The Ultimate Guide To Building Unshakeable Resilience

It’s three days after your dog died and you’re driving to the hospital to visit your grandmother, who is in surgery following a massive heart attack.

Smoke begins to billow out from under the hood and you realise your car has broken down in spectacular form at the worst possible moment.

It starts to rain, hard.

While you’re scrambling into a taxi, another car speeds through a puddle and you get drenched. You’re cold, wet and scared for your grandmother.

You eventually make it to the hospital and spend the next day sitting by grandma’s bedside worrying. Finally, she stabilises. You breathe an exhausted sigh before hugging your mum and dragging yourself home to bed.

You’re ready to collapse for a week, but tomorrow you have to be firing on all cylinders to deliver a huge presentation at work.

You need to be the best possible version of yourself…

But how on earth will you manage that after the week you’ve had?

The truth is, there are only two options:

1 - Let the struggles of the week take you under. Give up, hide in bed and learn to live with the fact that you did not give it your absolute best shot.

OR

2 - Let yourself fall apart a little tonight if you need to, do something to nurturing and then pick yourself up in the morning and keep putting one foot in front of the other. Do what needs doing, to the very best of your ability, then return home to rest, knowing that with time and reflection you’ll grow as a result of those experiences.

So, how do make sure you’re capable of the second option, not just once but as often as possible?

Simple - build your resilience.

This article is the ultimate guide to doing just that: we’ll examine what resilience is, why we need it and exactly how to develop it.

By the time you’re done reading this page, you’ll have the tools needed to build a rock solid foundation that will give you the strength to thrive, no matter the circumstances.
 

WHAT IS RESILIENCE?

Psychologists define resilience as the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress - such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems, or workplace and financial stressors.

In short, the term resilience refers to a set of skills that not only help us cope with life’s difficulties, but bounce back from them.
 

Resilience refers to a set of skills that not only help us cope with life’s difficulties, but bounce back from them.

 

WHY RESILIENCE IS SO CRITICAL?

If you’re throwing yourself into life headfirst and giving it everything you’ve got, that’s going to take it out of you. No matter how hard you try, from time to time you’re going to fail, fall flat on your face or get emotionally bruised.

Resilience is what will allow you to bounce back - to shake off the bumps and bruises and get on with the next step. It’s the difference between handling pressure and losing your cool - the ability to leverage your negative experiences, to take things like anger and sadness and make them useful and productive. It’s the capacity to experience difficulty and use it to improve yourself. And if you can embrace the process - it’s also a profound path for personal growth.

Without resilience, you’d end up feeling constantly overwhelmed, frustrated and powerless.

With enough resilience, you become unstoppable because you can master change, thrive under pressure and bounce back from any setback.
 

CAN YOU BUILD RESILIENCE?

The most resilient people are not the ones who don’t fail - they are those who fail and then pick themselves back up, learn, grow and thrive as a result.

Being challenged, sometimes severely, is part of what activates the resilience skill set.

More than fifty years of research has proven that resilience is built by attitudes, behaviours and social support systems that can be cultivated by anyone.

To put it simply - you CAN learn to be more resilient.
 

The most resilient people are not the ones who don’t fail - they are those who fail and then pick themselves back up, learn, grow and thrive as a result.

 
But like any new skill, developing resilience takes time and intentionality. You’ll have to focus and make a deliberate effort to do it.

Get a downloadable copy of The Ultimate Guide To Building Unshakeable Resilience here!

The Conquering Procrastination Worksheet
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The Ultimate Guide To Building Unshakable Resilience
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Ultimate Guide To Building Unshakeable Resilience

Discover 16 strategies highly resilient people use to ensure their ability to bounce back from life’s challenges is unshakeable.
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HOW TO BUILD IT: 16 POWERFUL, PRACTICAL STRATEGIES FOR BUILDING UNSHAKEABLE RESILIENCE

There are many different strategies you can use to build resilience, but we’ve narrowed it down to the 16 most effective ones for you.

