How to Build Resilience

by Jordan Ciambrone | July 14, 2020, 09:45 AM

Building Resilience

May 2020. The world is united on at least one thing: COVID-19 is challenging our very way of being. Change may be difficult for some people. For others, change inspires growth. 

What makes some grow and others crumble, in the face of challenges? One reason for thriving in the face of obstacles is a characteristic called resilience. The term was actually borrowed from the field of physics where it originally meant to “spring back” after being held down. As a psychological skill, resilience refers to one's ability to overcome setbacks, adversity or trauma.  

The good news is resilience is learnable. As the world continues to meet novel circumstances, both personally and professionally, now is an opportune time to embrace the malleability of our future, and create conditions to thrive. 

Diane Cotu, journalist, Harvard Business Review senior editor and former scholar at the Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute, cites three overlapping themes in her research on resilience theories: 

  • A staunch acceptance of reality. 
  • A deep belief that life is meaningful and based on strongly held values. 
  • The ability to improvise. 

Gaining perspective, the ability to build relationships and sense of humor emerged as other prominent characteristics of resilient people. 

Let’s digest the ingredients, and take a moment to assimilate them into your own life. 

Accepting Reality. Remember your mindfulness practice, especially in the difficult moments. Consider the following analogy:  

In order to produce a clear picture, a camera must be still before pressing the shutter button.  When building resilience, your mind is like the camera. Practicing mindfulness enables you to stabilize the camera, sharpen focus, and produce a clear picture. 

Learn to recognize distorted thinking patterns, which might sound like minimizing or 'catastrophizing' personal circumstances. After recognizing unskillful mental habits, return to the felt sense of the present moment. This simple practice of recognizing when the mind wanders, and bringing it back to what is happening in this present moment stabilizes the mind.  A stable mind allows you to embrace reality. 

Directing and sustaining focused attention, while maintaining compassion for vulnerability, gives rise to resilience.

Life is meaningful and based on strongly held values. Spend quality time contemplating the following:

What do you value most right now? What gives your life meaning and purpose? Write down elements that fuel your life with a sense of meaning, purpose and value. 

Can you link current challenges to a larger purpose? What is this momentary challenge teaching you about yourself? Your values? Your needs and desires?  What is the gift?  

Improvise. In order to pivot in an ever-changing “reality,” staying grounded in an internal locus of control is essential. When you meet the next challenge, maintain an internal locus of control by asking yourself: 

What is within my control?  What parts of this situation are out of my control? Write them down. Redirect your attention back to the elements that lie within your control and start taking action. Choose actions that enhance feelings of hope and optimism. 

In summary, mindfully accept the present moment, find value in whatever is happening, and improvise to create a future that inspires you to take action. One tiny thought from Tigger, before signing off, “Life is not about how fast you run or how high you climb but how well you bounce.”

Until next time,

Jordan and Bethany

P.S. I really love this resource from Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center  for other practical ways to build resilience https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/five_science_backed_strategies_to_build_resilience


Coutu Diane. “How Resilience Works.” Harvard Business Review 10 Must reads on Emotional Intelligence. (2015). Boston, Massachusetts.

Kabat Zinn, John. (1990). Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain and Illness. New York, NY: Random House.

Taleb, N. N. (2012) Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder. New York, NY: Random House. 




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