Resilience is a mindset and personal quality. Resilient people can recover quickly from setbacks and not let the setbacks steer them off course.
Resilient people are more successful in life because they persist through difficulty in order to reach success.
Examples of resilience skills include having a growth mindset, overcoming negative emotions and thoughts with positive self-talk, and sustaining self-confidence.
- Perceiving a setback as a learning opportunity.
- Trying something multiple times without giving up.
- Committing to a challenge and seeing it through.
- Recognizing stagnation as a natural and temporary part of a journey.
- The ability to tolerate difficulty and not let it deter you.
- Continuing to apply for jobs or promotions despite being declined several times.
- The ability to handle and overcome physical exhaustion during exercise.
- Not letting naysayers or critics deter you from putting all your effort into something.
- Sustaining a commitment to the goals you have set.
- Having the patience to wait for success that doesn’t come to you immediately.
- Knowing when the odds are against you but working hard to overcome those odds.
- Not allowing your emotions to drive your decision-making.
- Recognizing frustration and irritation but not letting it impact your actions or attitude.
- Having a growth mindset, meaning you believe you can improve with effort.
- Having an internal locus of control, meaning you believe you are in control of your success or failure.
- Having the ability to reflect on how far you’ve come rather than dwelling on lack of short-term progress.
- Maintaining a commitment to pre-defined goals over the long term.
- Having self-belief and self-efficacy, meaning you know that you have the ability to succeed.
- Being able to adapt to changing circumstance so you can persevere.
- Identifying hardships and systemic disadvantage but working to overcome it regardless.
- Identifying when you don’t have the skills to succeed, but learning and seeking mentorship to overcome your current deficit.
- Seeing opportunity in hardship.
- Acknowledging that you have agency in any situation and looking for opportunities to pursue your own goals.
- Trying your hardest even when you don’t feel great, have low motivation, or are uncertain of your ability to succeed.
- Not letting your self-confidence be affected by failure.
- Having tolerance for disagreement or disparagement, knowing someone else’s view is not the be-all and end-all.
- Knowing you’re not naturally gifted at something so practicing harder to overcome that lack of natural talent.
- The ability to compensate for lack of skill by using other useful skills or resources.
- Using divergent thinking to overcome barriers to success.
- Using intentional positive self-talk to maintain an optimistic mindset when times get tough.
Related: Persistence Examples
Real-Life Examples of Resilience
- Terry Fox – This Canadian hero attempted to run across the country to raise money for a cure for cancer. He never made it across after succumbing to the disease, but his heroic efforts and perseverance through pain are memorialized in Canadian folklore.
- Hellen Keller – Despite being blind and deaf, Hellen Keller learned to read, wrote several books, and traveled the world advocating for the rights of deaf-blind people. The fact she was able to do this as a woman in the early 1900s is even more remarkable.
- Oprah Winfrey – Winfrey grew up poor and in terrible conditions in her home life. As a poor black woman in America, she had all the odds stacked against her. Nevertheless, she persisted and became one of the most powerful people in the world through her media empire.
- Jim Carrey – Jim Carry was homeless for some time before overcoming poverty and the life of a struggling actor to become the famous comedian and star of movies like Dumb and Dumber and The Mask.
- Stephen Hawking – Despite his health deteriorating due to ALS, Hawking persisted as a scientist and by the end of his life, he was one of the most influential scientist of his generation.
- Albert Einstein – This Jewish refugee fled Europe to the United States in the 1940s. His religion and refugee status put him in perilous situations, but he had the resilience to start a new life in America and become one of the greatest scientists to ever live.
- Anthony Albanese – This Australian Prime Minister was born in council housing to a single mother. His mother was of poor health his whole upbringing, but with resilience and perseverance, Albanese rose to become the 31st Prime Minister of Australia.
- JK Rowling – The struggling author’s book, Harry Potter, was rejected by 12 separate publishers. Nevertheless, she persisted through hardship and became the most famous author of her generation.
Examples of Resilience for Students
- Studying throughout the semester – Too many students only study close to the exam date. These students haven’t had the resilience to maintain a clear study schedule throughout the semester, which would have led to better results!
- Continuing to study when you’re bored – Many students just get bored and give up on their studies. Resilient students persevere. See below for 3 ways to build your resilience to help in these situations.
- Re-Submitting for a better grade – If you get a bad grade on your assignment, sometimes you can resubmit based on your professor’s feedback. Doing this is an example of a resilient attitude where you haven’t let setbacks get in your way.
- Redoubling your effort after a bad outcome – Resilient students will not stop when they get bad results in a course. Instead, they will look for ways to improve. They might put in place a study schedule or hire a tutor.
- Continuing even if your professor has harsh feedback – Sometimes, professors’ feedback is super harsh. It’s not kind or considerate at all! A resilient student won’t let it deter them as they’ll think logically and recognize that it’s probably a problem with the professor that’s caused them to be so mean!
Simple Steps for Building Resilience
Resilience is built over time. It can’t be learned overnight. However, as it’s a mindset, it can be cultivated by people motivated to turn their lives around.
1. Control your Emotions
The first step for being resilient is to have the metacognitive skill of self-reflection. You need to be able to reflect on your emotions and how your emotions govern your decision-making.
To be resilient, you need to make decisions that are not driven by spikes in emotions in moments of adversity. See the table below for some simple examples.
|Emotion||Lack of Resilience||Resilience|
|Frustration||I give up.||I can control my reaction to this situation.|
|Disappointment||I tried and failed.||What can I learn from this situation?|
|Low Confidence||I can’t do it.||How can I learn the skills I need to do it?|
When you identify that emotions are governing your attitude, you need to engage in logical self-talk. This means looking at a situation and seeing whether your emotions align with the facts. Usually, our emotions over-emphasize certain negative experiences and turn them into identity crises!
2. Set Long-Term Goals
Goal setting helps us to develop resilience because our goals act as an anchor and guiding star.
When times get tough, we can look to the goal and remember that it’s the thing we’re headed toward.
If people don’t have a clear long-term goal, then they will easily get waylaid. Remember, the definition of resilience is to “recover from setbacks and not be steered off course”. In order to stay on course, you need to know what course you’re on. Where were you going in the first place?
When you have a goal in place, your setbacks can act as obstacles rather than roadblocks. You can use divergent thinking to find ways around, through, or over the obstacles and continue on your original path.
3. Set Reasonable Short-Term Goals
People often give up when their short-term goals are too hard. We expect too much of ourselves, too soon.
In education, we call this the ‘zone of proximal development’. Here’s how it works:
- If something is too easy, you lose motivation. You’ll get distracted by all the shiny objects that you could be pursuing instead!
- If something is too hard, you lose motivation because you can’t achieve it. It’s human nature to give up if you can’t possible picture a way in which you could overcome your hurdle.
- If something is challenging but achievable, then you will have the self-belief that you can succeed if you put in the effort. Remember earlier, I called this the internal locus of control: you believe you can do it, if only you put in the hard work.
Make sure your goal is achievable with some effort in order to sustain motivation.
Resilience is one of the major keys to success. People who can overcome setbacks and stay on track will see more success in their lives than people who give up at the drop of a hat. By staying consistent and overcoming setbacks and disadvantages, you’ll incrementally improve and set yourself up well to reach your goals in the long run.
Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education.