More than education, experience, and training, a person’s level of resilience will determine if he or she succeed or fail.

Almost all resilience theories overlap in that resilient people possess three characteristics: 1) acceptance of reality; 2) belief that life is meaningful; 3) an uncanny ability to improvise.

You can bounce back from hardship with just one or two of these qualities, but you will only be truly resilient with all three. Let’s take a look at each of them in turn:

Facing Reality
A common belief about resilience is that it stems from an optimistic nature. That’s true but only as long as such optimism doesn’t distort your sense of reality. In extremely adverse situations, rose-colored thinking can spell disaster. The fact is, when we genuinely stare down reality, we prepare ourselves to act in ways that allow us to endure and survive exceptional hardship.

The Search for Meaning
The ability to see reality is linked to the second building block of resilience, the propensity to make meaning of terrible times. We all know people who, under duress, throw up their hands and cry, “How can this be happening to me?” Such people see themselves as victims, and living through hardship carries no lessons for them. But resilient people devise constructs about their suffering to create some meaning for themselves and others.

Ingenuity
The third building block of resilience is the ability to make do with whatever is at hand. What we do not expect under life-threatening pressure is creativity. In other words, the rules and regulations that make some appear less creative may make them more resilient in times of real turbulence.

Resilience is a reflex, a way of facing and understanding the world, that is deeply etched into a person’s mind and soul. Resilient people face reality, make meaning of hardship instead of crying out in despair, and improvise solutions from thin air. Others do not. This is the nature of resilience, and we will never completely understand it.


Inspired by: Harvard Business Review - How Resilience Works, by Diane Coutu