The Power of Resilience

By: Judy Gielniak

Life is not about how fast you run, or how high you climb, but how well you bounce. -Vivian Komori

Resilience. It’s the key factor to get us back on our feet after experiencing one of life’s losses or letdowns. It helps us succeed when circumstances aren’t in our favor. It allows us to “keep the faith” and carry on despite setbacks.

What happens when you’re resilient? You gain motivation to overcome roadblocks and find ways to persevere and succeed no matter what. The fact is that we all fail at times in life. We are all dealt harsh blows — often unfair ones. It’s an inevitable part of the human experience. Resilience is the ability to bounce back from these moments and continue striving.

This isn’t to indicate that resilience is the quick salve for all wounds and that after a major tragedy or debilitating setback, we ought to be able to immediately pick ourselves up and get back on the path. Sometimes we just need time to process the loss and heal.

Yet, resilience is a crucial element to accomplishing what you want in work and life, and for experiencing happiness. Think of any successful individual and chances are there is a deep well of resilience within that person.

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What happens when you have low reserves of resilience? Perhaps you:

  • Pivot too soon from a great idea once something goes awry.
  • Beat yourself up with negative self-thoughts based on disappointments you’ve experienced.
  • Play out situations over and over in your mind wishing you’d done something differently.
  • Lose faith in yourself and your dreams.
  • Fall into a rut…and for much longer than you’d like.
  • Decide to just give up.

These responses are normal as short-term reactions to adversity. What is important here is to catch yourself before letting them linger and before taking drastic measures without careful consideration, so you can stay on track with your goals and the direction you’ve set for your life.

So, how do we build resilience? We can begin by looking at its source. Research indicates that resilience stems from positivity. It’s the main ingredient in resilience.

One thing we know from neuroscience is that our brains are designed to process thoughts and information efficiently, which means that we often see what we expect to see. As author Anais Nin wrote:

We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.

When we think negatively about a situation, another person, or ourselves, we naturally find the negative points that exist, because the brain is wired to see things based on our mindset — how we routinely view the world around us. Conversely, when we think positively, we are primed to see the positive in others, ourselves, and our circumstances.

Think about this: How we view adversity and stress strongly affects our experiences and outcomes from it. For example, if you view a setback as purely negative without looking for the positive, i.e., the opportunities and learnings it generates, you will tend to take action from that negative mindset, typically achieving a far less than desirable outcome.

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But if you instead catch yourself in negative thoughts and take time to consider positive aspects of the situation, you will more likely take actions that better reflect your end-goals and values.

Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl embodied a truly inspirational and unbelievably strong example of positive mindset in his memoir, Man’s Search for Meaning. In it, Frankl recounts his experiences surviving the atrocities of Nazi concentration camps.

But the essence of his book is not about the suffering he experienced, but about his strength to make it through. He looked to the positives, as hard as that is to imagine. He thought about his wife and envisioned reuniting with her. He dreamed of teaching someday on his experience and learnings.

Viktor Frankl believed that suffering itself was meaningless, but that we give it meaning by the way in which we respond to it. He wrote:

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.

This is an extreme example, but it illustrates that there are extraordinary advantages in cultivating a positive mindset. And, when we think about positivity, it’s about viewing ourselves in positive ways as well. Being kind to yourself is just as important as maintaining a positive viewpoint on challenging circumstances.

Don’t let your inner critic expound on your shortcomings and berate your abilities. Stay aware of negative thoughts, challenge their truth, and reframe them in ways that will enhance your resilience, among other healthy benefits.

It’s important to point out that changing attitudes and increasing resilience takes time and intentionality. But cultivating a more positive outlook is a worthwhile, if not critical, starting point. It can help you bounce back, stay on track, and achieve far more of what you want in work and life.

[Related: Six Clever Words to Live By: A Maxim for Business and Life]

Judy Gielniak is a career coach and consultant helping professionals and executives accomplish career goals that increase fulfillment and happiness in their work. Learn more at Accomplished Life Coaching and Consulting or be in touch at

Originally published at

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