Resilience: How to thrive in today's world by Sal Lauder

On a warm October afternoon in 2012 a fifteen year old was travelling home from school with her classmates singing, laughing and talking.  A young man boarded the bus and asked for her by name, he then fired a gun hitting her in the left side of her head with the bullet travelling down her neck.  Her two friends either side of her were also shot and survived. The shooting left Malala Yousafzai in a critical condition; she was first flown to a military hospital in Pakistan and then to the United Kingdom in a medically induced coma.  She endured multiple surgeries and will be left with permanent injuries.  She was shot because she defied the Taliban in Pakistan by speaking out about the right of all women to an education. In October 2014, just two years after Malala was shot she became the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

There are other well-known stories of people who have overcome adversity: Thomas Edison failed 1000 times before creating the lightbulb, Richard Branson has overcome the limitations of dyslexia to achieve phenomenal success with the Virgin group of companies and become the fourth richest person in the UK; Bethany Hamilton had her left arm bitten off by a shark, one month later she was back on her surfboard and two years later won first place in the Explorer Womens’ Division of the NSSA National Championships; Oprah Winfrey was born into poverty and suffered a traumatic childhood as a victim of both physical and sexual abuse.  She has gone on to one of the most successful, influential and richest people in the world; and Nelson Mandela showed us all that we have a choice in how we respond to injustice, brutality, hardship and loss. He had an extraordinary capacity for forgiveness and was described by South Africans as “the father of the nation”.

What differentiates Malala along with these other inspiring people is their ability to thrive despite challenges and adversity. They possess the skills of resilience.

Resilience is the capacity of individuals, teams, families, communities and organisations to cope and thrive when dealing with life’s challenges such as stressful environments, interpersonal conflict, constant change and significant adversity.

Most resilient people aren’t famous.  They are regular people whose thoughts, actions and experiences enable them to overcome situations, that most of us regard as disasters, and go on to make their lives better than before.

Why we need resilience

  • Suicide is now the leading cause of death among Australians aged 15-44 especially men aged 15-24 (ABS, 2015).
  • Australia can be a brutal environment with communities facing devastating losses caused by disasters such as bushfires, floods, storms and other hazards.
  • Australians are working longer hours than any other nation. After work time is juggled between children and relationships with little time for ourselves.
  • Our individualistic culture is creating greater competition for such things as education results, jobs, promotions and salaries, creating further stress with less support.
  • Change is now a constant in all aspects of our lives.  Workplaces are constantly changing to cope with national and global economic, population and environmental trends.
  • People are reporting more stress than ever before, and stress is a risk factor in a range of diseases.
  • Mental illness is soaring with forecasts suggesting that by 2020, depression will be the highest cause of death and disability in the world.

Developing resilience is critical because resilient people, organisations and communities have a significant advantage - they do not feel helpless, isolated or react like victims. The good news is that if you are motivated, then resilience skills can be learned.

Resiliency helps you to:

  • Overcome difficulties you mat have experience as a child, such as poverty, family breakdown, poor education or maltreatment.
  • Navigate everyday challenges. Australians are living longer, earning more and buying more, but this lifestyle, although improving our overall quality of life, comes at a price.
  • Bounce back from significant adversity. Traumatic events can overwhelm the coping resources of individuals and communities. This often leads to symptoms of depression, grief and anxiety.
  • Connect with others. This is a source of on-going strength, emotional well being and resilience. research shows that making a positive difference in the lives of others can evoke strong physical and emotion improvements in ourselves as well.
  • Thrive and create an enriched, happy life. By creating opportunities for new experiences and responsibilities you can gain a better understanding of yourself and the environment you live in. you can gain clarity around your goals, which helps you achieve them. 
  • View all challenges as opportunities
  • Build resilient cultures. Being a resilient individual is only the first step. By supporting and helping others to build their resilience, you further develop your skills and create cultures that are able to overcome adversity and thrive in a challenging environment.

15 Qualities of Resilience

  1. Take time to care of your emotional and physical health, vitality and fitness.
  2. Aware of thoughts, values and beliefs and how they impact on your ability to cope. 
  3. Understand negative thought patterns that sabotage your goals.
  4. Accept and appreciate the differences in others.
  5. Coping skills are problem-focussed not emotion-focussed.
  6. Stay flexible and accept change is part of living.
  7. Able to walk in other people’s shoes - express empathy.
  8. Learn how to deal with your successes and failures.
  9. See all challenges as an opportunity to change, grow and improve.
  10. Work on improving your communication skills.
  11. Accept responsibility for your actions and take control of your life.
  12. Develop proactive, positive connections with people around you.
  13. Maintain your humour even when times are tough.
  14. Optimistic about the future with a belief that good things will happen and problems are temporary.
  15. Assist and support others to build their resilience.

By Sally-Ann Lauder

Consultant Psychologist

M 0404 083425 

Sally-Ann Lauder  DipT, BEd, GradDip Psych, BA (Hons) Psych

Sal is a Senior Executive, Consultant Psychologist and Cofounder of global technology platform BliiP Employability. She has expertise in education, psychology, project and change management, recruitment, psychometric assessments, behavioural profiling and a research interests in resilience and neuropsychology.

Sal has designed and delivered consultancy and educational programs for both the private and public sectors in Australia and the UK.  The focus of these programs was to build performance through organisational development, change leadership and HR technology solutions.