Vital skills for future adults- resilience

Last week we began a series on what vital skills the youth will need to forge a successful path into the future. We raised the question about what kind of grounding the education industry should be providing for our youth to ensure they are adequately prepared.

Today we will discuss resilience, with a look at how you can foster resilience in people of all ages, but particularly from a younger age.

re·​sil·​ience | \ ri-ˈzil-yən(t)s  \

1: the capability of a strained body to recover its size and shape after deformation caused especially by compressive stress
: an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change
The key to resilience is the ability to bounce back from challenges and overcome failure.

Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.

~ Helen Keller

Resilience is not what happens to you. Resilience comes from how you react to, respond to, and recover from what happens to you. It is the secret superpower of robust people.

Life is busy and more often than not, we are juggling many balls in the air at once, struggling to not drop them and have them scatter all over the place like a bag of excited bouncy balls. We live in a demanding world that puts tremendous pressure on our time and energy. We often feel burnt out, overwhelmed and our coping skills get worn down regularly.

To cope, we try to multi-task and manage being pulled in a hundred different directions at once. Times feel tough and the pressure can either make or breaks us.

What sets the people who “make it” apart from the people who “break”, is this thing called resilience. Resilience means you respond to adversity proactively and imaginatively. People who develop resilience can transform failure into success. They are usually intrinsically motivated, can embrace change, and stay positive.

The difference between people who have it and people who don’t is not genetic. Being resilient is not an exclusive endowment given to only some. While some people may be born with a more natural tendency to be resilient, all of us have the power to develop resilience. It is an ability that can be learnt, conditioned, and mastered.

How do we teach resilience?

There are things we can do for people from a young age that encourage resilience. It is not our job, as parents, or educators, to bubble wrap our kids and prepare the way for them. We cannot guarantee that they will never experience challenges or disappointments or adversity. The best thing we can do for them is to teach them how to deal with, and bounce back from whatever difficulties life throws their way.

Here are some tips on how you can teach and instil resilience in people of all ages, because it is never too late to learn resilience:

  1. Get them to believe in their own abilities.
  2. Dissuade and talk about negative self-talk
  3. Teach them to embrace change
  4. Teach optimism
  5. Foster collaboration and a sense of purpose and making a difference
  6. Develop creative problem-solving skills and taking action
  7. Model resilience

But how do we do that?

I have expanded on each of these so that you can get an idea of how easy it is to instil resilience in people. Unfortunately, the opposite is true too, and even easier to do, so I do hope that it creates an awareness to the dark side of resilience which is a resigned fragility. There is so much difficulty in the world, and we need to provide our young people with the protective armour of resilience.


Belief in oneself is also not something we are simply born with. If someone doesn’t have it, they are not doomed to a life of low self-esteem. It is something that can definitely be developed and rebuilt, if lost. Self- belief boils down to knowing your worth and value.

Having a belief in yourself is critical because it influences every choice we make, and every opportunity we are faced with. When presented with a vacancy for a job, self-belief directly influences whether someone feels they are good enough to apply or not. When we don’t believe in our ability to do this job, we don’t apply. This type of negative self-doubt can lead to a cycle of lower-level jobs, lower income, and worse, living at the mercy of others, or of your own low self-esteem.  Self-belief makes people believe in their potential and aspire to more.

Here are a few ‘tricks’ to help with self-belief:

  • When someone is doubting themselves, ask “what would you do, or how would you do it, if you thought you could?” When given the space to dream a little, it helps push those nagging doubts aside and make room to focus on the things you do want to achieve or be.
  • Use affirmations. I know lots of people cringe at those but think of the alternative. If you don’t believe you will ever be successful, you will never act like a successful person and probably never become successful. Whereas if you see yourself as the head of a successful company one day, you will act like one. Affirmations are merely positive statements that put an end to self-doubt.
    As cringy as it may feel, stand in front of a mirror and say them to yourself. Sentences such as, “I deserve the things I desire”, or “I am confident enough to achieve my goals!”, “today I will do one small thing towards achieving my goal” – obviously making them as specific as possible helps.

Saying a few inspiring sentences to yourself every day can make you feel that much more confident to face your day and conquer anything life may throw at you.