Here they are…
 

1: Accept What You Cannot Change

There are innumerable things in your life that you cannot control. In fact, if you spent any decent amount of time thinking about how little of what goes on in your life you really control, you might end up feeling a bit powerless.

But - the one thing you do control is far more important than anything else.

You control you. Your thoughts, your emotions, your actions, your beliefs, the way you respond to the world around you - that is 100% within your control.

Why is that so important it makes the number one skill on the resilience building list? Because the science has indicated over and over that resilient people spend their time and energy focusing on what they can control.

When you put your resources in an area where you can have measurable impact, you’ll feel empowered and confident. If instead, you spend loads of time worrying about events you cannot control, you’ll end up feeling lost, helpless and powerless.

So - accept what you cannot change and spend your time and energy focusing on what you can.

You can’t control what happens to you, but you can definitely choose how you respond to it - and that choice will make all the difference in the world.
 

You can’t control what happens to you, but you can definitely choose how you respond to it - and that choice will make all the difference in the world.

 

2: Practice Gratitude

The practice of gratitude is one of the most proven methods for building resilience.

Countless studies have confirmed that increased resilience is one of the primary benefits of habitually (that is, every single day) focusing on and appreciating the positive things in our lives. Positive emotion has also been shown to build cognitive capacity, which brings with it multiple benefits.

Drawing from quite a few different studies, here’s a summary of the results years of research indicates we can get from practicing gratitude…

  • After only 21 days of gratitude practice, the brain rewires itself to start scanning the world for the positive and that person is now three times more likely to notice something positive, which also leads to…
  • Higher energy
  • Increased happiness and enthusiasm
  • Increased focus and determination
  • Better quality sleep
  • Lower incidence of depression and anxiety
  • Increased well being
  • Broader attention span
  • Increased working memory
  • Enhanced verbal fluency
  • Increased openness to new information
  • Enhanced creativity and engagement

(Sources include: Clinical Psychology Review; Journal of Positive Psychology; Psychological Science; Journal of Personality & Social Psychology; Journal of Health Psychology, Harvard Medical School, American Psychologist; University of Massachusetts).
 

After only 21 days of gratitude practice, the brain rewires itself to start scanning the world for the positive.

 
It’s important to practice gratitude both daily and in the moment. Daily gratitude practice is most often done by writing in a gratitude journal or diary at the end of the day, answering questions like:

  • What small things am I grateful for today?
  • What big things am I grateful for today?
  • What was the best thing that happened to me today?
  • What experiences did I have today that I am grateful for, or think I might be grateful for in the future?
  • Who am I most grateful for today? Why? (Make sure you tell them when you get a moment!)
  • What am I looking forward to about tomorrow?

Practicing gratitude in the moment is something that takes a bit of practice because it requires you to be fully present in the moment, appreciating it for all that it is. But the effort is definitely worth the reward - once you get the hang of it, you’ll never look back.
 

3: Nurture Your Relationships

Human beings are deeply social creatures - we need a strong connection with our network of loved ones in order to truly flourish. Our relationships are crucial for well being both in times of challenge and also in happiness.

High quality close personal relationships allow us to share our experiences and emotions, give and receive support, look for solutions to problems, and gain feedback and perspective when we need it.
 

We need a strong connection with our network of loved ones in order to truly flourish.

 
When life deals us a blow, we need people in our network who will provide an emotional safety net. People who will turn up, keep calling, listen, deliver some tough love or just give us a hug - whatever the situation calls for.

To boost your resilience - get connected. Make a deliberate effort to nurture your relationships, because they are a huge part of what will sustain you when times get tough - and they’re a fantastic way to share the joy and excitement when life is good.

This article is a great resource for tools to improve your relationships.
 

