How do you develop resilience?

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

Resilience is not something that is fixed at birth, through genes or even in childhood. Yes, these do have a powerful impact on us but resilience is something that can be developed throughout our lives and careers.

Building on the research of Albert Bandura, we have highlighted there are 5 ways of developing resilience:

1. Personal experience

At the time or over time reviewing past set backs, failures or even successes, analysing how your efforts and experiences built your resilience.

2. The experience of others

Looking at what others have achieved or bounced back from, understanding how they did it and feeling inspired to do the same yourself.

3. Social influencing 

Being convinced by significant others that you can achieve your goals and visions or deal with setbacks  and crisis.

4. Physiological and psychological make-up 

Having the ability to overcome challenges and be resilient naturally.

5. Modelling Excellence 

Understanding the traits, indicators, tools and mindsets of resilience and making those part of your everyday practice, behaviours and being.

Significant events and influences can all have a powerful impact on our personal resilience, not only testing it but also increasing it.

The great news is learning, self awareness and the building up of your resilience, confidence and tenacity can happen at the time or in hindsight days, months, years or even decades later.  Four of the five ways of building resilience can be developed now! On this programme we will help you build on your own natural resilience and make up, learn from your own experiences, the experiences of others, challenge your beliefs and teach you the traits, mindsets and behaviours you will need to be even more resilient.

Learning from experience

The next step required to build your resilience and mental toughness is to learn from failures.

If you take a driving test or exam you either pass or fail, some people give up feeling completely deflated. Others pick themselves up and book their next test. The key is how you perceive ‘failure’. Every failure can be looked at as a learning opportunity that is beautifully epitomised by Thomas Edison, the inventor of the light bulb. Despite more than 1,000 failures, he stood by his dream until he made it a physical reality. He said that every discarded idea took him one step closer towards finding the idea that would work. One of the most powerful self-coaching questions resilient people ask is, “What will I do differently next time?” or “What can I learn from this?”. People who make mistakes and learn from those mistakes are more resilient and scared to fail. When encountering an obstacle or tricky situation, the following process can be very effective:

n What did I do that was particularly good?  Focus on 2 – 3 specific things you did well. According to scientist, Dr David Hamilton, when people think positive thoughts they create a chemical change in their brain that releases seratonin – the reason behind getting a ‘feel good’ boost. George Miller, Harvard University states that the average person can only process around 5 – 7 chunks of information at any given moment. Therefore, by restricting your focus to just 2 or 3 things you did well, you intensify the positive feelings and reinforce your resilience.

n What could I have done to improve the

outcome of this situation/task? Notice that this question does not encourage you to dwell on anything you did wrong or performed badly. That approach would make it difficult for you to make improvements and you could find yourself reinforcing the wrong behaviours. Instead, this question encourages you to look for what you could have done better. With any type of mental toughness development, the desire to change is crucial and this question sets up the attitudinal mind-set that ‘change is good.’

n What will I do differently next time?  This questions facilitates the start of your changed behaviour. Just by answering the question means you have to visualise what specifically you would have done differently. Your unconscious mind has already started to accept that this change is comfortable, easy and worthwhile. This process natural increases your resilience and builds mental toughness.

Disasters and set backs throughout life from childhood to adulthood will either enhance your resilience or reduce it. You will increase your anxiety levels, question yourself and start to believe you won’t be able to cope if something like this happens again. Or it will build your self belief allowing you to learn from mistakes and build your ability to handle similar situations when they happen in the future.

Building on a study of resilient and high achieving individuals by Dr John Nicholson and Jane Clarke in their book ‘Resilience: Bounce Back from Whatever Life Throws at You’, it has been found that the following patterns applied to the resilient:

Individuals developed their resilience firstly in childhood from their experiences.


Adversity and  turbulent times 

Turbulent times – children learnt how to handle negativity. Indeed, many turned it into a positive energy. When they encountered difficulties and setbacks this frequently made them determined never to allow the same to happen again.  This determination bred success.

I’m different

An early sense of being different from others around them allowed them a unique understanding of the diversity of human beings and the resulting need to develop different strategies for different people. Having flexibility of style and behaviour, depending on who they interacted with.

Unhappy families

The impact of family dynamics on individual development. Individuals concerned had to assume responsibility at an early age. Having responsibility early made them realise how much they were capable of, a realisation they carried forward with them into adult life.

4. Strong Role Models

Of course, parents have a huge influence on their child’s development in addition to teachers, sports coaches and others. Most resilient children benefit from active support networks.  A strong relationship with at least one adult from whom they can learn and depend on is vital – this adult doesn’t have to be a parent.

A competitive edge

Whilst an interest in winning can’t be denied for most, they were usually even more interested in their reaction to defeat and failure.  Learning from these failures and set backs was vital in addition to the ability to cut your losses and stop when needed.

Challenges that come later in life both in personal and professional lives are equally important to strengthening the ability to bounce back.

Late teens and into your 20s

It may be your first job, travelling away or attending college/ university but it is very likely that your interactions with your family, friends and other equally important people will dramatically change.

Decisions like

  • What job or career?
  • What college or university?
  • What course?
  • Should I rent or buy a property?
  • What is important to me?
  • Is this what I want to be doing?
  • What type of person am I?
  • Can I do this?
  • Am I doing this for me or someone else?
  • Am I as good as I thought I was?
  • Is this a mistake?

This period can be challenging and can be a time when resilience grows dramatically allowing your self belief to grow and believe that you can cope with most things. Anxiety may surface around making decisions that cannot be reversed around things like:

  • life partner
  • career
  • having children

It can be an up and down time as people believe they are setting the direction for their whole life.


By this time people realise that the choices around career, life partner and their lives are things that can be changed. Their resilience is now tested by having to admit mistakes, change direction, have tough conversations, let people down and end relationships.  These may be in both professional and personal lives when you:

  • are made redundant
  • don’t get the promotion or job you want
  • can’t work for this boss any longer

In terms of resilience this is a decade of growing responsibilities and accountability at home and work.


The 40s can, for many people, be the most confusing and challenging. You may be responsible for

  • yourself
  • your partner
  • teenage children
  • your ageing parents
  • your team at work
  • a role in the community or sports team

There are certainly massive opportunities for resilience to grow! You can learn from your own mistakes and the mistakes of others and realise that problems and issues are hardly ever the end of the world and this allows you to have a more balanced perspective on life.

Please complete the form below to contact us directly and one of our admin team will get back to you.