How Do We Know if We Are Truly Resilient?

I have got a couple resilience projects on the go at work (in collaboration with some wonderful people) and this has peaked my interest in the subject and encouraged me to do a little bit of further reading around the subject. It has made me realise that my approach to coaching whether that be inside or outside of my work place is to build and maintain resilience, and a lot of what I was reading for the first time was in step with what I had read previously (when I was looking for inspiration for my connected living work). It is always a great feeling when you notice that all the research around, success, resilience, and well-being essentially say the same thing, it does suggest there might be some truth to it, so you may well be barking up the right tree.

Anyway, so what have I found out about resilience? As we everything the key to resilience is pretty obvious really, but not that straightforward to put into practice. Saying that it is clear that some of us naturally resilient, whereas the rest of us have got some work to do. I was reading an article from the Harvard Business Review (I know get me!), by Diane Coutu entitled ‘How Resilience Works’ ( . So Coutu suggests that resilient people and organisations possess three characteristics. When I read this it really resonated with me and I could connect it with how I approach my connected living idea and my coaching offer. So what I would do is address each characteristic and how I see it show up in my self and people around me. Hopefully it will resonate with you and help you become more resilient, at home and at work.

The 3 characteristics that Coutu suggests are present in resilient in people and organisations are: Realism, Purpose, and Resourcefulness.


How realistic are you about you current circumstances, including the risks and opportunities these circumstances hold. It is easy to deliberately not notice what is going on around us, or take our circumstances for granted. It is worth taking a few moments to critically analyse what is really going in. Ask yourself those simple questions: What assumptions am I making about my circumstances? What are the implications if I carry on this way? Is there another way to view my circumstances? What risks are there to my current circumstances? What do I need to do to reduce these risks? What can I achieve based on my circumstances? Do I need to change what I am doing to create more opportunity?

There are many more questions you can ask. The point is to raise your own awareness to help you anticipate potential threats and challenges. It is not about being risk averse, is about being risk aware.

The idea is that if you go through life just hoping for the best, you will be disappointed. It is after all the hope that kills you. If life or work is hard you need to acknowledge that and prepare for it. For instance working as a Healthcare Professional anywhere in the world is hard work, and is relentless, with very little reward. If you hope that it will get easier and that one day you will go into work and have more resources than you need, everyone will get better and your boss will send you home early with a well earned bonus, you will soon become disheartened. Whereas if you expect to work really had with limited resources and plan for that, and can see all the positives that you get from caring for people (the personal satisfaction that comes from making a difference), you are much more likely to thrive in that environment and be successful.


Does what you do, have a purpose? Are you clear why you do things? Is what you do in concert with your values? If we don’t fully appreciate or believe in what we are doing then we can feel disenfranchised from our work and lives quite quickly. As we have discussed before having meaning is vital for our well-being. This is as important for teams and organisations as it is for individuals. We have to buy into the values of the organisation we work for and see that those around us also buy into those values including the senior management. It is worth finding out what your core values are using the values exercise I offered in my previous post

It is worth understanding when you work with your values and and when you don’t and how that makes you feel.


The third characteristic is being resourceful. It is not always possible to have the resources you need to get the job done. So sometimes you have to be creative with what you have got, whether that is physical or psychological resource. Do you find yourself moaning about not having the right equipment, or that you don’t have enough, or it is out of date? Do you say to yourself or others that you don’t know how to do something a certain way, so you give up? In other words do you work from a point of view of scarcity? Being resourceful is turning that on it’s head and looking at what you do have and how you can solve the problem, rather than looking at what you don’t have and what you cannot solve. This takes practice and challenge to change your mindset. Having the negative mindset however does not change what you need to do. Exploring possibilities opens up options that you may not have see were there.

Just having one or two of these characteristics is not enough to be resilient. To be truly resilient you will need all 3 characteristics. On the face of it, it seems quite obvious. It is however not that easy and takes practice and persistence to achieve.

By all means get in touch if you want to discuss your personal resilience or the resilience of you team in more detail.


Published by Matt Smith Personal and Professional Coach

Performance and Life Coach

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