4: Be Fiercely Proactive

Once you’ve accepted what you can’t change and identified the areas you can have an impact in - commit to being fiercely, boldly proactive in those arenas.
 

Commit to being fiercely, boldly proactive.

 
Taking action and seeing results will deliver a sense of accomplishment that will keep you moving forward, even when things get tricky. If you’re not used to being proactive, this can take a little getting used to, but it’s well worth the effort.

Take the tasks that need addressing and break them down into small, manageable pieces. Complete the first one, then the next and before you know it you’ll be on a roll.
 

5: Practice Compassion & Forgiveness

The practice of compassion - both towards others and ourselves - is an incredibly effective, evidence based method for improving resilience.

When we do something nice for someone the brain releases oxytocin, which leads to increased self esteem, higher self confidence, increased energy and even improved levels of happiness and positivity.
 

 
The Greater Good Science Centre at UC Berkeley published research indicating compassion increases positive emotions, creates positive work relationships and increases cooperation and collaboration. Research from the University of Twente in The Netherlands has also indicated self-compassion skills promote resilience and serve as a protective emotional mechanism. Compassion training programs like the one run by Stanford University have even demonstrated that cultivating compassion increases general happiness and wellbeing.

Forgiveness is also imperative. No matter how wonderful your relationships (including the one you have with yourself), at some point you’re going to have misunderstandings and miscommunications. You will get hurt or disappointed. You can choose to allow those wounds to fester, or practice forgiveness and find healing. When building resilience, the latter is a far better choice. Forgiveness decreases the emotional load you’re carrying and frees your brain to focus on the positive things in life.

Suffice it to say, it’s really helpful to treat everyone you interact with, including yourself, with plenty of compassion, empathy and forgiveness.
 

6: Maintain Perspective

Resilient people understand that even when a situation seems dire in the moment, it may not make an extraordinary impact in the long term.

Accept that life will challenge you and remind yourself that those challenges will not be insurmountable. In fact, with enough time and reflection, you may even view those difficulties as a blessing in disguise.

Search for the silver lining wherever you can - looking at the bright side is scientifically proven to enhance resilience.

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7: Develop Emotional Agility & Intelligence

Emotions are a key player when it comes to developing resilience. They’re designed to be experienced and then allowed to pass, but unfortunately many people suppress them instead because they have very little understanding of how to handle them healthily.

The problem with that is twofold: first, carrying around suppressed emotions dramatically reduces your capacity to absorb any new ones; and second, suppressed emotions will always come back up and when they do, they tend to be more intense.

Developing emotional agility means getting really good at processing your emotions and then letting them go. The ability to do that will enrich your life and give you far greater capacity to bounce back when you need to, because you won’t be battling against things piling on top of one another.

Developing emotional intelligence will allow you to choose your responses in a far more deliberate way. We all have challenges, but using emotional intelligence, we can make the switch from quickly reacting negatively to responding to a crisis thoughtfully.

To boost your resilience, you’ll need to develop both emotional agility and emotional intelligence. Check out our articles here for helpful resources on emotions.
 

8: Practice Self-Care

Though this point may be obvious, it is key to boosting resilience and therefore must be said…

When you take good care of yourself - mind, body and spirit - you’re far better equipped to cope effectively with any challenges life throws your way.

There are several areas that add up to great self-care: sleep, exercise, nutrition, personal space and spiritual practices.
 

 
Whatever your personal beliefs and practices may be, it’s important to ensure you’re putting yourself first by getting them all into your diary on a regular basis. Doing so will help you maintain energy, clarity and focus, all of which are necessary for building resilience.

For more information on how to do this, see our article on Personal Success Routines.
 

9: Stop Trying To Avoid Pain

“You don’t build psychological resilience by feeling good all the time. You build psychological resilience by getting better at feeling bad.” Mark Manson

Have you ever heard people talk about the lessons that have come from incredibly difficult, often awful, times in their lives? Did it occur to you that they had to go through (not over, around or under, but through), those times to gain that knowledge?

