What is resilience?

Resilience determines whether you succeed or fail in life. It’s true in sport, in business, entertainment, and it’s true in your life.

What is resilience? What does resilience actually mean? One definition describes resilience as your capacity to recover quickly from difficulties, whilst another describes it as your ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change. I describe it as simply your ability to bounce back after adversity.

Resilience determines whether you succeed or fail in life. It’s true in sport, in business, entertainment, and it’s true in your life.

Many of the early theories about resilience and ‘being resilient’ stressed the role of genetics. Some people are just born resilient so the argument went. There’s some truth to that of course, but empirical evidence today shows that resilience can be learned.

The reality is, sometimes in life you don’t realise how much resilience you actually have until you are tested. As the saying goes: cometh the hour, cometh the man.


There are many arguments around what makes one individual more resilient than the next. In our experience building your personal resilience comes down to three things;


Individuals who possess a strong bias and rich reservoir of personal resilience live their life in a constant state of reality.

They don’t bury their head in the sand when faced with challenging times. They don’t go into denial hoping that a situation or scenario will just sort itself out. And they’re never delusional about the magnitude of opportunities or challenges facing them. They simply have a unique ability to confront reality head on.

They are the ‘pragmatic optimist’.

A common belief is that resilience stems from an optimistic mindset. Whilst that’s true to a point, it only applies when optimism doesn’t distort reality. In extreme scenarios and situations, rose-tinted thinking can actually spell disaster. Resilient people have a sober and down to earth view of those parts of reality that matter.

Now, this is not to diminish optimism. When you’re turning around a demoralised team or helping an individual through a difficult time, a sense of optimism and possibility is a powerful tool.

But for bigger challenges, a cool, calm, almost pragmatic, sense of reality is critical to your success. Look upon the resilient high achiever as being the pragmatic optimist where both characteristics work in positive tension to the benefit of both.

Do you truly understand and accept the reality of your situation and scenarios you face both personally and professionally?

Do you confront reality head on?

We all have a tendency to slip into denial as a coping mechanism. Facing reality is gruelling work. It can often be draining and emotionally wrenching. But once you’re prepared to confront your reality then you have a solid platform from which to build from. 


Creating purpose is the way resilient people build bridges from their current state reality to a compelling future state. The moment you create the bridge – the link between your personal goals, business goals and what you do daily during work – self-motivation takes hold. This is the defining moment you change from someone with a job to someone with a purpose.

Your resilience will naturally kick in when your purpose is challenged or under threat.


One word, bouncebackability.

Yes, you read that correctly it is a real word albeit a recent addition to the English dictionary.

It’s official definition is; the ability to be successful after a period of failure.

It was first coined by ex-footballer Iain Dowie, when he was manager of Crystal Palace Football Club, who famously described his team as showing ‘… great bouncebackability’.

Behind any great success is years of dedication, trial and error, mistakes, successes and setbacks. Achievers don’t always get it right, and yes, in some situations they might actually fail (or what others perceive as failure).

Imagine a rubber ball.

The harder the ball hits the ground the higher it bounces back.

That’s bouncebackability!

You’re going to take knocks, some days are going to feel like a train crash, and you will go down blind alleys. But if you have an ultimate destination in your mind’s eye, a focused goal and purpose coupled with the drive, determination and motivation then…when you do fall over, you’ll pick yourself up, dust yourself off, improvise, adapt and refocus on your goal.

That’s your personal resilience in action!


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