Eyes on wellbeing

“Your self-esteem is foundational to being resilient”

Learning and development consultant, Trevor Bibic, explains how to master resilience and implement it in your daily life

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Resilience is about your ability to bounce back from challenging situations - or bounce forward, as I like to say.

It is important to recognise that it’s not a trait that you have or do not have. It is comprised of the behaviours, thoughts and actions that you take, and those can be developed by anyone. It’s not about toughing it out, and it’s not something that should be used to criticise people: it is something that can be learnt and built. Researchers and clinicians, the people who have been studying resilience for 40 plus years, agree with this.

Resilience is not about being invincible, but about the ability to adapt and move forward from the challenges faced. There are sets of actions that you can take to build and develop your resilience. In the AOP webinar on maintaining your happiness, which took place in November, we looked at five approaches to building those resilience muscles.

The five building blocks explained

1. Embracing change

Embracing change is about seeing challenging times as temporary, as opposed to seeing them as having endless negative impact. This is one of the most significant differences between people who show resilience and those who don’t. Look for the small increments of opportunity, growth and learning you can get from those opportunities. Remind yourself of times when you have gained something from changing circumstances.

2. Personal vision

Personal vision is about having clarity over what you want to achieve and your personal values, both personally and professionally, allowing you to maintain focus and adapt more effectively to unexpected circumstances.

3. Reminding yourself of your value

In challenging times, it can be easy to lose a sense of the value that you bring to your work and the world around you. Taking the time to recognise your skills and their contribution to your life and work can help empower you to deal with the unexpected.

4. Supporting others and asking for support

Supporting others can be a boost to your own resilience, and developing a support network, ideally ahead of time, can help you know who to turn to when you face challenges, minimising the effect of helplessness.

Developing a support network ahead of time gives you the opportunity to act as soon as you recognise challenges, rather than being held back by not being sure what to do next.

5. Realistic optimism

There’s a quote that always sticks in my mind, which summarises this well, which is “you can’t stop the waves, but you can learn how to surf.” When faced with challenges, this thinking enables you to find an upside to the situation, or small improvements that can start to move momentum in a positive direction. As with ‘embracing change’, this is also about seeing difficult times as temporary. Create a habit of identifying the upside to avoid negative assumptions becoming self-fulfilling prophecies.

Foundational tips for resilience

One of the most significant things you can do for yourself is to identify your personal and professional goals, even if that is a loose picture. If you know your destination, it will give you the opportunity to find ways around challenges - like a bus that might have to reroute because of roadworks (there is a practical exercise in the webinar that can help with this.)

You don’t have to have all the answers, but when you know where you’re headed you can minimise distractions. Taking the time to work out what you’re aiming at allows you to decide what is worth your time and effort and what is not. It can also take the guilt out of saying no.

The second big thing is a sense of self-esteem. Make an appointment with yourself, on a regular basis, to identify things that have gone well: what has been successful for you, what skills you used, and what contribution you made to those successes. Reminding yourself of your value is important and your self-esteem is foundational to being resilient.

It ultimately makes it so much harder to knock you off course, no matter how rough the seas are, when you know where you're going and you believe in yourself


In the webinar, we show several roles that you might play in the workplace and ask you to think about which ones you identify with most strongly and why. It ultimately makes it so much harder to knock you off course, no matter how rough the seas are, when you know where you're going and you believe in yourself.

Reaching out for help

Think about the areas where you might need help in the future. Then, find who might be able support you in those areas and perhaps prime them to understand that maybe you will ask for support - making it less of a surprise when you do reach out for help.

People in the workplace are much more willing to help than you might realise. I’m always surprised by the discussions I have with professionals and how supportive they want to be of their colleagues. This has the additional impact of increasing the positive relationship between those who are asking for help and those who help them.

Don’t forget to reflect on how willing you would be to support others, to minimise how difficult it may feel to ask for help


In the process of asking for help and getting help you ultimately improve your capability, which is a genuine upside, even when it’s tough to ask. Don’t forget to reflect on how willing you would be to support others, to minimise how difficult it may feel to ask for help.

Lastly, be proactive about offering help to people and spotting opportunities to help others. The process of helping others is shown to boost your resilience and has a positive impact on both how you’re perceived in an organisation and your career prospects.

A practical tip for realistic optimism

How does one form a ‘realistic optimism’ mindset? One of the things you could do is to create a practice of gratefulness. Taking the time to identify things that are meaningful to you and that you’re grateful for can help you appreciate the good things and create a habit of looking for the positive in other situations.

Try finding three different things that you’re grateful for every single day for 21 days, to create the habit of looking for reasons to be positive. Practising gratefulness builds your optimistic muscles. Helping others is also a great way of building your positivity and optimism.

Allowing it to build

If this is not natural to you, I’d encourage you to see it as a process of growth, not something that you can achieve overnight. Consider it something you build over time and be forgiving when things don’t quite work out as planned. That’s what building a skill is all about. If you have a go at these things but still feel that things are tough, that’s okay. It’s going to take time to build up to becoming somebody who is highly resilient. Remember that building resilience is a learning process, with some experimentation involved, which means it might not happen overnight. Like any good things, it takes time to master. Resilience is a skill that can be built and learnt, and not something that you are or are not.