A Resilience Toolkit

A Resilience Toolkit


Resilience requires a whole new way to think, decide, plan and act. It demands flexibility and fortitude to rebound, adapt, innovate and lead.

Generally, resilience is about adapting in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress. Resilient people are aware of situations, of their own reactions and of the behavior of those around them. They meet the world head-on with eyes wide open.

Being resilient begins by understanding the causes that give rise to adverse situations. Getting to the root cause allows us to remediate the impact of situations and think of new ways to tackle problems. Resilience deals with “the then”, “the now” and “the thereafter”.

Whether we are talking about ourselves as individuals or about businesses as corporate persons, openness, flexibility, and adaptability are key ingredients of resilience. Yet, it is those very things that are hardest to integrate into our lives and the lives of our businesses because we seek stasis, normalcy, routine, structure, process and best practice.

How we act and react in the face of a crisis constitutes resilience. It is inefficient and ineffective simply to dwell on cause and effect thinking when facing a crisis. That leads to putting blame on external causes, and ultimately to a sense of victimization and the need to scapegoat imagined and real offenders. To what end?

Resilient solutions are supported collectively. We can never go it alone. Talking about the challenges, communicating with others, is the beginning of gaining perspective and insights, looking for alternatives and new solutions, and simply expressing frustrations and emotions. Social connectivity, even in the face of physical isolation, is essential to being resilient.

When dealing with any potential crisis, it is essential to view ourselves as survivors and avoid thinking like victims of circumstances. The survival mentality will lead to finding ways to solve problems and implement solutions. While situations may be unavoidable, we need to stay focused on positive outcomes as the impetus of resilience.


While situations may be unavoidable, we need to stay focused on positive outcomes as the impetus of resilience.

But resilience does not just happen. It needs to be built and honed.

It is a skill set. It involves competencies and capabilities. What we do to build resilience for ourselves as individuals we can apply and implement in the culture of our businesses. An individual’s skill set is an organization’s cultural tapestry.

What is the warp and woof of that resilience tapestry? There are 5 key threads to this tapestry.

  • Self-Awareness is multi-dimensional: - awareness of capabilities and capacities, including all structures and processes, - awareness of desires and abilities to act, - awareness of thinking patterns, plans and strategies, and - awareness of how these connect and play out in practice.
CODA: Self-awareness is a prerequisite for choice and control. If you operate outside of awareness, then situations control you. If you want to control situations, the first thing is to focus on self-awareness, as a person and as a corporate entity, in order to consider capabilities and capacities before choosing, deciding and acting. Self-awareness is the foundation of all other resilience skills.
  • Attention: attention or focus is like a muscle. It can be trained and developed. Being focused means - being in the here and now; - facing the reality of the situation; - facing the brutal facts.
CODA: Without focus, we tend to be either worrying about the future or regretting the past. That's where stress, unhappiness, and panic come to play because they fixate on the past and the future rather than the present moment. The key is: What is happening and what do we need to do NOW?
  • Mindfulness is a tool for training attention, and not some philosophical or religious tenet. Moreover, it is a particular kind of attention: present-moment awareness that is receptive, accepting, appreciative and aware. Accepting the brutal facts of here and now opens up the possibilities for solutions and is core to any resilience program.
CODA: Without focus, we tend to be either worrying about the future or regretting the past. That's where stress, unhappiness, and panic come to play because they fixate on the past and the future rather than the present moment. The key is: What is happening and what do we need to do NOW?
  • Letting Go
Part 1: Physical
Remain calm. Reduce agitation. Stop panicking.
Analyze the situation. Accept the reality. Assess the impact.
Identify the constraints and limitations. Plan solutions.
Part 2: Mental
Separate yourself from your own thinking and the narratives playing in your head.
Create mental space, so that you differentiate your thoughts, beliefs and stories about the world
  • Accessing & Sustaining Positivity: It's not enough to get rid of negativity and there is always danger of creating mental quicksand. But positivity is not simply the absence or even the opposite of negativity. Focusing on positivity and successful outcomes, beyond just survival and remediation, can displace the negative impact of risk. It is not about feeling good, but about being resilient.
At the heart of resilience is a belief in oneself—yet also a belief in something larger than oneself. Resilient people do not let adversity define them. They find resilience by moving towards a goal beyond themselves …by perceiving bad times as a temporary state of affairs. It's possible to…define yourself as capable and competent…It's possible to develop a sense of mastery. Hara Estroff Marano, The Art of Resilience.
How do we practice the art of resilience?
  1. Know your boundaries. Resilient people understand that there is a separation between who they are at their core and the cause of their temporary suffering. The stress/trauma might play a part in their story, but it does not overtake their permanent identity.

