How to Build Resilience

Build Resilience“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall,” said Nelson Mandela.

So true. We all fall, stumble, fail, and make mistakes. We all have problems, setbacks, and challenges in our lives. No shame in that. Our true strength shows when we are able to rise back up when we fall. That means we must be resilient.

What exactly does that mean? The word “resilient” refers to people who have the ability to bounce back from adversity. People who persevere, persist, and never give up – no matter what life throws at them.

Are you resilient? Want to find out? Be brutally honest with yourself and answer the following questions:

  1. Do you let difficulties or challenges paralyze you from taking action?
  2. Do you dwell on your failures?
  3. Do you learn from your mistakes?
  4. Do you look at challenges as opportunities for personal growth?
  5. Are you deeply committed to your spiritual beliefs, relationships, and goals and willing to overcome any obstacles or setbacks that stand in your way?
  6. Do you spend time focusing on situations you can’t control?
  7. Do you have an optimistic and positive attitude about the future?

If you answered “no” to numbers 1, 2, and 6 and “yes” to numbers 3, 4, 5, and 7, then you are one of those irrepressible people that can adapt when things don’t go your way or according to plan. You are able to cope and move forward when tragedies or life changing events occur.

Don’t despair, however, if your answers are don’t match the ones I listed above. Resilience is not a trait or quality that people automatically have but involves thought patterns and behaviors that anyone can develop or change.

If your answers reveal that you need to improve on developing some resiliency in your life to help you overcome life’s challenges, here are some steps you can take:

Take Care of Yourself

Who can cope when they’re exhausted or run down? That’s why you need to focus on your spirituality, get enough sleep, eat properly, and nurture yourself by making time for activities that you enjoy. Also learn how to manage your stress (for tips see my previous blog). The stronger you are physically and emotionally, the easier it will be for you to overcome life’s challenges.

How to Build Resilience: Be FlexibleBe Flexible

If you tend to resist change and cling to comfort zones, learn to become more flexible. Sometimes even unplanned and unexpected changes in your life can be beneficial – even though it may not seem like it at the time. In fact, change can even bring excitement and adventure to your life. So learn to go with the flow. Resilient people realize that nothing stays the same and embrace change.

Learn From Your Mistakes

Every mistake teaches you an important life lesson and encourages personal growth. As William J. Clinton said, “If you live long enough, you’ll make mistakes. But if you learn from them, you’ll be a better person. It’s how you handle adversity, not how it affects you. The main thing is never quit, never quit, never quit.”

Build Self Confidence

Resilient people strongly believe in themselves and fully trust that they will succeed eventually despite any obstacles or setbacks standing in their way. If you need to build up your self-esteem, make a list of your strengths and accomplishments. Set specific and achievable goals that will build your self-confidence when accomplished. Give yourself a pat on the back whenever you are able to deal with a crisis successfully.

Develop Strong Relationships

During times of calamity or stressful situations, it’s important to have a network of people that will support you. Caring people allow you to share your feelings and give you positive feedback. Focus on helping and comforting others during their difficult times instead of focusing on yourself and you will not only develop strong relationships but also experience inner peace and joy.

Think Positively

Try not to blow things out of proportion or panic when faced with adversity. Instead remain calm and optimistic that things are going to get better. As I wrote in a previous blog:  “A positive attitude empowers you to make better decisions, opens doors to opportunity, and helps you overcome obstacles. Optimists tend to devise a plan of action, marshal their resources, and ask others for assistance and advice instead of dwelling on their misery.” Sometimes we can’t control situations but we can control how we react to them.

Resilience may take time to build, but don’t give up. As Jodi Picoult wrote in  My Sister’s Keeper: “The human capacity for burden is like bamboo – far more flexible than you’d ever believe at first glance.”

Images courtesy of Stuart Miles at


Julie A. Gorges is the author of two young adult novels, Just Call Me Goody Two Shoes and Time to Cast Away and co-author of Residential Steel Design and Construction published by McGraw Hill. In addition, hundreds of her articles and short stories have been published in national and regional magazines, and she received three journalism awards from the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association while working as a newspaper reporter. Julie currently lives in southern California with her husband, Scott, and has two grown children and three grandchildren.

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5 Responses

  1. Carol Graham says:

    The first part of your blog post sounds like my bio I wrote for my Memoir 🙂 Yes, I have learned to be resilient! You summed it up nicely with good advice

  2. Wonderful, and yes, I am resilient. And you are so right in that anyone can strengthen resilience, which isn’t a trait at all but a capacity. One of the greatest myths about resilience is that people grow stronger through adversity – it’s not the experience of adversity that helps us grow – it’s the way in which we respond to adversity. Thanks for the tips and inspiration!

  3. The ability to roll with what happens, with grace and humor (even just a tiny bit), is key, isn’t it? Life just keeps happening. We don’t get to control anything(!) except ourselves, how we react, how we think, what we say, and what we do.

    Thanks for writing it so clearly.


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