to create new wiring and train it consistently and regularly to overcome our existing limitations.

So HOW do I build resilience then?

Positive psychology studies have shown that if you increase your optimism and accountability, you increase your resilience. With this in mind, here are some ways to get you started:

1. What went well? – Commonly known as the founder of Positive Psychology, Martin Seligman is a leading authority in the fields of Positive Psychology, resilience, learned helplessness, depression, optimism and pessimism. He is also a recognised authority on interventions that prevent depression and build strengths and well-being. He coined the activity “what went well”, an activity to get your brain thinking more positively. The focus is to, once each day, write down 3 things that have gone well for you that day or that you are grateful for. There are variations on this such as keeping a gratitude journal etc. Whatever works for you, the goal being to consciously be mindful of the positive things happening in your life, even if there is sub optimal activity also.

2. Be accountable – What is true accountability and are you really holding yourself to account? How much of what you say, think, and hear are excuses? What are your other options, and have you honestly explored everything? The definition of accountability is the fact or condition of being accountable; responsibility. Simply telling someone to be accountable rarely achieves accountability without firstly understanding what this means. Tools are required to help people to fully implement a culture where they are in control of every response they have to every situation thrown at them. Start this one by adopting a solution focus to everything you do – come up with 1-3 different options for the obstacle your facing. I can guarantee there are options, you may not want to do them, but they are options and will lead you to a better outcome than just giving up.

3. Learned optimism – As we mentioned before, we can rewire our brain. Just like when you want to get fit or lose weight, you need a combined consistent, regular effort of nutritious food and exercise. It’s the same with rewiring the brain and learning how to be more optimistic. We can teach our brain to build optimism by getting excited by small things and making them seem bigger than they really are. Got tickets to your favourite concert before it sold out? #winning! Nabbed the last block of your favourite chocolate at the supermarket? #winning! Made it to the station just as the train was arriving on the platform? #winning! You needed a particular report at work and your colleague got it to you on time? #winning! See the pattern? It may be very simple, but simple is easy, right? When we train the brain on the simple things, they become en-grained, habitual, and then when we face the more difficult things it doesn’t quite feel so hard.

Optimism, accountability, and ultimately resilience, doesn’t just build itself. It is something we need to focus on consistently and regularly to create change and build strength. If you would like to know more about how you can build all of these for a high performance mindset, get in touch with Next Evolution Performance or WorkScore.

  Written by Kate McKenna, Human High Performance Coach with Next Evolution Performance – high performance coaching systems for forward thinking businesses. For more information, please visit