I was recently talking to a friend about their experience of being on an intensive meditation retreat. The teacher was talking about the importance of sensitivity and intuition, and that in order to develop those qualities it was also vital to cultivate resilience. They described the two wheels of a chariot; one wheel was sensitivity, and the other wheel was resilience. If you have all of one, and none of the other, then the chariot cannot go forward and you get stuck.

On the surface, you might think that this has nothing to do with running a business, but, I believe that emotional resilience, and to what degree we posses that inner quality that can enable one person to bounce back from failure, and another to spiral down into defeat and burnout, or to take every misfortune personally. When we think of great leaders or people that have achieved incredible things in the face of huge adversity, resilience plays a big part in their story.

So in this blog, we’re going to explore what resilience is, and what we can do on a daily basis to ensure that our businesses are resilient enough to move through the difficult times that they will no doubt face. 

First of all, let’s be clear about what resilience isn’t. Being resilient does not mean an overinflated sense of optimism, where you go around with a big grin on your face and laugh off all misfortune. Resilience is about authenticity (one of my other favourite words to apply to businesses), it’s about acknowledging that while things might be hard, life (and business!) is about ups and downs, and that that’s okay.

Resilience is also about being able to draw on your own resources, and see failure as an inevitable part of life. It’s not about being tough and going through life with a gritty determination that nothing is going to get the better of you. The interesting thing is that we are not born with resilience; we learn how to be resilient in childhood just like assertiveness (see my blog on assertiveness here), and just life assertiveness, the good news is that with time and with practice we can develop resilience.

So how resilient are you?

Why is it that some people seem to bounce back from traumas with relative ease, or even thrive after negative events, while others might fall apart?

The answers are compelling. In his best-selling book, The Resiliency Advantage the late Al Siebert, writes that, “highly resilient people are flexible, adapt to new circumstances quickly, and thrive in constant change. Most important, they expect to bounce back and feel confident that they will. They have a knack for creating good luck out of circumstances that many others see as bad luck.”


A long-term study of 99 Harvard graduates showed that the way people view negative life events (either as fixed and unchangeable or as temporary and subject to influence) predicted their physical health 5, and up to 35 years later.

But a boost to physical health isn’t this mindset’s only upside. Resilience refers to our capacity to deal with discomfort and adversity, but it’s not just a reactive skill set. The same characteristics that make us resilient are traits that enrich our lives. And of course they will enrich our businesses too.

10 steps to developing resilience permanently

Like anything worth doing, it’s going to take time, but follow these steps and you will be well on your way to increasing your resilience:

  1. Nurture relationships and get support. No one ever achieved anything on their own, so why should you? Being surrounded by positive, resilient people is inspiring and feeds our sense of self. Having a good network on a personal and a professional level helps us be our best selves and gives us a place to share our challenges and difficulties, as well as our triumphs and achievements.

  2. Nurture yourself – how do you take care of yourself? Good health, and a regular routine of healthy habits, are the foundation of both mental and emotional resilience. But our physical resilience also depends heavily on our baseline mental and emotional well-being. And one of the best ways to nurture that, says Carol Orsborn,, author of The Art of Resilience: 100 Paths to Wisdom and Strength in an Uncertain World is to take regular mental breaks: “It could be something as formal as a regular meditation practice,” she says, “or it could simply be letting yourself daydream.” (See my previous blog on why entrepreneurs need downtime!)

  3. Don’t be afraid of change and to change. When we have a fixed idea of how things are going to go and how they “should” be, it can be harder to feel positive when things go a different way so don’t set yourself up to fail. As they say, “if you keep doing the same things and expect different results, that way madness lies” so be flexible

  4. Develop self-control. If you are someone who gets easily emotional or angry, then it might be that your chariot of sensitivity and resilience has got a wheel missing! Before you react, take a moment to think if your behaviour is going to enhance or diminish your resilience.

  5. Look for the lesson in everything. If you see challenges as opportunities to learn, change and grow, then you are more likely to build resilience.  

  6. Have a plan to do more of what you love. Nearly 20 years ago I discovered a fantastic book by Julia Cameron called The Artist’s Way: A Course in Discovering and Recovering Your Creative Self. One of the exercises is to make a list of things you do that make you happy and keep you in the moment. It could be anything from flower arranging to paragliding or walking in the woods. Whatever it is for you, if it makes you happy and keeps you in the moment, make sure you are doing it on a regular basis.

  7. Perform random acts of kindness. When we are kind to someone else even in a very small way, our brain rewards us with a boost of serotonin, the hormone that relaxes us and makes us feel good. When we feel good about ourselves, we are more likely to view adversity as a challenge rather than a disaster. 

  8. Be grateful for what you have. We all know someone who, no matter what their life is like, or how successful they are never seems to be happy with what they have. Practicing gratitude for the things we take for granted in life helps us see the positives in life.

  9. Make a conscious decision to be happy. It’s amazing how many people think their happiness relies on external factors, and therefore don’t take responsibility for their own happiness but rather put it on to finding the perfect relationship, having the biggest house/car, or earning X to make them happy. Of course many things can make us unhappy, but truly it is up to us to develop a sense of happiness and contentment within ourselves.

  10. Have a sense of humour! If you are anything like me your sense of humour can be the first thing to go when things get tough. But being able to laugh is good for so many reasons; it releases tension and gets us to connect with others, but laughter is also empowering as it puts things in to perspective, so something that seems overwhelming at first, becomes more manageable when we can laugh at it.

When we are happy internally then we can bounce back from anything and move on, which has got to be good for us, our businesses and our customers and clients. 

If you would like to find out how coaching can help you build resilience in yourself and your business book a 30 minute phone call here.

Marisa Guthrie Top 100 Business Coach Bloggers