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ATD Blog

The Gift of Resilience


Tue Jan 08 2019

The Gift of Resilience

Resilience is a superpower. Some people are born with resiliency, many more aspire to it, and the grateful and fiercely resolute actually achieve it.

Resilience draws from our personal reserves and takes a healthy blend of gritty determination, grounded faith, and strongly held values like gratitude, compassion (for oneself and others), and a willingness to step back and find the higher meaning.


Several months ago, my son (a senior in college) and I made a commitment to ourselves and each other to cultivate our resiliency in our everyday lives in order to grow more intentionally—both on a personal and a professional level.

Our aim has been to meet head-on the inevitable trials that life throws our way and start viewing obstacles as a chance to build our resiliency muscle. In other words, we want to learn to embrace everything and to recognize how much we miss when we rashly judge a situation as “good” or “bad” in the moment. We want train ourselves to view life from a different vantage point than our usual comfort zone. What we have learned has surprised us.

Resilience is about perception. Change your perception of the situation and you can accomplish the impossible.

For me, the most challenging aspect of our exercise has been to locate the message buried beneath the emotions. For instance, I want to learn how to change my reaction when I don’t get what I want (or get what I don’t want). When this happens, I am likely to feel off balance and careen toward what is familiar.

Going forward, though, I want to use that uneasy feeling as a signal that it’s time to pay deeper attention and become more present to what is happening right in front of me. I want to bounce back with a new outlook, be open to new possibilities. That is the true definition of resilience: to adapt and recover after confronting a stressor.


Resilience is about being gentle with yourself, rather than acting tough.

When I am lost in fear or anxiety, I am caught in the future. When I am embittered by anger or resentment, I am living in the past. Either way, the script I am running propels, propagates, and perpetuates brain chemicals that prevent me from being present and at my best. My son and I asked ourselves how we could train ourselves to spring back, not only to our original mental state, but one that is more awake, more present, more creative, more alive? What’s more, we wanted to figure out what we could we do when we are stuck?

Resilience is about mindset. By facing challenges with the right mindset, we transcend the problem and we transform ourselves.

We discovered that by using discomfort as a wakeup call, we are better able to solve problems, be present for our co-workers or loved ones, and see the situation in a new light. When we slowed down our breathing and allowed ourselves to become still, even for just a millisecond, we were surprised to experience a sense of gratitude for what was happening.

Ready to get started. Here are three things to keep in mind:


1. Resilience takes daily practice. How can you fill your reserves of inner resilience each day so that your resilience bank account is full when you most need it?

2. Your angst is your liberation. How can you practice reaching for the message that underlies uncomfortable emotions? No matter what you feel during a challenging time—anger, frustration, disappointment, worry, or fear—there is a message in that emotion. Understanding the message will help you through the challenge.

3. Resilience is a mindset. How can you shift, even just a little bit, in your perception of a setback to bounce back? Ask yourself: Is there any way a positive outcome can arise from this situation? If you find the answer is yes, how can you make that happen?

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