“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 loving, supportive, and trusting relationships and communities, by confidence and faith in ourselves, others, and the world around us, and by our ability to communicate, problem solve, and ask for help appropriately as needed. If these renewable sources of resilience are not present in our lives, our path to resilience may be more difficult.

Importantly, 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 just as individuals can. It is often more difficult for individuals to find a personal path to resilience when they are part of systems that are not nurturing resilience collectively.

On the backside of this handout, you’ll find some tips and questions that are helpful in cultivating resilience. If you would like to talk to someone or get more information that is tailored to your needs, please reach out to us at team@rootwiseleadership.com.

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

  • Do you have and nurture trusting and loving relationships in your life?
  • Do you set healthy limits on your behavior and your relationships?
  • Do you spend time with people who encourage your independence?
  • Do you have good role models?
  • Are your basic physical and social needs being met?
  • Do you have stability at home?

Inner Strengths

  • Do you look for opportunities for self-discovery?
  • Do you believe you are a lovable person?
  • Do you experience your innate calm and good nature?
  • Are you confident that you will achieve?
  • Are you respectful and caring to yourself and others?
  • Do you nurture confidence, hope, and faith in yourself, others, and the world?

Interpersonal & Problem-Solving Skills

  • Do you generate new ideas or ways of doing things?
  • Do you recognize change as a constant?
  • Do you stay with tasks until they are finished?
  • Do you take small steps towards your goals?
  • Do you see the humor in life?
  • Do you express your thoughts and feelings in communication with others?
  • Do you manage your own behavior and impulses?
  • 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)