Develop Resilience


A hand squeezing a smiley ball

Have you heard the phrase “rubber-band” people?

You probably have. It means people who, regardless of the setbacks they suffer, always seem to bounce back. They may become ill, experience a family tragedy, lose their job, suffer a heartbreak or betrayal, get into a run of bad luck in business, but none of these seem to be able to keep them down. Life can stretch them to breaking points, but – just like a rubber band – they find a way of going back to their original shape.

What is their secret?


Resilience is the ability of an object to return to its real shape after it’s been roughened, bent, stretched or compressed “out of shape.” Remember those elastic round objects on some office desks? They’re called stress balls. Squeeze them however you want, they will always go back to their original shape.

Why? Because they are built with resilience.

People can build themselves with resilience too. In fact, it is the main staying power of renowned business and political leaders. And you will need it too if you ever hope to be an influential leader in any size of social group, including your family, and ultimately to help you achieve concrete successes in your professional and personal life. That’s because resilience, or the ability to bounce back after a setback, is often the difference between losing and winning. Like they say, winners never quit!


Resilience is the mental toughness to adjust well, adapt or bounce back after things go awry and not as planned. Resilient people don’t allow themselves to sink into despair, wallow in misery or dwell on the setback. They simply recognise and admit the situation, take lessons from them, and move forward.
Leading psychologist, Susan Kobasa explains the 3Cs of resilient people as Challenge, Commitment and Control.

  1. They see every difficulty as a challenge

Rather than view a setback as a fatal blow or paralyzing event, they see it as challenge that affords them an opportunity to learn more and grow. They don’t let the difficulty give them a negative perception of themselves, or their abilities or self-worth.

  1. They show a commitmentto their goals

Resilient people live for specific and purposeful goals, rather than drift with the time and tide. It is these goals that give them a compelling reason to get out of bed in the morning and head out to actions and activities that push them further towards the finish line.

Their character of commitment isn’t just restricted to their work, they exhibit it in every area of their life or what they do, including their relationships, their friendships, their religious or spiritual beliefs; any cause they care about.

  1. They have personal control

Resilient people have the right perspective on every situation and event. They understand there are some things or circumstances that are outside of their control, so they only channel and focus their energy and time on the areas they have control over.

This way, they can better manage and influence the overall situation. And because they funnel their efforts to those areas they have the most impact, they become confident and empowered. When people spend their time worrying about situation and events that are outside of human control, they become frustrated, feel lost, helpless and powerless.

Another renowned psychologist, Martin Seligman analyses resilience from the way people view or explain failure or setbacks. Actually, Martins emphasised the concept of resilience more from the angles of “optimism” and “pessimism.” His descriptions are couched in 3Ps: Permanence, Pervasiveness, and Personalization. 

  1. Resilient people believe the setback don’t have permanence

Martin says resilient people are optimistic people and they view any failure or the effects of bad events as temporary, rather than permanent. They always focus on the message, rather than the messenger.

  1. They don’t let bad event have a pervasive effect on other areas of their life

They are not the type that believes or engages in transferred judgment. They keep all unrelated events or areas of their life out of the issue at hand. If they fail at any specific activity or event, they isolate it and don’t consider themselves a failure in everything.

  1. They don’t personalise failure

People who have resilience go hard on themselves when things don’t go as they anticipated. They don’t view the failure as being a consequence of their own poor skills or ability. Instead they objectively review the setback and identify events, things or people that may have negatively influenced the outcome of their own genuine efforts.

That said, resilience is not an easy character to form. First, it involves a learning process that requires something bad, upsetting or difficult to happen to you. You could be diagnosed with a serious illness. You could lose a major business deal. You may lose a loved one or close friend. You may suffer a devastating heartbreak or betrayal.

Secondly, you have to make the choice to bounce back. That means you will need to make a personal commitment and be disciplined about it. You will need to get up every day from your bed, face the failure, and determine you’re not going to be held down.

Developing resilience may take a bit of time. It’s not an overnight process. But you can do it; and it’s important you cultivate it because it’s one of the vital ingredients for success ultimately.

So, how do you develop resilience?

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As we all know, life happens; and setbacks and failures can happen in spite of your best efforts and intentions.

It doesn’t always matter if you had an iron resolve and sunk in so much hardwork to make a success of an event, project, or relationship, when the storms of life hit with its violent twist and turns, strong busts of winds and bumps, it will derails your plans and make nonsense of all your goals. When everything calms, you see ruins and debris all around you and failure stares you in the face.

Do you slump your shoulders and despair and bury your head in the sand like the Ostrich? Or rather than live in state of denial that continues to hurt you, do you accept the situation and move forward?

The key to success in every human endeavour – business, relationship, career, pretty much anything – is persistence, not perfection. To live a healthy and meaningful life, you must learn how to keep moving forward, no matter the adversity or circumstances.

Do it failure after failure, until you finally get success. Do it when it’s hard. Do it even when you don’t feel like. Do it until persistence is subconsciously ingrained in you and it becomes a habit.

Here’s how.

  1. Feel the disappointment, but don’t wallow in it.

Of course, it’s hurting when one’s dreams get shattered. It’s okay to allow yourself to experience the disappointment that comes with failure, but don’t get stuck in that mud. Don’t cage or stifle your emotions. Instead, look for another channel, activity or interest to express yourself and stay positive.

  1. Get some sleep.

Letting your setback take over your body is also letting it take over your mind and having complete control of you. It’s easier to face your failures and get back on your feet when you first take care of your physical health. So, eat well and get some sleep. It will help you better review and reflect on the situation.

