Building Resilience

What is resilience?

Being resilient is having the strengths that help us with the pressures of life. Resilience" is the ability to "bounce back" from hard times.

‘I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game-winning shot ... and I missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that's precisely why I succeed.’ Michael Jordan, US basketball player

What builds resilience is based on years of research into what helps people recover and move on in the face of difficult circumstances. (Rutter 1994)

The evidence looked at why some people seem to do well in the face of life’s struggles. This work showed that our resilience is shaped by an interaction of things like our biological make up, our environment, support and skills. These strengths are like a set of tools that promote resilience in us all.

We can think of these strengths in three areas of our lives:

“The I have, I am and I can factors”

I Have

The I have factors are outside supports. The resilient person says, “I have...”

  • Structures and positive rules: Clear rules and routines help to contribute to a feeling of security and belonging.
  • Positive role models: People to look up to and learn from.
  • Encouragement: People in their lives who give consistent messages of “I believe in you.”
  • People who are there for me: People who can and do help.

I Am

The I am factors are internal strengths. These are feelings, attitudes and beliefs. The resilient person says “I am...”

  • Lovable: The person is aware that they are worthwhile and capable of being loved.
  • Caring and empathetic: They care what happens to other people.
  • Proud of myself: They feel proud of who they are, their efforts and what they can achieve.
  • Responsible: They can accept the consequences of their behaviour. They have values and keep in mind what is important.
  • Independent: They can do things on their own. They believe what they do, does make a difference. At the same time they understand the limits of their control over events and recognizes when others are responsible.
  • Filled with hope: The person is positive about the future. They see possibilities and are hopeful.

I Can

I can are skills. The resilient person says “I can...”

  • Communicate: The person is able to talk about their thoughts and feelings. They listen to what others are saying.
  • Manage my feelings and impulses: The person can recognise and name their feelings. They can think things through before they act.
  • Seek trusting relationships: They ask for help, share feelings and concerns.
  • Solve problems and conflict.
  • Critical thinking: Can figure things out
  • Resourcefulness: Can make use of outside help


An example for us all

When asking whether something will hold a person back, it is helpful to look at the story of Spencer West who was born with a rare genetic spinal disorder, sacral agenesis. His legs were amputated when he was just five. Doctors told his parents that he would “never do much with his life."

What was amazing was that this 31-year-old, climbed to the top of the 19,341ft high Mt. Kilimanjaro.
It's a feat most able-bodied people would struggle to achieve - scaling one of the highest peaks on the planet.
Spencer West managed it using just his hands. He trained for a year to prepare. It took him seven days to climb to the top.

He made 80 per cent of the journey on his hands, only using a custom-made wheelchair when the terrain allowed.

Only 50 per cent of people who attempt to scale this mountain make it to the top.

What he said about accomplishing this was: ‘I set out to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro not only to redefine what's possible for me, but to inspire others to overcome obstacles and challenges of their own.

You would certainly say Spencer West is a resilient man.

Dealing with Worry in Difficult Times  is a booklet from Health Development on dealing with worry and uncertainty. It  gives practical suggestions for reducing worry in these challenging times, promote wellbeing and  provides links to key resources that people have found helpful.

Click here to view a printable copy or click on the link below to view a video version:



These tools have been developed to support building resilience in ourselves and the people we work with in The South Eastern Trust. Clink on the picture to open each tool.


 Bend Don't Break  Bouncing Back Bouncing Back Workbook