We can be our own worst enemies. The critical voice in your head can be the death of all our dreams and aspirations. Have you ever noticed how easily we can talk ourselves OUT of something, rather than into something? Our inner critic is often overactive and causes us to lose confidence quickly. When that voice in your head starts to say things along the lines of, “well why would they choose me?”, you need to actively and consciously counter it with a question like, “well why wouldn’t they pick me?” and then force yourself to list the reasons why you are a worthy choice, to shut that inner critic up and force it into silence.

One step further into stopping negative self-talk is to avoid negative people who make you feel unworthy or not good enough through the things they say or do, because keeping people like that in your life will ruin every effort you make to rebuild your self-belief.


We are naturally resistant to change. It is uncomfortable. But it is also inevitable. We can either view change as a threat, and approach it with fear and dread, or we can see it as a new adventure, with the potential to improve and change your life for the better. We need to teach people that change presents an opportunity for us to learn something new, and learning always results in an improved us. And that is a good thing! Nothing to be afraid of or dread.

Heraclitus said, “Change is the only constant in life”, and if we want to teach people to be resilient, they need to learn to embrace change for the potential it offers us to become a better self.


Very few of us will be writing that Pulitzer prize novel, or winning marathons or Nobel Peace Prizes. The percentage of people who actually achieve mastery of anything is very small. Disappointment will be a part of our lives, but if we cannot remain optimistic about our lives we will not be very resilient against those disappointments.

Optimism leads to resilience and resilience leads to optimism. Optimism means believing that good things will happen. This leads to motivation to take constructive action to aim for those good things, which means there is a sense of control over your life. When people are pessimistic about their lives, they experience a sense of helplessness. This victim mentality leads to a sense of hopelessness.

We need to teach people that having a flexible, positive attitude about life, creates positive expectations about the present and the future. The key is to know that when bad things happen, they are temporary and good things will come again.


Everyone wants to matter. To make a difference. To have purpose. When we focus on giving opportunities to make a difference, people feel appreciated. This ultimately makes people feel good about themselves and their worth, as well as experience the joy of helping. When people have a clear direction and a purpose, they are more resilient because it makes it easier to pick themselves up, dust themselves off and carry on. It is very difficult to feel defeated when you have a purpose you are passionate about that drives you to bounce back and persevere.

When you have a purpose that is tied to a collaborative effort, the impact that purpose has on resilience is even greater. People who live with purpose that is supported by a group are able to find meaning and feel even more emotionally resilient.


One of the most challenging things for a lot of people is making decisions and taking action. Negative thoughts and fragility are obstacles to creative thinking, problem solving and taking action. Decision making is a structured process, and if you are full of self-doubt, it becomes a difficult process. Taking decisive action is a good indicator of resilience, because it shows confidence and control over situations.  The better you get at decision making, problem solving and taking action, the more confident you become with this process, and as such,  the more resilient you become.

A great way to build your problem solving skills is to make lists of all the possible consequences of your decision, positive and negative; discuss the options with other knowledgeable people; trust your gut; set a deadline for the solution/ action/ decision; be decisive and take the action deliberately.

Focusing on this process will improve your confidence in your ability, which will build resilience.


Last, but most certainly not least, is modelling resilience. When you have a bad day, what do you do when you get home? Do you walk in like thunder, moaning about woe is me, and reach for a stiff shot of whisky? Ordo you come home and say you need a run to clear your head, or put on some happy music and dance?

Monkey see, monkey do. Need I say more?

We need to do the hard work of modelling resilience for our children, our colleagues, our friends, our families,  if we want them to learn it. They watch how we react to things and that often becomes their default way of responding too. We need to model self-compassion and self-forgiveness. We need to acknowledge our flaws without saying they are weaknesses. We need to teach that we can always improve ourselves and our situations if we put in the work. We need to show that sh*t happens and we don’t need to feel burdened by it, but rather grab that shovel and dig our way out. Use it to fertilise rather than ferment.

Bern Williams said, “man never made anything more resilient than the human spirit,” and I would like to leave you with that thought, and a challenge: If defeat is a temporary state of mind while resilience is held deep inside your being, giving up is what makes defeat permanent. My challenge to you then is to see, and model, every setback as an opportunity to develop your Resilience Superpower knowing that adversity is nothing but the potential for improvement.


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