DrowningWe all experience difficulties in life, but sometimes it goes from “In every life, some rain must fall” (YouTube link here), to a flood. It can be caused by an unrelenting volume or pace of work. Or it can be caused by something deeply upsetting such as being retrenched or ending of a love-relationship.

When difficulties reach flood levels, some people are stretched beyond their limits. They don’t cope well. They feel defeated and sometimes spiral into hopelessness. Its’s as though they are drowning in a flood of difficulty and hardship.

In contrast, others cope and recover well. They manage to keep their experience of stress positive and struggle well. They are like a buoy in an ocean storm, submerged from time-to-time, but quickly bob up again.

Some years ago I felt I was drowning in difficulties. I hated feeling helpless and overwhelmed. I longed for some magic ability to bob up again and cope well.

In order to find help for myself, I eventually did some research into how people cope well with what life throws at them.

I found that the magic lies in a person’s personal resilience. Personal resilience is made up of two broad components (more here or here):

1. Mental strength

The first component is mental strength which you need to cope with the daily grind and also persistent levels of high stress. It’s sometimes rather narrowly seen as stress management. Researchers call this mental toughness or “grit” which has been defined as “perseverance and passion for long-term goals” (more here).

To be mentally strong, you need to manage your thoughts and feelings in a way that they don’t become intrusive and unhelpful in times of difficulty. That helps you keep things in perspective rather than being overwhelmed.

Reframing, mindfulness and generating genuine positive feelings are all useful techniques to deal with unhelpful internal thoughts and feelings. Ann Bradford says it’s being able to “tell the negative committee that meets inside your head to sit down and shut up” (more here)

2. Recovering well

Resilience however, is more than just stress management and mental strength. It’s also recovering well from significant difficulty and even adversity. This is the second aspect of resilience and is sometimes referred to as “bouncing back”.

Recovering well involves:

·         An unflinching acceptance of reality. Understanding and accepting the impact of what has happened, including shattering treasured beliefs about ourselves, others, the future and life in general.

·         Crafting an alternate and better story about what has happened. This narrative often includes finding some positive in the situation or something about which to be grateful. In essence, it’s about finding meaning in life which incorporates or explains what has happened.

·         Improvising and crafting solutions to deal with what has happened, being tenacious and yet flexible in execution.

·         Maintaining strong relationships. Strong support systems not only provide support and encouragement, but are also valuable for generating new ideas and inspiration.


With resilience, we are able to make sense of great difficulties in our lives. We weave that new meaning into living life with increased authenticity and purpose. Put simply, we use the change needed to cope with significant difficulty to become better not bitter; stronger not weaker.

It’s as though our life has been remoulded and improved by the difficult experience, much as iron is forged into steel with heat, and by removing impurities and adding carbon.

Looked at from this perspective, resilience is a critical element in developing our capabilities as human beings. We need resilience to become all that we can become and fulfil our potential in life.

Fortunately personal resilience and strength for life is not some magic which only a few people have. We all have resilience to some extent, and it can be enhanced and developed, as I experienced for myself.

Imagine having your organisation staffed with personally resilient people, who cope with having to achieve more with less, high levels of stress and wide-scale change. Efficiency and productivity would go up, absenteeism and presenteeism would go down.

Would it help your organisation if its people were more personally resilient? Find out more here (click here)

Image courtesy of koratmember at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Resilient Leadership WorkshopResilient Leadership Workshop
Leaders learn how to keep stress positive. They assess their Team Members strategy-fitness and learn three resilience coaching techniques. The outcome is the leaders are better able to deliver organisational strategy and coach their team members when their resilience lags (read more here).

Building Resilience workshop

Building Resilience Workshop

Team members and specialists learn how to bounce back from difficult organisation and life events, such as significant change, setbacks and hardship. The outcome is they are able to resist stressful experiences impacting on their job productivity and stay calm and healthy (read more here).

Mental Strength training

Mental Strength Training

Mental Strength training helps people keep task-focused and persistent. Mental Strength training teaches the process and tools to remain composed under pressure and less vulnerable to emotional slumps at work and at home (read more here).