Growth comes from being stretched, from struggling through the mud and muck and making it out the other side. Resilient people know that - they view difficulties as challenges, not as paralysing events.
 

Growth comes from the struggle to overcome hardship - so don’t fear the struggle, simply accept that it is here to teach you something and in time you’ll be grateful for what you went through.

 
Our aversion to pain and struggle has become such a habit that it compromises the way we live and reduces our capacity for growth. The point here is not that you should aim to feel bad, but that you shouldn’t treat pain and struggle as though they should be avoided at all costs.

The process of overcoming something difficult actually gives us a sense of having lived meaningfully. Often, the most impactful times in our lives are unpleasant in the moment - think doing something that scares you, relationships breaking down, near death experiences and even losing loved ones.

Growth comes from the struggle to overcome hardship - so don’t fear the struggle, simply accept that it is here to teach you something and in time you’ll be grateful for what you went through.
 

10: Practice Meditation & Mindfulness

Over the last several decades, a considerable amount of science has proven that meditation and mindfulness practices breed resilience.

There are far too many studies and benefits to list here - suffice it to say, there are enormous physical, mental and emotional benefits to be had from both meditation and mindfulness.

The intent of both practices is to clear the mind or stop the intellectual chatter that is the most significant barrier to any journey inwards.

What’s the difference between the two?

Meditation, more often than not, requires us to be still and deliberately go within. It usually begins with a focus on breathing and moves on to other areas like visualisation, a mantra etc.

Mindfulness, in its simplest form, is about paying as much attention as possible to a simple action, such as washing the car or the dishes. Practically speaking, mindfulness is the ability to be completely present in the current moment - to remain focused on one task, be totally engaged in a topic or conversation, raise self-awareness and increase appreciation of and connection with our surroundings.

There are myriad versions of both meditation and mindfulness, all of which are worth experimenting with. The regular practice of any of them will boost resilience dramatically - so start small and discover what works for you. The most important thing is to get one or both into your life on a daily basis.

Here’s one of our most popular meditation tracks…
 

 

You can also download several of our free meditations here.

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11: Embrace Change

You only have two options when dealing with change - waste energy resisting it or learn to embrace it.

The latter is by far the better choice - highly resilient individuals have been shown to be flexible, adapting and even thriving in the midst of change.

Love it or hate it, change is critical for both survival and success - so learn to love it!
 

12: Build Your Self-Esteem

According to research done by leading psychologist Susan Kobasa, resilient people view their mistakes and failures as lessons and opportunities for growth, not as a negative reflection on their abilities or self-worth. This is an incredibly important distinction.

Building high self-esteem will allow you to be confident that you have the necessary skills to handle whatever life throws at you, and/or the resourcefulness to find the right help if you happen to come up against something unfamiliar.
 

Resilient people view their mistakes and failures as lessons and opportunities for growth.

 
That in turn makes it possible to maintain the belief that you will eventually succeed, despite the setbacks you are likely to face. According to Kobasa, this strong sense of self gives resilient people the capacity to keep moving forward when they need to and to take the risks they need to in order to get ahead.

So, make a deliberate effort to build your self-esteem. You can do any (or all) of the following…

 

13: Be Willing To Seek Help

Far too many people make the mistake of thinking that being resilient means soldiering on alone. It does not.

Highly resilient people know how to recognise when they need backup or support - and they act on that knowledge by asking for it!
 

Highly resilient people know how to recognise when they need backup or support - and they act on that knowledge by asking for it!

 
The only way to get comfortable with asking for help is practice, so make sure you reach out when you need to. You, your friends and your family will all feel better for it.
 

14: Live With Purpose

Another discovery from psychologist Susan Kobasa’s research is that resilient people have a compelling reason to get out of bed in the morning. That is, they’re committed to striving towards their goals, nurturing their friendships and relationships, giving to the causes they care about and living their spiritual or religious beliefs.