  2. Socially Inter-act. Resilient people tend to seek out and surround themselves with other resilient people, especially when there’s a need for support. Collaboration gives us the space to work through situations. It entails active listening, encouragement without automatic solutions, and collective, even collaborative, resolve.

  3. Know your capabilities. Being "blissfully unaware" can get us through a bad day, but it's not a very wise long-term strategy. Be in touch with your needs—knowing what needs to be done, what should be avoided, how to collaborate, and when to act. But prideful stubbornness without flexibility or honest self-awareness can be glacial: Always trying to be strong to stay afloat, yet prone to massive stress fractures in the face of unexpected changes in our environment.

  4. Practice acceptance. Pain is painful, stress is stressful. When we're in it, we want the pain to go away. When we're outside it, we want to take away the pain of those who are suffering. Yet we need to accept that stress/pain is a part of living that ebbs and flows. We must face this brutal fact and come to terms with the truth of the pain rather than ignore it, repress it, or deny it. Acceptance is not about giving up and letting the situation take over; it's about leaning in to experience the full range of impact and trusting that we will bounce back.

  5. Silence. We are masters of distraction. We all react differently to situations. Some shut down and some ramp up. Stop the noise and chatter. Look at the situation without judgment or avoidance. Be open to possibilities and discover opportunities at the fringe and in the face of constraints.

  6. Don’t have to have all the answers. When we try hard to find the answers to difficult questions in the face of traumatic events, that trying too hard can block the answers from arising naturally in their own due time. There is strength in knowing that it's okay not to have it all figured out right now and trusting that we will gradually know when we are ready.

  7. Menu of capabilities. We need to have lists of possible actions, plans and processes that support our strategies and alternative directions when we need them most. This is our resilience strategy.

  8. Team strengths: The most resilient know who to work with to design, develop and implement the resilience strategy. Know who will serve as a listening ear and who won’t. Our team helps us reflect back what they see when we’re too immersed and overwhelmed to understand our own abilities and capacities. Effectively support others and proactively seek support for ourselves.

  9. Consider possibilities. We can train ourselves to ask which parts of our current story are permanent and which can possibly change. Can this situation be looked at in a different way that I haven't been considering? This helps us maintain a realistic understanding that the present situation is being colored by our current interpretation. Our interpretations of our stories will always change. Knowing that today's interpretation can and will change, confirms that things can be better tomorrow.

  10. Get out of your head. When we're in the midst of stress, our thoughts can swirl with dizzying speed and disconnectedness. Find reprieve by getting the thoughts out of our head and onto paper. Visualize what we are thinking about. See what may work and what may not work. Let our eyes develop scenarios that speak to our ears leading our minds to success.
So you want to be resilient. Here is what you have to do:
  1. Hold yourself accountable: don't blame others or outside forces. Cultivate a healthy sense of personal responsibility, which allows you to tackle problems instead of wallowing in despair.

  2. Don't complain: Occasional venting sessions are fine, but anyone with grit knows that complaining gets you nowhere. Resilience is all about having a good attitude.

  3. Be self-aware: If you're going to navigate stormy seas, you've got to trust yourself. Resilient people cultivate self-awareness as the foundation of self-confidence.

  4. Accept your limits: The key to grit is accepting that you're neither perfect nor limitless. You've got to accept your weaknesses along with your strengths in order to adapt to trying situations.

  5. Ask for help: Anyone with grit knows that asking for help isn't the same as asking for hand-outs. Even the most successful people could use some assistance once in a while. Part of being resilient is being strong enough to ask for it. It takes self-confidence to be open to insights from others.

  6. Never wallow: Wallowing in your sorrows is just about the worst thing you can do in a bad situation. Resilient people know to grieve their losses, make a plan, and move on.

  7. Don't compare yourself to others: Everyone has their own hidden struggles and their own definitions of success. Measuring yourself against your neighbor is futile and potentially harmful.

  8. Find humor in the absurd: Life is terrible sometimes, but you can't let go of your sense of humor. You've got to be able to laugh at yourself and at the often confusing, painful nature of reality. It's truly the best medicine for getting through tough situations.

  9. Can't plan everything: You never know what life is going to throw at you next. People with grit accept this and are willing to be flexible. If you're too locked into one path or one plan, you're liable to fall apart when things go wrong.

  10. Cultivate a support system: Resilient people are usually not lone wolves. They have a trusted network of people whom they know and can depend on during troubled times.

  11. Take care of yourself: Grittiness isn't just about enduring hardship. You've got to prepare for it too. In order to become strong enough to weather adversity, you've got to practice self-care and make yourself a priority from time to time.
Signs You're Resilient — Even If It Doesn't Feel Like It by Aine Cain, in Business Insider (2016)
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