What is Resilience?

With Lucy Clementson-Mills


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What is Resilience?


Resilience is the ability to deal with stress and bounce back from uncertain situations. It's is a really important trait that can help you throughout your career. From being being told by your boss they're not using your idea to losing out on a promotion. Let Lucy show you what it is and how others use resilience. 


    Resilience is the ability to deal with stress and bounce back from uncertain situations. It's is a really important trait that can help you throughout your career. From being rejected for a job you really wanted through to being told by your boss they're not using your idea. Let Lucy show you what it is and how others use resilience. 

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What is resilience?

So, what do we mean by resilience?

According to the Emma Seppala book, ‘The Happiness Track’, resilience is “the ability to quickly bounce back from the stressful situations you face every day: a difficult interaction with someone, a delayed flight that threatens to make you late for an important sales call, working long hours on a project with a looming deadline, and so on”. 

Now whilst not many of us catch a flight for a sales call, there is an important point made here. It is the ability to bounce back. It doesn’t mean you can change things. But you can bounce back.

One of the people I interviewed for this course explained resilience as “how well you cope with stress. It doesn’t mean you’re not stressed, but how you are able to deal with that stress.” So again, you can deal with it.

At the heart of resilience is a belief in oneself. Yet also a belief in something larger than oneself. You see resilient people do not let adversity define them. They find resilience by moving towards something beyond themselves – a goal, getting a job, leaving a job, finding love. They transcend that pain, hurt, upset, grief as they know bad times are only temporary and that they are in control.

In this sense, resilience is the ability to thrive in a word full of uncertainty. There will be tough times we will get knock backs, there will be tragedy and trauma and threats in our lives. Things which bring pain and cause stress. I am sure you can recall how it feels when you experience loss, grief, rejection. When you didn’t get the job you had dreamt of or the promotion you had worked so hard for. It really can be hard to see a way forward. But with time we can recover from these difficulties and this “bouncing back” is what resilience is.

Being resilient does not mean that a person doesn’t experience difficulty or distress. Emotional pain and sadness are common in people who have suffered major adversity or trauma in their lives. In fact, the road to resilience is likely to involve considerable emotional distress.

But importantly, resilience is not a trait that people either have or do not have. It involves behaviors, thoughts, and actions that can be learned and developed by absolutely anyone, by you, and in this day and age, in times of change, growth, knock backs – it is becoming increasingly important for us all to build our resilience skills.

Let’s look at resilience in action.

What do Oprah Winfrey, Emily Blunt, The Beatles and J.K.Rowling all have in common? And no, this isn’t the beginning of a corny joke. They are people we probably all deem to be very successful, but they have all demonstrated resilience at different times in their lives.

Oprah Winfrey. Everyone knows Oprah. She is one of the most iconic faces on TV as well as one of the most richest and most successful women in the world. But, she faced a very hard road to get to that position. She endured a rough and often abusive childhood as well as numerous career setbacks, including being fired from her job as a television reporter because she was “unfit for TV.” But she kept going! This lady demonstrates resilience like absolutely no other!

Emily Blunt. Between the ages of 7-14 Emily actually had a major stutter. She then tried out for a school play and she worked on different accents and voices to help her get her words out and she ended up overcoming her stutter to allow her to be the award winning actor she is today.

The Beatles. Well, this band actually need no introduction at all, but that could have been really different had they listened to one of the first record companies they went to, who told them “no”, saying they didn’t like their sound and that guitar music was on its way out. Thank goodness they demonstrated resilience and carried on anyway!

J.K. Rowling. Well, she was nearly penniless, she was severely depressed, divorced, trying to raise a child on her own while attending school and also writing a novel. She went from depending on welfare to survive, to being one of the richest women in the world, writing the Harry Potter books. Showing what you can achieve through hard work and determination.

All of these examples show we can all face hard times, but we can also all build our resilience and we get to where we want to in life. We can bounce back, always.

And it’s not just individuals. There are a whole range of companies who we deem as hugely successful today, but their journeys haven’t actually been very easy.

Twitter for example, started as ODEO, which was a network where people could find and subscribe to podcasts.
Flickr began as an online role-playing game called Game Neverending, where users would travel around a digital map, interact with other users and buy, sell and build items.

Instagram started as Burbn, a check-in app that included gaming elements from Mafia Wars, and a small photo element as well

These companies did not give up though. They changed their tactics, they bounced back and they’ve all achieved success. And I suppose in much the same way, we can change things and bounce back when things don’t go our way and achieve success for ourselves. It all starts with our choices.

Maybe there is someone similar you know. How did they build their resilience? Perhaps ask them, learn from them. Not many people actually want to be resilient, they have usually had to build it for a reason and finding out how they did it can provide invaluable lessons for all of us.