If you’re hungry or too tired, you will lose perspective and your ability to solve the problem will weaken. Give yourself a good rest and eat healthy and any hardship or difficulty will feel a lot easier to deal with.

Getting some exercise or other physical activities is another way to rid yourself of the toxins and negative emotions that failure and disappointment leave behind. When you do, you gain clarity of mind to stay positive and persistent.

  1. Realize you’re not the first person to feel that fear.

Fear is not always a bad thing, if you view it from the right perspective. See it as a friendly sign warning you to be careful. It becomes paralyzing only if you allow it to overwhelm and control you. Fall back and call or speak with someone from your support network of friends and families if you become too scared. Remember that one of them may have been in that or similar situation before, and has bounced back and doing just fine.

  1. Don’t get fixated on the setback

Your failure will come with a lot of lessons for successes. Look for them, take the lessons with you and move ahead into the future, better equipped and more confident. That should be your goal, rather than dwelling on your mistakes or getting fixated on the failure. Count it as part of your experiences (hopefully, a small part) that help you move forward.

  1. Redefine what failure means to you.

Technically, mistakes and failures are the building blocks of success. Ingrain that philosophy in your mind the next time you’re faced with a rejection or setback after putting in your best efforts and intentions. Keep from dwelling so much on the mistakes you made and start focusing on the useful information you can extract from the situation. Often, what failure is telling you is to redirect your energy and find a new path to your goal. It could also be reminding you to increase your level of commitment and to reestablish dedication.

Take a look at the example of legendary inventor, Thomas Edison who successfully produced the incandescent light bulb after over a thousand prototypes and failures. Each time he failed at his project, he learnt something new and applied the lesson in the next effort. So, after one failure after another, he finally had his Eureka moment which changed the history of the world forever.

  1. Move toward the future.

    There is no failure so great that you cannot recover from it in some way. You only need to cultivate the mindset make that recovery possible. You certainly don’t want to get stuck and sink in a quick sand. You need to get up, get active and go.

Make some movements; positive ones. Embrace change. Go on diets. Learn a new skill, explore the world, go places you’ve always wanted to visit or live, start a new exercise regime. Activities like these will put you in the right frame of mind to bounce back.

  1. Don’t play the blame game. So many reasons would be responsible for your moment of disappointment. If you’d invested your time, energy and best efforts, it’s likely someone unfairly upstaged the cart. Well, you won’t be the first to experience a betrayal or a stab in the back. Life happens. But don’t play the blame game. Even if you get angry, you won’t gain anything by holding someone responsible for your setback.

Just remember that you can use that failure as a springboard to greater things. Also, focusing on things and people that caused the setback and getting angry about it or with them will blur your perspectives and prevent you from seeing if you’ve inadvertently contributed to the sad situation.

Besides, sometimes there’s a third causative factor which neither you nor your perceived adversary or adversaries can control or influence and have nothing to do with you: External forces.

The best approach always is to analyse the situation, pick vital lessons and go forward. Stop blaming yourself or anyone.

  1. Get feedback. A setback makes people vulnerable and it’s never easy asking for feedback, even from family and friends. But getting feedback might be one of the most helpful tools to give you a good grasp of the situation, make an objective review or reflection and help to let you see the path to your dreamed future with better clarity.

Getting feedback during your crisis moment is also a great way to know other people’s genuine opinion of you or your efforts. It’s often a moment of truth and they will tend to be straight with you.

  1. Keep it simple. A lot of the feedback you will get during your crisis period will appear too simplistic. And it is; whereas you might be expecting some complex answers or suggestions. But it probably isn’t. If majority of the feedbacks you get from people on why you failed at that project, relationship, job or business seem too simplistic, keep listening. They’re just trying to get through all the chaff and point you to the grain or the truth.
  2. Be open to alternatives…

Crisis moments are not the time to be rigid and close-minded. Have you lost a job? Stay open to alternatives, even if the opening appears to veer of your career path. You never can tell, you might find skills you learnt in your previous job very useful in your new post and that will probably put you at an advantage to accelerate on the job. Is your business product or service not getting the expected patronage or sales volumes? Embrace new changes that promise success. The problem might not have been in your skills level or product quality. It simply might be the external forces of a shrinking profession or an economy in recession; and you might need to make some adjustments or diversify to stay up and stay ahead.

  1. Find strength beyond yourself

Although not everyone may agree to it, there’s an all powerful universal force that you can rely on, especially if everything else fails. When things become so difficult, you can rest in the arm of the angel. That means, to turn to God.

Life can get so boisterous and threaten to drown you in its giant waves that you wonder how you could escape and get back on your sail. Your emotions at that time might get all muddled up, chaotic and senseless. These dark times require more than your human strength; and need that you find comfort and energy in an infinite power to get you through the pain and bring you to a place of rest and recovery.

In conclusion…

Life is no bed of roses. Everyone has heard of that, but no one really takes it seriously until they experience a crushing setbacks or moments of failures. And life has no shortage of them. But the good news is that no matter how much life stretches, bends or compresses you, you can be like a rubber-band person and bounce back!

No matter how many times you’ve been hit with setbacks, disappointments and rejections, it is not too late to cultivate resilience.

The facts is, people are going to experience failures time after time, as long as they have dreams and keep moving forward to achieve them.

But there’s an easier, no-ambition, and no-purpose way: Do nothing; take no risks and live a near non-existent life. You certainly don’t want that kind of life for yourself. Instead, build yourself with the courage to carve a dream or purpose and pursue it with confidence and persistence.

Being resilient doesn’t mean that you don’t see the risks in front of you or that you don’t fail. It means that when you do, you bounce back and re-energise with the strength to learn the lessons you need to learn, and then move forward to greater and better things ahead.