Question: What enables some people to thrive in the face of adversity while others buckle under the overwhelming pressure?


What is resilience?

“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
Resilience is the capacity to prepare for, recover from, adapt and thrive in the face of challenge or 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 cope with 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.

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.  a 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.

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 Resilient

>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?

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.

My Performing Under Pressure coaching programme toolbox contains strategies for building and sustaining resilience, adopting a challenge mindset and managing stress. If you’d like to explore how you can use some of these strategies to build your resilience get in touch by email or phone 021 056 8389 today. Or perhaps you'd like to go ahead and book your no obligation discovery consultation.

Have a great week.

Go well


Tony  is hired by people seeking help to perform at their best in one or more areas of their lives. He is a Personal Performance Coach & hypnosis professional based in Wellington NZ, where he specialises in helping people perform under pressure, reduce anxiety and manage stress. Tony's solution focused approach to coaching uses a range of techniques drawn from the fields of co-active coaching, hypnosis and neuro-linguistic programming (NLP). Contact Tony today to discuss how he can help you, or if you think Tony could help someone you know, you might like to encourage them to get in touch with him.

This article contains the personal views and opinions of the author, which may change over time. It is intended to be for information only and does not constitute medical advice. For medical and health advice, always consult a qualified medical professional.