Resilience – If You Don’t Think You Have It, You Can Get It
Resilience – If You Don’t Think You Have It, You Can Get It

Obviously, I consider resilience to be an essential ingredient for career development, career management, and human resources (HR). My tagline ‘Building Resilient Careers and Organizations.™” is all over my website, business cards, etc. I believe that if we’re going to get anywhere in life, it normally takes effort and some risk-taking. If we’re trying hard enough and setting our goals high enough, there will be times when we try but strikeout. The key is getting back up to bat and taking another swing … Baseball requires resilience after strikeout

The American Psychological Association defines 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 difficulties. Resilience is something that people either have or don’t have.

Many life events and transitions are predictable and common – but they are still challenging – and often they have an impact on our work. There are many varieties of these setbacks including the types that I’ve addressed in previous blog articles:

  1. Divorce / separation
  2. Loss of a loved one/grief
  3. Experiencing job loss/layoff
  4. Career derailment and/or becoming a scapegoat
  5. Returning to work after an extended absence (e.g., sick leave, time off to care for a sick loved one, parental leave)
  6. Experiencing domestic violence
  7. Recovering from or coping with sexual harassment, workplace bullying, or discrimination
fern plant is known for its resilience

The fern plant is known for its extreme resilience.

If we live long enough, we’re bound to experience at least one of these circumstances and it’s essential that we find a way to have adequate resilience so that we can bounce back.

Thankfully, we don’t have a fixed amount of resilience; it’s something that we can learn and develop. “Resilience is like a muscle, it can be built-up” as noted by Psychology Professor Adam Grant and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg in their book Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resistance and Finding Joy.

Four Things Sandberg and Grant Teach us About Building Resilience – Relevant to our Professional Lives (paraphrased below)

1) The Three Ps – Personalization, Pervasiveness, and Permanence

Martin Seligman, psychologist and researcher found that there are three things that help us bounce back after a setback.

(1) Recognizing that sometimes unfortunate things happen, it’s not always personal or our fault.

(2) Appreciating that some unpleasant events are not pervasive; many life events are isolated; the event doesn’t necessarily affect all areas of our life.

(3) Acknowledging that the event and its related consequences or ‘aftershocks’ will not last forever, they are not permanent. We shouldn’t dwell on them …

While we’re bouncing back after a setback if we (and our support systems) address these three Ps, we’re less likely to become depressed and we’re better equipped to move forward.

2) Privacy, Boundaries, and Silence

When reflecting on her return to work following her husband’s sudden death, “Sandberg, normally very open and connected to her colleagues at Facebook, did not speak of her husband … when she returned to work.”

Her colleagues probably wanted to respect her privacy and personal/professional boundaries. Since she wasn’t talking about her husband, they didn’t (want to) mention him either, often because they didn’t know what to say. Sandberg noted that the “loneliness of her loss was compounded by the distance she put between herself and her colleagues socially.” She became very isolated.

In retrospect, she recommends “initiating conversations with friends and colleagues who (might not) know how to ask questions” or what to say about a loss or difficult circumstances.

We’re all different and need to make our own decisions about where, when, (and if) we want to share our feelings. “Sandberg and Grant write there is a lot of evidence that speaking about traumatic events improves mental and physical health, helps people understand their own emotions and feel understood by others.”

3) Break it Down

kids learning to walk show resiliencelittle girl learning to walkSometimes, while we’re trying to get our ‘mojo’ back after a setback, we can feel overwhelmed and incapable of meeting our goals and deadlines. One tactic is to break things down into tiny, manageable tasks. Each baby step toward our goals can feel like a minor victory. When we chain enough of these baby steps together, they add up to real progress. It’s an excellent way to feel like you can cope and feel less dazed.

4) Give Ourselves Credit

Most of us have heard that being grateful supports our mental health and happiness. Just as counting our blessings is important, counting our contributions is helpful and worthwhile. Adam Grant and Sheryl Sandberg argue that gratitude is passive: it makes us feel thankful for what we receive. In contrast, contributions are active: they build our confidence by reminding us that we can make a difference. So, a great strategy is to write down what you’re doing well.

If this blog post resonates with you (or someone you know) I invite you to contact me privately by phone (I offer a no-obligation, free 15-minute initial phone consultation)emailTwitterLinkedIn, or Facebook.


More than career coaching, it’s career psychology®.


I/O Advisory Services – Building Resilient Careers and Organizations.™


Easily share this article using any of the social media icons below.

Latest Posts

Rethinking and Modernizing Executive Presence

Rethinking and Modernizing Executive Presence

As an executive coach, clients sometimes ask me for advice on how to develop their executive presence. And every now and then, someone will make it clear that they have a very narrow definition of executive presence — and it usually rubs me the wrong way. The unstated subtext is that “real executives” fit a certain template, and that template does not include certain types of leaders, despite being accomplished and effective.  Thankfully, after so many years of tech executives capturing headlines and broad attention, attitudes have certainly shifted — and the dress code has definitely evolved.

The Pitfalls of Being Too Nice at Work

The Pitfalls of Being Too Nice at Work

Are you in the habit of saying yes to every request, even when it’s not in your best interest? Have you ever felt like a pushover, allowing coworkers or superiors to take advantage of your kindness? It’s time to address the pitfalls of being too nice at work.

The Surprising Upside of Healthy Workplace Rivalry

The Surprising Upside of Healthy Workplace Rivalry

Does rivalry always have to be negative? After my last blog post about Workplace Jealousy, I started reflecting on the potential pros and cons of the related idea – workplace rivalry. There have been famous rivalries throughout history for which competition made them both better: John Lennon vs. Paul McCartney, Chris Evert vs. Martina Navratilova, or, more recently, Venus vs. Serena Williams.

The Insidious Impact of Workplace Jealousy

The Insidious Impact of Workplace Jealousy

What happens when we see others succeeding at work?  Does it trigger inspiration, or does it trigger workplace jealousy?

I am grateful that I have seen countless examples in life and at work when the presence of excellence is so inspirational that others realize what may be possible for them, and they act accordingly. This may play out as extra effort, extra training, more research, and other healthy and appropriate behaviours to “level up” and live one’s best life. Most of us have seen this in action, and it is glorious. Everybody feels wonderful. But it doesn’t always play out this way …