Resilience – Not just bouncing back from what life has to throw at you, but thriving because of it

What is the first thought that comes to our minds when we hear the word ‘resilience’? Is it bouncing back from life’s challenges? Is it never quitting? Is it the difference between sinking and swimming? There are undoubtedly a whole host of clichés like these and more, which encapsulate our understanding of what it is to be resilient. Perhaps for you, resilience is personified in a role model, epitomised in a story of struggle or experienced in a personal life event. For me, the first thought that comes to mind is the poem ‘The rose that grew from concrete’, by Tupac Shakur, who uses this strong image as a metaphor for hardships faced by those who come from humble upbringings. To a certain extent, resilience has an intuitive meaning, but I’d predict that we all relate to it in our own, unique way. This is the difficulty faced by researchers and practitioners alike who try to pin down a universal definition and measure of resilience.

Davydov et al (2010) conceptualise psychological resilience as the mental immunity we have against stressors and life hassles, analogous to our somatic immune system, which protects us against bacteria and viruses. It’s essentially a defence mechanism, enabling people to thrive in the face of adversity. They emphasise the Promotion approach which revolves around the development of extra resources via high levels of positive experiences, i.e. nurturing resilience by promoting good mental health. Tied to this, using positive mental states allows one to ‘thrive’. Hence according to this, it’s completely possible to learn, develop and flourish following bad experiences, but being resilient is the key. Davydov et al (2010) go on to propose a global biopsychosocial model of resilience. This is essentially what it says on the tin. Starting from an evolutionary, hereditary developed response to stressors, this innate tendency is moulded by our psychological development and the society in which we find ourselves immersed within. The psychological element is where psychologists, coaches and psychometricians come in, in attempts to measure and strengthen resilience within individuals.

Not only are there benefits to individual wellbeing, but resilient individuals make resilient organisations. Or so a recent article in Human Resource Management Review would suggest. Legnick-Hall, Beck and Legnick-hall (2011) define organisational resilience as a ‘firm’s ability to effectively absorb, develop situation-specific responses to, and ultimately engage in transformative activities to capitalize on disruptive surprises that potentially threaten organisation survival.’ Apart from being quite a mouth full, it’s a concept which is particularly pertinent during the current, economically turbulent times. Human resource management is offered as an avenue for creating a platform for developing resilient employees. Hence, targeting ‘core’ employees and instilling them with a strong sense of resiliency will help in the effort of galvanising the organisation as whole. The underlying key is the use of HR policies to really drive home the more global HR principles. This will allow the development of competencies and KSAO’s which fortify resilience within individuals. So, organisations can thrive by capitalising on opportunities for change via adaptation, innovation and determination.

In my brief stint with The Mindgym, I helped develop a training webinar on resiliency, entitled ‘Bounce back’. This was one of their best-selling products and demonstrated the current demand for and interest in resilience. In line with this, Dan Hughes from A&DC will be addressing their Resilience Questionnaire in our upcoming Psychometrics Forum event on Coaching on the 8th May. So, if this topic was of interest, get in touch with us and book your place on the event!

Blog posted by Rajesh Chopra.


Davydov, D.M., Stewart, R., Ritchie, K. & Chadieu, I. (2010). Resilience and Mental Health. Clinical Psychology Review, 30, 479-495.

Lengnick-Hall, C.A., Beck, T.E. & Lengnick-Hall, M.L. (2011) Developing a capacity for organizational resilience through strategic human resource management. Human Resource Management Review, 21, 243-255.


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