A Simple Guide To Building Resilience Personally and Professionally


What is Resilience and How Do We Build it?

Resilience is the ability to deal with, and transition through, personal and professional challenges, and to be able to ‘bounce back’ more quickly. Low resilience means a person becomes trapped in the effects of stress and distress for longer periods, and with greater consequences. Resilience is the ability to tolerate and operate through high challenges, and it is a competency that we can develop.

People have different levels of resilience.

Our Personal History determines our level of resilience – if we experienced traumatic life events and we haven’t dealt with them, our resilience levels are generally compromised. Our Brain Chemistry influences it as well.

We can build resilience by addressing historical factors affecting resilience, and we can build specific psychological processes which build greater resilience. People who have lower levels of resilience, because of past trauma, but who work hard at building it, tend to be able to handle the most challenging life and work experiences the best. This is because they have had to be intentional about building this capacity.


a simple guide on building resilience9 Psychological Factors governing resilience levels


  • To get through something you need to be able to find an optimistic view of the learnings you are having, and of the possible optimistic outcomes of your current circumstances.
  • This does not mean being a ‘polly-annah’, it means being able to see how good can come from the situation, no matter how hard it may be.
  • Optimism is rooted in the search for valuable and important meaning from any situation, and that it will lead you to a positive outcome eventually.


Cognitive Re-appraisal

  • We become the stories we tell ourselves.
  • Our brains are meaning making machines, so we need to be sure we are helping our brains to tell the right stories and to remove the dead end ones.
  • We need to check our internal narratives, avoid negative self-talk, and spend time crafting more liberating internal narratives about ourselves, others, and the world.
  • We can change the way we look at the world and our possibility in it.


Active Coping

  • Knowing we need to do something and doing it are two different things.
  • By showing yourself the evidence that you are applying yourself to actively coping with your situation the more resilient you will become.
  • It only works if you work it.
  • Passive coping means avoiding or using negative coping mechanisms like drugs, sex or alcohol.


Social Support

  • Human beings thrive on community and human connection. Without healthy and meaningful social connection and relationship we are less likely to succeed or cope when things get hard.
  • Resilience is directly affected by the level to which our social relationships are functioning, and how much we can give and receive support.
  • Where social support is lacking, we need to build and repair it / replace it?



  • Even the most serious and grievous situations require levity. The ability to find the ‘funny’, and to create positive energy through humor is vital in building a level of resilient tolerance to difficult situations.
  • Humor helps us to get lighter, to laugh with others, and to get out of our own heads.
  • It causes the brain to produce positive endorphins.



  • The more we learn to be in the present moment the less stressed we become. We are not wasting time and energy on the past (gone) and the future (hasn’t happened yet).
  • Being momentarily aware of our feelings and sensations allows us to process them, or let them pass, and it cleans out the emotional / sensational residue that we often allow to build up, which causes stress and unnecessary weight.
  • Meditation and self-awareness / self-regulation is how we keep our side of the street clean and tidy, which allows us to be more resilient.


Moral Compass

  • The better we are aligned and true to our personal idea of morality and personal values, the more resilient we can be. If we are not acting with the level of integrity we believe is important we begin to suffer.
  • The connection between our morality and our actions is key in developing resilience.
  • Our morality is an evolving understanding. Some morals are already present in us, but others may need to be defined more clearly. All of this makes us more resilient by guiding what we say yes / no to, and why. This evolution builds deep resilience.


Physical Exercise

  • Keeping reasonably fit is a sure way to build better feelings and a sense of personal well-being.
  • It produces many feel-good endorphins.
  • Exercise also builds routine, self-discipline, and a better personal self-image, all of which build a more resilient person.


Helping Others

  • By helping others you help yourself. You are integrally connected to the wellbeing of other people.
  • It builds evidence of your will to be of value beyond just yourself.
  • Helping others gets you out of your own head, and into your heart.
  • Helping others highlights you innate value and humanity, which builds personal resilience.
  • Helping others is most often correlated with being happy and satisfied.


Building Resilience is a whole person process.

Resilience is a life skill that positively impacts on work. A lack of resilience affects our whole person. The only way to build it is to build it intentionally, and with courage and purpose. Start small and manageable, grow the practice slowly and consistently. It only works if you work it, so work it, you are worth it.



We are not at the same starting point when it comes to building our resilience. It is not a one size fits all approach. When it comes to an individual’s starting point or progress, each of the factors described above will, if developed in earnest, help you to become more resilient over time. All fo the above is scientifically proven, and important, in resilience building.

Start with one activity in each area and get that right, then develop more aspects as you go. Each of us has challenges to address in many of these areas, and the quicker we start to address them healthily the better we will be able to stand up to the pressure and navigate our way through it.

I’ve also attached a presentation I did titled “The Resilience Dilemma”. Check it out below and share your thoughts with us in the comments section.

Good luck!


Join the Conversation

4 Responses

  1. to see the glass half full, will help you alot. Being optimistic, helps me. I prefer to see the light, in the darkness. It is important to take note of the darkness, but one should not allow the darkness to “over shadow” you.

  2. I need to exercise, even if it is just to walk the dog. My dog is always positive. Love my naughty dog.

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