The Three Characteristics of Resilience

Resilience is the skill and the capacity to be robust under conditions of enormous stress and change.

Resilient people possess three characteristics: a staunch acceptance of reality; a deep belief, often buttressed by strongly held values, that life is meaningful; and an uncanny ability to improvise. You can bounce back from hardship with just one or two of these qualities, but you will only be truly resilient with all three. These three characteristics hold true for resilient organizations as well.

Facing Down Reality: Resilient people have very sober and down-to-earth views of those parts of reality that matter for survival. That’s not to say that optimism doesn’t have its place: In turning around a demoralized sales force, for instance, conjuring a sense of possibility can be a very powerful tool. But for bigger challenges, a cool, almost pessimistic, sense of reality is far more important.

Facing reality, really facing it, is grueling work. Indeed, it can be unpleasant and often emotionally wrenching. The fact is, when we truly stare down reality, we prepare ourselves to act in ways that allow us to endure and survive extraordinary hardship. We train ourselves how to survive before the fact.

The Search for Meaning: resilient people devise constructs about their suffering to create some sort of meaning for themselves and others. Strong values infuse an environment with meaning because they offer ways to interpret and shape events.

Ritualized Ingenuity:  When people are put under pressure, they regress to their most habituated ways of responding. What we do not expect under life-threatening pressure is creativity. In other words, the rules and regulations that make some companies appear less creative may actually make them more resilient in times of real turbulence.

Summing-up: Resilience is a reflex, a way of facing and understanding the world, that is deeply etched into a person’s mind and soul. Resilient people and companies face reality with staunchness, make meaning of hardship instead of crying out in despair, and improvise solutions from thin air. Others do not. This is the nature of resilience, and we will never completely understand it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *