Define Resilient

As I look at the global craziness and individual craziness happening around and try to figure out what needs to shift, the word resilient keeps coming to mind. Now when this happens I don’t want to read the Google Search response (although that’s a helpful starting point) I want to understand what it is, why it matters, and how to emulate it.

Definitions of Resilient

“When a panel discussion was called asking researchers to debate the nature of resilience, all agreed that resilience is complex – as a construct, it can have a different meaning between people, companies, cultures, and society. They also agreed that people could be more resilient at one point in their lives, and less during another, and that they may be more resilient in some aspects of their lives than others (Southwick, 2014).” – Positive Psychology

Here is another fun breakdown on the definition of resilience:

What is Resilience

Now don’t get me wrong, resilience is an interesting topic in general, but it turns out there is a something called Resilience Theory. A developmental psychologist and clinician, Norman Garmezy, was one of the first to do trauma research and focus on the strengths associated with trauma as opposed to the weaknesses.

Resilience Theory is based on his experience working with children from all sorts of backgrounds and who thrived in spite of trauma. A line from a New Yorker article about Resilience Theory broke the issue down well: “It’s only when you’re faced with obstacles, stress, and other environmental threats that resilience, or the lack of it, emerges: Do you succumb or do you surmount?”

Resilience is the ability to not only survive, but thrive.

– kaili –

In 1989 a developmental psychologist names Emmy Werner and licensed psychologist Ruth Smith ran a 39-year-long study with 700 children to study traits of resilience. About 1/3 of them were determined to be resilient and thrive in-spite of being considered ‘at-risk’ due to their life situations. That being said, some of the children were hit back to back with so many high stress life events at critical points that they lost their resilience.

Based on my research, I would say that resilience is the ability to not only survive, but thrive.

Why Does Being Resilient Matter?

In a world that’s getting more and more complicated, we need to be ready to bounce back from a variety of situations. In addition to the necessity of knowing how to do that, there are also multiple health benefits.

“Coping with stress in a positive way is known as resilience, and it has many health benefits. It’s associated with longevity, lower rates of depression, and greater satisfaction with life.” – Harvard Health Letter

I don’t think anyone can say that they don’t experience stress in their life. We’re also going to keep experiencing it. The ability to view our stress in a positive light can completely change how we come out of a life-altering situation.

When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.

– Viktor frankl –

Understanding resilience also helps us understand how hard it is to be resilient. We see a lot of people around us struggling with multiple issues and can easily expect them to bounce back too quickly. When we’ve struggled to bounce back from something it helps us become more empathetic, but also understanding how to become more resilient helps us but also can help us understand how to better help those around us.

How to Become More Resilient

There are A LOT of opinions on this. I found lists of three to lists of twenty ways to become more resilient. I’m going to boil down to the ones that stayed consistent in every source I came across:


For yourself and for others. Recognizing our own abilities and the abilities of others lays a foundation that we can build on. It helps us know and truly believe we can do what we need to and it helps us have more realistic expectations from the people around us.

Self Awareness

We may be able to rattle off a long list of our faults and failures but that isn’t the same as being self aware.

“Having self-awareness means that you have a sharp realization of your personality, including your strengths and weaknesses, your thoughts and beliefs, your emotions, and your motivations.” – Develop Good Habits

Strong Social Circle

Knowing someone has your back is another HUGE indicator of resilience. When we’re struggling with life it is a big deal to know we have someone to talk to, can call for help, and just knowing they believe in you.

“Friends also play a significant role in promoting your overall health. Adults with strong social support have a reduced risk of many significant health problems, including depression, high blood pressure and an unhealthy body mass index (BMI). Studies have even found that older adults with a rich social life are likely to live longer than their peers with fewer connections. They also:

  • Increase your sense of belonging and purpose
  • Boost your happiness and reduce your stress
  • Improve your self-confidence and self-worth
  • Help you cope with traumas, such as divorce, serious illness, job loss or the death of a loved one
  • Encourage you to change or avoid unhealthy lifestyle habits, such as excessive drinking or lack of exercise.”
    Mayo Clinic

Be A Victor

When traumatic events have it is essential to feel in control of your own destiny. Those that feel that they are in control of where they’re going and how are more likely to be resilient. It’s easy (and we all do it) to sit and wait for someone to save us and/or right the wrong they committed. It’s human. However, in order to bounce back and thrive, we need to view ourselves as victors instead of victims.

Who would you describe as ‘resilient’? What other character traits do they have that I may have missed?

Published by Kaili Speaks

As the podcast host of Define, Kaili has the opportunity to chat with people about their defining moment and what they learned from it. In two-part episodes she dives into personal stories and then into the behavioral science and the logistics of how to use those traits and experiences to help us see each other in a different light. If you are wanting to learn more about what defines the people around you, tune in and learn more about how to apply these traits into your own life. 

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