In practical terms, this means identifying your personal values, designing goals that align with them and then going about your life living up to that self-determined criteria.

That focus on the bigger picture is also key to thriving when times get tough. As Austrian psychiatrist Viktor Frankl put it in his book, Man’s Search For Meaning, “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.”
 

 
For resources on goals and values, check out this post on aligning your goals and values.
 

15: Change The Narrative

Have you ever paused to challenge the narrative your mind automatically runs when something goes wrong, or do you let chaotic thoughts run rampant? Do you do what you can and let it go, or spend hours dwelling on problems you can’t fix?

For many people, the story attached to a problem gets spun without being checked. So much energy and emotion is involved in reacting to that narrative that it isn’t often questioned - but is it really true?

If your boss dropped a big project with a short deadline in your lap, would you manufacture a reason for that action, or actually ask? If you did come up with your own story, did you check it for bias? Or simply allow it to dictate your thoughts and feelings from that point forward?

It’s easy to see how quickly the unchallenged mind can take a small thing and spin it into a big issue.
 

When you take that deliberate step back to assess, you switch your attention from the narrative network in the brain to the more observational networks, which enables you to reflect, shift perspective and choose your response - an important resilience skill.

 
Thankfully, it is possible to literally switch the brain networks we use to process stress so we can respond to, rather than react to, difficult situations. Psychologists call this mental agility - being able to pause, observe without judgement and then try to resolve the issue.

When you take that deliberate step back to assess, you switch your attention from the narrative network in the brain to the more observational networks, which enables you to reflect, shift perspective and choose your response - an important resilience skill.
 

16: Hone Your Problem Solving Skills

The ability to quickly and easily resolve problems boosts resilience because the faster you can sort out an issue, the less resources (physical, mental and emotional) it will consume.

Problem solving skills are like a muscle - the more you use them, the stronger they’ll become.

Practice by very clearly defining a problem and then getting creative about coming up with potential solutions. They don’t all have to work, in fact you don’t even have to use them, but you do need to get good at coming up with them. Regularly thinking outside of the box in this way means the next time a real issue comes up, you’ll be far more prepared to solve it.

That’s it! Sixteen powerful strategies for building unshakeable resilience.

Since there was so much information in this post, here’s a quick list of the strategies to refresh your memory:

  1. Accept What You Cannot Change
  2. Practice Gratitude
  3. Nurture Your Relationships
  4. Be Fiercely Proactive
  5. Practice Compassion & Forgiveness
  6. Maintain Perspective
  7. Develop Emotional Agility & Intelligence
  8. Practice Self Care
  9. Stop Trying To Avoid Pain
  10. Practice Meditation & Mindfulness
  11. Embrace Change
  12. Build Your Self Esteem
  13. Be Willing To Seek Help
  14. Live With Purpose
  15. Change The Narrative
  16. Hone Your Problem Solving Skills

If you make a deliberate effort to implement even half of these strategies, you’ll build a rock solid foundation that will give you the strength to thrive, no matter the circumstances.

Get a downloadable copy of The Ultimate Guide To Building Unshakeable Resilience here!

The Conquering Procrastination Worksheet
The Conquering Procrastination Worksheet
The Ultimate Guide To Building Unshakable Resilience
Free Download

Ultimate Guide To Building Unshakeable Resilience

Discover 16 strategies highly resilient people use to ensure their ability to bounce back from life’s challenges is unshakeable.
Download

Paul Blackburn

An internationally acclaimed author and leader in the human potential movement, Paul has taught more than 400,000 people on 4 continents how to reach their personal and professional potential during 38 years as a success coach, author, instructor and keynote speaker. Paul has trained 350+ life/business coaches, held one of the world’s largest fire-walks, was appointed by the Australian Government to its business advisory panel and is a partner in a multi-million dollar business operating in 86 countries (not related to personal development).