Friday, January 4, 2013

Personal Resilience


There are so many resources today that explore our ability to bounce back from life events.  In their book Resilience: Why Things Bounce Back, Andrew Zolli and Ann Marie Healy define resilience as “the capacity of a system, enterprise, or a person to maintain its core purpose and integrity in the face of dramatically changed circumstances.” 

Robert J. Wicks who wrote Bounce: Living the Resilient Life describes resilience as “the ability to meet, learn from, and not be crushed by the challenges and stresses of life.”

Singer/actress Lena Horne put it this way:  “It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it.”  And we all carry our loads in different ways, some of us with a smile, some with a snarl. Because research shows that individuals with resilience or “bounce” adapt faster and experience less stress, it can be useful to step back and take stock of how you cope.  

Types of Resilience

We see resilience in many areas of our lives.  Our bodies show physical resilience in the healing of a scrape or a bruise and in the recovery from a surgery or an illness.  Physical resilience helps us meet physical challenges like surviving boot camp or achieving a personal best in our favorite sport. 

In the psychological/emotional realm, we experience resilience when we see problems as opportunities for growth and when we perform well under stress.  It is demonstrated in our lives when we grow from personal and professional challenges and when we use our strengths to overcome adversity.  Resilience helps us to recover from trauma and to cope with life events, both positive and negative. 

We also demonstrate resilience socially by dealing with the loss of a friend or by making new relationships when we change jobs or move to a new area.  It takes work to maintain fulfilling relationships and to work constructively with others.  Our social resilience helps us hold these relationships through times of conflict.  Other examples include being able to work constructively on a team or engaging in comfortable exchange of ideas with people who think differently from us, as well as demonstrative empathy, openness and respect.    

Resilience can be seen in the spiritual arena.  Individuals with spiritual resilience can hold faith and doubt at the same time, gaining strength from trouble, temptation and trials.    

Taking steps to build resilience today can have positive effects down the road including an increase in confidence, judgment, and decision making.  It can lower stress, increase joy in life, and help us grow as individuals.  Imagine the ripple effect when you show up stronger and more capable at home and at work!

Skills for Building Resilience

In The Resilience Factor: 7 Keys to Finding Your Inner Strength and Overcoming Life’s Hurdles, Karen Reivick, Ph.D. and Andrew Shatte, Ph.D. highlight skills that we can practice to create a stronger bounce when life gets tough.  Here are a few to consider.

Emotion Regulation – The ability to stay calm under pressure is important for forming intimate relationships, succeeding at work, and maintaining physical health.  Use your journal to record the kinds of events and circumstances that set you off.  Locate a local class on the subject, or connect with a mentor, coach, or counselor and examine your emotional habits.  Read a book – there are three listed in this article.  Here is a fourth: Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ by Daniel Goleman.

Optimism – Reivick and Shatte tell us that optimists are healthier, less likely to suffer depression, do better in school, are more productive at work, and win more at sports.  They define optimism as the belief that things can change for the better; hope for the future and a belief that one can control the direction of one’s life.  Those of us who carry a more negative view of things can benefit from noticing on a daily basis the good in our lives and holding appreciation in our hearts.  To learn more about your levels of optimism and to identify ways to elevate your views on life, visit  It is the website of Dr. Martin Seligman, the grandfather of the positive psychology movement. 

Reaching Out – Resilience can be strengthened by connecting with others.  Take time away from work and life routines to connect with friends and acquaintances for a movie or a conversation over coffee.  Join a book club at your local library or enjoy crafts with other enthusiasts.  Be of service to others through volunteer efforts in your community.  Research shows that helping others raises endorphin levels, increasing happiness and feelings of self-worth.

Happy New Year!

2013 is here.  Let’s all wish and work for an abundance of happiness and joy for ourselves and for those around us.  When you’re feeling low, remember to bounce!


Peg McQuarrie is a certified professional coach and the owner of WellSprings Consulting.  Her passion is to support others as they step into the successful, meaningful, authentic lives they are meant to live!  For almost 20 years, she has helped individuals and work groups maximize their potential and achieve personal, business, and organizational success.  Her services include coaching for individuals and teams; design and facilitation of group retreats; design and delivery of personal and professional development workshops; and organizational consulting. 

Peg earned her Master’s in Education from Northern Arizona University and received her coach training through the Adler School of Professional Coaching.  She is certified by the International Coach Federation.  Learn more at or check out her page on LinkedIn.


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