Question: What enables some people to thrive in the face of adversity, such as COVID19, while others experience stress, anxiety, depression?


What is resilience?

Resilience is the ability to adapt to adversity (e.g. the current COVID pandemic and its consequences) such that you don’t just survive but you thrive.

Adaptation involves learning from our experiences and discovering and adopting new ways of thinking and behaving.  

“Resilience is more than just coping; that’s keeping your head above water. Being resilient means being able to walk out of the water.”

~ Professor Larry Mallak, Western Michigan University

A person’s success in the world is based largely on their ability to adapt to adversity

Resilience as a concept first appeared in the late l990s with the release of Paul C. Stoltz’s 1997 book Adversity Quotient: Turning Obstacles into Opportunities (John Wiley & Sons). Playing off of psychologist and author Daniel Goleman’s concept of emotional intelligence, Stoltz, a corporate consultant, theorized that a person’s success in the world is based largely on their ability to adapt to adversity.

According to Stoltz’s research, people who are better able to handle adversity make more money, are more innovative, and are better problem solvers than those less adept at handling misfortune.

Three qualities that all resilient people share – the power of the “three Cs”

Following a 12-year study into resilience, psychologists Salvatore Maddi and Suzanne Kobasa identified three qualities that all resilient people share – these are referred to as the ‘three Cs of hardiness’:

  1. commitment to what you are doing
  2. a sense of control over your life, and
  3. an enthusiasm for challenge.

Maddi describes each C as follows:

  • Commitment involves the belief that no matter how bad things get, it is important to stay involved with whatever is happening, rather than sink into detachment and alienation.
  • Control leads you to believe that no matter how bad things get, you need to keep trying to turn the events from potential disasters into growth opportunities.  You do not allow yourself to sink into powerlessness and passivity.
  • Challenge – you accept that life is, by its very nature challenging. You do not think you are entitled to a life of easy comfort and security. You believe you can learn from failures as well as successes. You create opportunities to grow in wisdom and capability.

The “the survivor personality.”

Another researcher, Al Siebert, PhD, looked at resilience from a different angle, he studied people who had weathered significant traumas and identified what he calls the “the survivor personality.” Siebert found that the most successful survivors tended to have curious, playful, adaptive personality traits. They also shared attributes of persistence, optimism, flexibility, and self-confidence.

The benefits of being able to adapt to adversity

Researchers have found that people who score high on tests of resilience or hardiness are:

  • more able to cope with change
  • better able to cope with stress
  • sick less often
  • less prone to disease

How do you build resilience?

You build resilience through:

1. Ecounters with “just-manageable” difficulties

Richard H. Price, an organizational psychologist at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research and psychology department, says people build resiliency based on life experiences, through encounters with what he calls “just-manageable” difficulties.

“People can be overwhelmed when faced with impossible adversity,” Price says. “That does not improve their resilience. But if they are confronted with a set of challenging experiences over time that are just manageable, they can build a set of coping skills.”

Because resilience is for the most part a learned capability people who are overprotected or who face enormous obstacles right from the get-go are going to be less resilient than those people who can and do learn from ever-greater challenges.

2. Meeting your physical and emotional needs

We’re all born with essential physical and emotional needs that we seek to meet on an ongoing basis in order to maintain in good mental and physical health. If any of our needs are seriously unmet, we can experience stress, anxiety, depression. However, when all our needs are being met in balance we don’t suffer from disabling stress and anxiety.

And when our needs are being met to our satisfaction we are better prepared physically, mentally, and emotionally to adapt to the curve balls that life throws at us, such as this current pandemic.  

3. Ensuring you don’t ‘put all your eggs in one basket’

There are many ways we can meet our needs. Resilient people take care not to ‘put all their eggs in one basket.’ They do this by ensuring that they meet each of their needs in a variety of ways.

So for example a resilient person would not rely solely on their job to meet all of their emotional needs, because if they were to lose their job, or found themselves unable to work, then they would no longer be able to meet their needs. Rather, a resilient person ensures that in addition to their job, they have friends, activities, hobbies, interests, and social networks outside of work that they can rely on to help meet their needs.

Want some help building your personal resilience?

If you’d like to explore how I can help you enhance your ability to adapt and thrive in the face of adversity – simply schedule a free, no obligation Zoom Discovery Consultation by clicking here – 

A small investment of your time could yield amazing returns. And if ZOOM isn’t your thing, then let’s have that consult over the phone. You can call/text me on 021 056 8389.

I’ll leave you with this quote from from German aviator Dieter F. Uchtdorf :

“It’s your reaction to adversity, not adversity itself that determines how your life’s story will develop.”

Stay strong and keep dodging those curve balls ~ Tony

I’m on a mission to help as many people as possible enjoy lives free of unnecessary stress and anxiety. If you’d like my help, or you know someone who would benefit, call/text me today on 021 056 8389 or email