The term “resilience” has become fairly popular in positive psychology and self help books over the last few years. I was asked recently to help someone understand the concept and help them use the principals in their own life. That got me thinking that it would be a good topic to take a look at today.

Resilience, what is it?

When we talk about resilience we’re talking about someone’s ability to “bounce” back and carry on in the face of a setback, trauma, a difficult event, an awful experience, whatever way you want to put it.

Life will throw both pleasant things and unpleasant things at us, we can be sure of that. Some setbacks will be fairly minor while others will have a much bigger impact. When the life we have mapped out gets sabotaged by a relationship breaking down, serious illness, financial burdens, redundancy etc then we can be seriously thrown off course. Being able to deal with these types of events in a healthy manner and to recover is resilience.

Why develop resilience?

Building resilience allows us to deal with adversity in a healthier way and gets us back on track more quickly rather than being stuck or overwhelmed.

Resilient people use their experience, life skills and strengths to cope and recover from their setbacks. Less resilient people take longer to get back on their feet, can be more likely to use unhealthy coping mechanisms and suffer more from being stressed both physically and emotionally, short term and long term.

Teaching young people to build resilience is one of the greatest skills we can give them.

How can I build resilience?

Unfortunately not all of us are born with a natural resilience response to setbacks! The good news is though that it can be learned and developed.


My top tips for building resilience.

– Accept that life will provide you with setbacks, big and small.

– Accept the feelings and emotions that come with life, they aren’t good or bad they are simply feelings and emotions and they let you know what’s going on for you.

– Try to keep things in perspective, blowing all things out of proportion and turning all setbacks into a major catastrophe will only wear you down. Leave the big response for the big problems.

– Be flexible, understand that change is a given in life, nothing stays the same forever, be it good or bad.

– Build strong relationships, with those close to you and importantly with yourself. You don’t have to be perfect, realistically that’s just not possible.

– Ask for help if you’re stuck or overwhelmed – a trusted friend or a professional.

– A problem shared is a problem halved, bottling things up makes things harder.

– Take action. Ignoring a problem usually won’t make it go away, it will only prolong it. Make a list of options to deal with the situation and set realistic steps/goals to deal with things. You may not like any of the options open to you but taking action gives you some control back.

– Learn in life and sport to be a gracious loser and an even more gracious winner!

– Understand that we’re all learning as we go and pretty much all of us just want to be happy.

Developing resilience, that ability to bounce back in times of trouble, won’t protect us from experiencing hardship and setbacks in our lives. What it will do though is help us to deal more positively and in a healthier way with setbacks. It is a skill that can be learned and like most things of value we need to practice!

As a beautifully illustrated Japanese proverb I have on my wall says “Fall down seven times, get up eight”.

Jan Aitken Life Coach


Jan Aitken is a qualified Life Coach based in Dunedin. With over 8 years of experience Jan is the coach to help propel you forward and live the life you imagine.

Jan Aitken is a qualified Life Coach based in Dunedin. With over 8 years of experience Jan is the coach to help propel you forward and live the life you imagine.



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