“Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress — such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems or workplace and financial stressors.”

– American Psychological Association
from The Road to Resilience

Having to adapt to challenge, stress, tragedy, or loss is naturally an emotionally painful process. As human beings, each of us must discover our own path through the distress and to resilience. Importantly, resilience is about adapting well to life—not about getting rid of the pain of living through life’s hardships.

Sources of resilience

Our ability to adapt well to the challenges of life is strengthened and renewed by:

1. Loving, supportive, and trusting relationships and communities.

2. Confidence and faith in ourselves, others, and the world around us.

3. Our ability to communicate, problem solve, and ask for help appropriately as needed.

If these three renewable sources of resilience are not present in our lives, our path to resilience may be more difficult.

Research indicates that anyone can develop the practices, thoughts, and actions that best nurture these sources of resilience. A framework published by Edith Grotberg, Ph.D. suggests that our sources of resilience fall into three essential categories:

I have…

What are the external supports that nourish me?

I am…

What are the inner qualities that give me strength?

I can…

What are the interpersonal and problem-solving skills that help me navigate difficulty?

It is important to note that the path of resilience can also be a collective experience. Organizations, communities, and institutions can develop and show signs of resilience and tap into these sources of resilience just as individuals can. “We have…” “We are…” “We can…”

It is often more difficult, however, for people to find a personal path to resilience when they are part of systems that are not nurturing well-being and resilience collectively. Our dominant culture, by and large, does not focus on promoting all three renewable sources of well-being and resilience for anyone and certainly does not include everyone in defining the “we” of collective resilience.

Below you’ll find some tips that are helpful in proactively cultivating resilience in yourself and the teams and systems you lead.


Finding flexibility and balance

“Resilience involves maintaining flexibility and balance in your life as you deal with stressful circumstances and traumatic events. This happens in several ways, including:

  • Letting yourself experience strong emotions, and also realizing when you may need to avoid experiencing them at times in order to continue functioning.
  • Stepping forward and taking action to deal with your problems and meet the demands of daily living, and also stepping back to rest and reenergize yourself.
  • Spending time with loved ones to gain support and encouragement, and also nurturing yourself.
  • Relying on others, and also relying on yourself.”

– American Psychological Association
from The Road to Resilience

The need for flexibility and balance articulated above is essential to lovingly guiding yourself on the path to resilience. Below is a small (not exhaustive) list of questions that may help you identify sources of resilience in your life right now. Ideally each area (external supports, inner strengths, and interpersonal and problem-solving skills) is offering you a fount of resilience so that you can navigate your emotions, actions, relationships, and inner self with flexibility and balance as highlighted.


External Supports

  • How do you nurture trusting and loving relationships in your life?
  • How do you set healthy limits on your behavior and your relationships?
  • Who do you spend time with? 
  • Who are your role models?
  • How are your basic physical and social needs being met?
  • Where do you find stability?

Inner Strengths

  • Where are the for opportunities for self-discovery, deeper awareness?
  • How do you relate to yourself as a lovable, worthy person?
  • How do you experience an inner sense of calm?
  • What do you believe? What are you confident in?
  • How do you respect and care for yourself and others?
  • How do you nurture confidence, hope, and faith in yourself, others, and the world?

Interpersonal & Problem-Solving Skills

  • How do you generate new ideas or ways of doing things?
  • How do you accept change as a constant?
  • How do you hold the “big picture” or a larger perspective in your day-to-day?
  • How do you take small steps towards your goals?
  • How do you tap into joy, delight?
  • How do you express your thoughts and feelings in communication with others?
  • How do you manage your own behavior and impulses?
  • How do you ask for help?


1. American Psychological Association & Discovery Health Channel, (APA/DHC) The Road to Resilience (Washington, DC: 2003)
2. Grotberg, Edith Henderson, Ph.D., A Guide to Promoting Resilience in Children: Strengthening the Human Spirit (The Hague: Bernard Van Leer Foundation, 1995)