Inspirational Articles

Bouncing Back: Resilience in Action

Bouncing Back: Resilience in Action

Conscious Living Column

By Gord Riddell and Kathy Ryndak


As this article was being written, an icon of the American and international comedy scene passed away suddenly while undergoing a surgical procedure in New York City. Joan Rivers was a pioneer for women everywhere entering into the very male world of stand-up comedy. She pushed the boundaries of acceptable topics that women could safely cover publicly and on stage, her use of explicit language would elicit an uncomfortable and restrained laughter and all this enforced by a fierce drive to succeed in her chosen field of comedy.  She had her naysayers and critics who saw her work as crass and self-deprecating, while her direct in your face style was translated to be a personality often described as belligerent and self-centered.


Her sudden passing, caused reflection on this amazing woman and highlighted above even the laughter was her single most inspired trait- her resilience. A lifetime of adverse events that would have derailed many others and her perseverance to succeed instead formed this defining strength of resilience. A role model of many admirable traits, Joan Rivers most exemplified what modern psychology is identifying as perhaps the single most pervasive definer of a human’s future outcome; that definer being the ability to bounce back on their feet and into their life again after having endured a trauma or adverse event.


Our lives are uncertain and definitely do not come with a guarantee that nothing bad will suddenly occur. In fact there is not a person on the planet who will not endure major setbacks as health, financial matters, divorce, and the death of parents, spouses and even children. All the while, others will be forced to live in abject poverty, at times perhaps, subjected to repressive government regimes or being violated at every level that a human can endure.  Yet there are, in spite of all the odds, those who emerge from such traumas landing on both feet, they reconnect back into their everyday lives, stronger and wiser from the events. These are the individuals that lead us back from catastrophic natural and human created disasters. They are the one’s leading us via their positivity, optimism, self-confidence and their adaptability to change. We can learn resilience by accepting the responsibility that other people rely on


We continue to find different and evermore interesting aspects by which to measure the strengths and weaknesses of us humans, trying to figure out what processes are at work in our journey through life. Intelligence Quotient (IQ) testing was the norm for decades as a measure of an individual’s ability to comprehend their life and as a predictor of special needs, educational achievement, career performance and income levels.  Over the last few decades while Intelligence Quotient (IQ) testing continues to evolve, it was argued (as early as the 1960’s) that there must be other factors involved with the working of the mind/brain than just sheer intelligence. There had to be many intelligences to cover the myriad of human experiences. The birth of Emotional Intelligence (EI) had begun but the term was not coined and brought into association with personality testing until 1985. Today EI is regarded by many to hold greater validity in predicting outcomes than the IQ tests. Many Corporations use Emotional Intelligence for employee training and for hiring purposes.


Resilience is regarded as a grouping of key qualities that when combined with our own maturity, coping skills for many different life situations evolve us into our resilience. There is a strong correlation between happiness and resilience. Happiness is not just positive thoughts as negative thoughts are equally as numerous in optimistic and positive people. The difference is the positive person does not focus and grab on to the negative but rather their own inner resources will take over with a return to a positive space. Creativity, curiosity, close intimate relationships and gratitude, and helping others sometimes ahead of our self are all predictors of happiness and resilience.


10 ways to build resilience


Make connections. Good relationships with close family members, friends or others are important. Accepting help and support from those who care about you and will listen to you strengthens resilience ns. Assisting others in their time of need also can benefit the helper.


Avoid seeing crises as insurmountable problems. You can't change the fact that highly stressful events happen, but you can change how you interpret and respond to these events. Try looking beyond the present to how future circumstances may be a little better.


Accept that change is a part of living.  Accepting circumstances that cannot be changed can help you focus on circumstances that you can alter.


Move toward your goals. Develop some realistic goals. Do something regularly — even if it seems like a small accomplishment — that enables you to move toward your goals.


Take decisive actions. Act on adverse situations as much as you can. Take decisive actions, rather than detaching completely from problems and stresses and wishing they would just go away.


Look for opportunities for self-discovery.. Many people who have experienced tragedies and hardship have reported better relationships, greater sense of strength even while feeling vulnerable, increased sense of self-worth, a more developed spirituality and heightened appreciation for life.


Nurture a positive view of yourself. Developing confidence in your ability to solve problems and trusting your instincts helps build resilience.


Keep things in perspective. Even when facing very painful events, try to consider the stressful situation in a broader context and keep a long-term perspective. Avoid blowing the event out of proportion.

Maintain a hopeful outlook. An optimistic outlook enables you to expect that good things will happen in your life. Try visualizing what you want, rather than worrying about what you fear.


Take care of yourself. Pay attention to your own needs and feelings. Engage in activities that you enjoy and find relaxing. Exercise regularly. Taking care of yourself helps to keep your mind and body primed to deal with situations that require resilience.


Additional ways of strengthening resilience may be helpful. For example, some people write about their deepest thoughts and feelings related to trauma or other stressful events in their life. Meditation and spiritual practices help some people build connections and restore hope.

(With Thanks- ‘’Ten Ways to build resilience’ is published by the American Psychological Association)


While resilience may not be able to be taught it certainly can be learned. Its importance in our life can hardly be underestimated. The ability to go through adversity, which is part of every human journey, and then to have inner resources to draw upon allowing us not only to bounce back but to have gleaned learning and wisdom from our travails, is truly a gift. It is little wonder that resilience has drawn the attention of researchers seeking to find the various aspects and crowning achievements that rise us up even when it seems like all odds are against that possibility.   “Man never made any material as resilient as the human spirit” - Bern William