How to use setbacks as a springboard to success by developing resilience

Resilience is the ability to recover from a series of difficulties, setbacks, or defeats and to quickly return to a high level of performance. It is not a single entity. Rather resilience is a combination of four elements that interact to produce the ‘Resilience Effect’.

The four elements are:

  1. Emotional resilience
  2. Physical resilience
  3. Intellectual resilience
  4. Organisational resilience

Emotional resilience

This is perhaps the most important component because everyone is strongly affected by how they feel. There are times (like now) when ‘the facts of reality’ are negative and tend to put negative stress on people. We cannot change the facts by wishing them away, so instead resilient people work first to change the meaning they assign to the facts.

Resilient people know that it is not the events themselves that drives emotions. It is what people believe the event to mean. Emotionally resilient people purposefully change the meaning they attach to events.

The principle is: empowered meanings create empowered people. So, emotional resilience starts with a set of fundamental beliefs that evaluate all situations positively. Resilient people rely on the following beliefs:

  1. No matter what the current situation, improvement is always possible
  2. We will either find a way or make one
  3. We do what we can, with what we have got, from where we are
  4. Resilience is predominantly an attitude of mind

Physical resilience

Resilience also has a strong physiological component. Resilient people understand the mind and body form a single, integrated system. When they are under pressure, resilient people take good care of their physical body. They eat well, they sleep well, they avoid alcohol and they exercise regularly.

Non-resilient people tend to make bad choices. When they are under stress, they eat badly, drink too much alcohol, they don’t exercise and don’t sleep well. Consequently, their energy, vitality and health suffer, which puts them at a major disadvantage.

Resilience requires energy, which must be generated by the proper use of sleep, nutrition and exercise.


Intellectual resilience

There is a strong intellectual element to resilience because the problems we face can only be solved by innovative ideas.

Innovative ideas are not easy to create. They take a lot of effort, energy, imagination, experience and learning. Resilience means that we commit to innovate our way out of trouble.

In times of negative stress, non-resilient people tend to stop thinking. They freeze. Their minds go blank. They give up. In contrast, resilient people become more focused. They search for causes. They seek solutions. They keep imagining and theorising.

Resilient people are ceaselessly creative. All this takes energy, which is why it is important to look after both mind and body.


Organisational resilience

The first three points were related to individuals. This final point emphasises the importance of the group.

The group is important because nobody succeeds on their own. We all need to help each other. We must help each other emotionally, physically, and intellectually. Therefore, we should set up the organisational culture to purposefully encourage resilience on every level: individual, team, group and on the level of the organisation as a whole.

It is important that the leaders of the organisation become ‘resilience role models’. The leaders should set the resilience standard for the rest to follow.



To create resilience:

1. Evaluate the world with a can-do attitude

2. Generate energy by the proper use of sleep, nutrition and exercise.

3. Solve problems with constant creative imagination and innovative thinking

4. Purposefully build an organisational culture that is intended to support resilience


Chris Farmer is founder of Corporate Coach Group.