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Resilience is your ability to “roll with the punches” and adapt to adversity. When stress strikes, you may still experience anger, grief, or pain, but you’re able to keep functioning — both physically and psychologically – if you’re resilient.

The most important factor in your recovery is how you explain the situation (in your own mind).

resilient, resilience, stress management, leadership skills

A common misconception is that resilient people are free from negative emotions or thoughts, remaining optimistic in every situation. To the contrary, resilient individuals have simply developed proper coping techniques that allow them to more easily navigate through crises. They are better able to effectively balance negative emotions with positive ones.

It’s All About Perspective

The cognitive skills that underpin resilience can be learned over time, creating resilience where there was none. Unfortunately, the opposite may also be true. You can become less resilient by creating or exaggerating stressors in your own mind. That’s the danger of worry and rumination: you can take a minor thing, blow it up in your head, run through it over and over, and drive yourself crazy until you feel like that minor thing is the biggest thing that ever happened. In a sense, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

If you frame adversity as a challenge to be overcome, you become more flexible and able to deal with it, move on, and grow from the experience. If you dwell on the adversity and frame it as a permanent threat, then a potentially disastrous event can become an enduring problem.  You become more traumatized and more likely to be negatively affected, both physically and psychologically.

Resilient people don’t dwell on their failures; they acknowledge the situation, learn from their mistakes, and then move forward.  The most important thing is how you frame and explain the event before moving forward.

3 Critical Questions to Ask Yourself

  1. How permanent is this?

Resilient people tend to see the effects of adversity as temporary rather than permanent. Instead of saying, “My boss will never like anything I do,” they might say, “My boss wasn’t happy with my work on this project.”  They view the problem as a challenge, not a permanent paralyzing event.

  1. How pervasive is this?

Resilient people don’t allow setbacks or adversity to “spill over” into other unrelated areas of their lives. For example, they might say, “I’m not very good at sports,” if they missed the winning shot for their team instead of saying, “I’m not good at anything.” Resilient people rarely use sweeping statements like always or never. This allows them to remain committed to other important areas of their life – their relationships, friendships, causes they care about, and/or religious beliefs – without losing hope during times of difficulty.

  1. How personal is this?

Resilient people don’t blame themselves when bad events happen. Instead, they see other people or their current circumstances as the cause. Instead of saying, “I messed that project up because I’m so stupid,” they might say, “I didn’t get the support I needed to finish that project successfully.”  They look at their failures and mistakes as lessons to be learned from and opportunities for further growth. They don’t view them as a negative reflection on their abilities or self-worth.

How you explain setbacks to yourself is critical for resilience and recovery. Martin Seligman, the University of Pennsylvania psychologist who pioneered much of the field of positive psychology, found that training people to adjust their “explanatory styles” made them more psychologically successful and less prone to depression. They simply changed their frame of mind from:

  • Internal to External –“Bad events aren’t my fault”
  • Global to Specific — “This is one narrow thing rather than a massive indication that something major is wrong with my life”
  • Permanent to Temporary — “I can change the situation, rather than assuming it’s fixed”

Resilience is a strong level of mental toughness. You aren’t born with it – it’s a skill developed over time as you respond to adversity, a habit you develop, and a skill you learn. These cognitive strategies are not easy to implement, but if you make them a part of your emotional toolkit they can help you develop the strength to get through the worst of times.


Life can bring all kinds of stressors, including divorce, the death of a loved one, relentless job and family demands, or a career setback.  Unfortunately, most people don’t have the coping skills they need to meet these challenges.

*** Surprises are the new normal; resilience is the new skill. ***

Fifty years of research in the psychological sciences has given us a good grasp of what makes someone RESILIENT. Resilience is a skill that allows you to cope with challenges with greater clarity and inner strength. Resilient people not only survive after a setback, they come back stronger and wiser.

Fortunately, we now know that resilience can be developed. Think of resilience as an emotional muscle that can be strengthened at any time. There are specific action steps you can take to speed up your emotional recovery in times of stress.


  • understand what resilience is
  • develop skills to create a resilient mindset
  • manage anxiety, fear, and focus when you’re in the “eye of the storm”
  • face challenges with more clarity and positivity
  • increase your self-awareness to control over-thinking and worry
  • overcome obstacles and find peace despite stress and chaos
  • enhance your life purpose, satisfaction, and success

Discover how to boost your own resilience here:

Dr. Stefani Yorges

I am a psychologist and professional leadership coach. I partner with people who want to rise to their full potential so they can have an increasingly greater impact on others.

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