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  • Writer's pictureKurt O'Brien

Cultivating Resilience

Why Resilience?

At its core, resilience addresses how we recover from adversity, which in turn, has a direct effect on our overall well-being and mental health. As all of us deal with the current COVID-19 challenges and how it is affecting our lives, our relationships, our teams, and out organizations, it is helpful to consider how we can can help ourselves (and our teams) to be more resilient in the face of this current adversity.

While there are a multitude of strategies that can be useful in further developing our resilience, I offer these four as a starting point that can help in both our professional and personal lives.

Find Meaning

Finding meaning has two components to it: 1) reconnecting to what is truly important to us in our lives (e.g. our values), and 2) finding meaning in the adversity we are facing (“This is really hard right now, but I can see how it can benefit me in the future.”). Consider the following prompts:

  • What can I learn from this current situation that can benefit me in the future?

  • How can I leverage my personal values and principles to help me make meaning from this difficult situation?

Accept Reality

Sometimes it is easy to ignore or deny the reality of the situation we are dealing with for a variety of reasons: it is uncomfortable or painful, it could incite conflict, we want to try to protect others… the list could be quite long. Taking a more down to earth view is actually considered a survival strategy. Questions to consider include:

  • Do I understand and accept my situation for what it really is? What might be preventing me from doing this?

  • Am I in denial about the reality of my current situation? How would I know, what signals would I look for?

Foster Optimism & Hope

Once we have acknowledged the hardship (accepted reality), we also need to know that there is a way forward. This is not merely about giving yourself or others a pep talk. Optimism is about reframing our interpretation of an event or situation and challenging the negative or destructive stories we are telling ourselves. Consider the following strategies for reframing:

  • View the situation as temporary, not permanent (e.g. a temporary set back)

  • Revisit your goals; how can these still be achieved given the current challenges?

  • Resist over-personalizing the event or situation (e.g. “It’s all my fault); look for other explanations

Express Appreciation

This is an underutilized strategy, but one that can be highly effective for building resilience and enhancing well-being. This can be used both individually, and as a facilitated conversation with your teams. The following prompts may be helpful:

  • Identify people close to you (your inner circle of family, friends, colleagues) who you are grateful for; seek them out and offer this appreciation directly to them

  • Expand your circle of appreciation - who else do you come into contact with whose efforts you are thankful for? What would you say to them?

  • Expand your circle yet again - who are the people you are appreciative of and have never met?


The EQ Edge, Stein and Book (2000); How Resilience Works, Coutu, HBR (2002); Center For HealthyMinds (Dr. R. Davidson)

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