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The ART of Resiliency

Resiliency can be defined as:

  1. The capacity to recover quickly from or adjust easily to difficulties or change and/or

  2. The ability to become strong, healthy, or successful again after something bad happens.

When you look at those definitions of resiliency, do they sound like capabilities that you would want to have or that could help you in your life? Is there one of those definitions that you are better in than the other? We may be better at one of these because we have had a chance to practice it due to the experiences in our lives.

Admittedly, I am better at adapting to change than I am at becoming strong after something bad happens. My life has been a series of changes and difficulties strung together at certain times, which has resulted in more strength and perseverance within me to deal with that. I don’t think I am terrible at recovering after something bad happens, but I know that I can continue to improve and doing so will most definitely better prepare me for the storms ahead in my life!

How resilient you are in your life depends on a variety of factors. There may be a segment that is genetic or comes naturally to you, but most of resiliency depends on the experiences you have had in your life, how you have responded in the past to those experiences, your upbringing and how others around you have responded to difficulty, your beliefs, your attitudes, your perspective, and your thoughts. Resiliency training focuses on the contributing factors that you can control, influence, or manage in some way. Wherever you are on the resiliency spectrum in your life, you can get stronger if you want to.

In The ART of Resiliency, ART stands for Adjust, Recover, and Toughen. Resiliency is all about response. Response to difficulty: what/how we think, what/how we feel, and how we act in the toughest of situations. In the difficult situations we face in our lives, the appropriate ability to adjust, recover, and/or toughen are responses that can bring about the most favorable results, considering the given circumstances. Let me explain what I mean by each of these responses and give you some examples.

Adjust. This response works well in situations that you cannot control or influence, but must be exposed to in some way. Examples might be an organizational decision or change you don’t like or agree with, difficult people, inefficient processes (not yours), traffic jams, and countless other situations! When I teach this program to kids in schools, they give me examples, such as teachers they don’t like, the amount of homework they are given, assignments they don’t enjoy, and dress codes they hate.

We likely have the opportunity to practice the adjust response many times in our day. Just think about your typical day as you commute, attend meetings, read and respond to emails, interact with others, run errands, pay bills, engage in household needs, guide your children, and anything and everything in between. How many different times in a typical day do you venture into negative thought- or emotion-land, whether expressed aloud or not? To be able to adjust to a more adaptive response in those little moments in the day could make a big difference.

Recover. This response may be appropriate when you have been disappointed, received bad news, lost someone you care about, or fallen short of an expectation. Examples might be getting passed up for a promotion, being diagnosed with a chronic illness, not performing well on a project, getting your heart broken, or losing a marriage. The kids in schools give me examples like doing poorly on a test, not meeting their parents’ expectations of them, not making the team, or losing a friendship.

Think about situations you have faced in your life in which the recover response was necessary. We will all face these types of circumstances at some point and unfortunately some will encounter this more often than others. I mentioned earlier that this was one area that I want to work on more. I am consistently inspired by amazing friends in my life that are the epitome of resilience in the face of tragedy and have been true role models in this space of being able to recover. But I can’t just watch them and improve; I have to do the work myself. Think about ways that you have grown or improved in your life due to disappointment, loss, or unexpected bad news. Becoming more aware of your past successes can help you when facing difficulties in the present moment.

Toughen. This response may be best when it involves what other people think and say about you, especially people that don’t really matter to you or ones you cannot change or influence. The kids in school immediately tell me that they need to toughen when it comes to trolling on social media or bullying. They say that if you can’t prevent it or do anything about it, then you can’t let it get to you. I think that there are similar situations in the workplace and on social media for us as adults.

It seems like no matter what you post and where you post it these days, someone is likely to criticize it or get ugly with it in some way. I learned this firsthand from a YouTube video I posted of my daughter sharing about her experiences with Tourette syndrome. Some people watch the video and say really nice things about how the video helped them, how they can relate, or just thanking her for sharing. Others comment are on how her tics are because of the devil or that her tics are a form of punishment against her. Can you imagine saying that about a 7-year old? My first reaction was to get upset by negative comments, but now I choose to respond to the positive or helpful comments and simply ignore any negative and ridiculous comments. As you think about people and situations that upset you, are there any in which getting tougher could help?

There are times when you will need to use 2 or even all 3 of these techniques at once. There was a woman in a recent workshop I taught that had lost her husband. She told me that in her situation she would need to recover from the loss and sadness that she felt each day, adjust to a life with daily activities that he was no longer a part of, and toughen to what other people would say to her about her loss (people trying to say helpful things, but instead making her feel worse).

We can train and practice techniques to become more resilient. In any given situation of difficulty, there is an opportunity to pause, reflect, assess the circumstances, and determine the response that will bring about the best outcomes considering what we want to get out of life and who we want to be.

The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places.

- Ernest Hemingway

The ART of Resiliency program is a 4-hour workshop that covers 6 key training principles that inspire, empower, and enable participants to reduce the impact of negative stress, leverage adaptive stress for growth, and build resiliency.

If you are interested in participating in the ART of Resiliency workshop or would like to get trained as a coach to deliver this program within your organization, register for my Intensive Training Seminar at The Art & Science of Health Promotion conference on March 26th & 27th in San Diego. You can find more information here:

For a description of the program and other programs offered by Revitalize Project, visit

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