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The Habits of Resilient People

Things you might not have seen. But should.

What does it mean to be able to rebound from a set-back? Or to recover quickly from something bad that happens? Or even to persevere through a crisis without visible struggle? Can you learn to be resilient?

Gwen Moran, an author who usually writes about business and money, found herself thinking about these questions when she was diagnosed with invasive early-stage breast cancer and faced a year of rigorous treatment. She didn’t give up or retreat from her daily life. Instead it was in her nature to juggle “surgeries, chemotherapy, and radiation with assignments, interviews, and youth soccer schedules.” At the end of the year she found herself wondering if there was something about the ability to carry on that could be learned. What are the commonalities among resilient people?

The Six Habits of Resilient People

Gwen’s curiosity led her to explore the qualities that make people resilient. She interviewed the experts and narrowed the qualities down to six core habits that are shared by “never say die” people which she summarized for Fast Company.

  1. They ask for help. According to Michael Ungar, Ph.D., co-director of the Resilience Research Centre at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada, resilient people have a network of people they can turn to for support. Whether they are family, friends, or colleagues, resilient people reach out to them for help when things are difficult.
  2. They refuse to give in. Like Lorenn Walker, JD, MPH they reframe their thinking about a situation in a way that allows them to be in control of how they view things.
  3. They allow themselves to fail sometimes. Paul LeBuffe, MA and Director, Devereaux Center for Resilient Children stresses that it’s important to let yourself accept that failure is a part of life. Learning to emerge from a failure builds optimism about the potential in life.
  4. They find their self-worth in multiple identities. Rather than depend on their success in one area, when things go wrong they are able to fall back on the other parts of their lives to renew their balance.
  5. They are able to forgive. Whether it’s yourself or someone who did you an injustice, being able to let go and move in is critical to resilience. Walker stresses that even if you’re not a naturally forgiving person, it’s a skill that can be mastered.
  6. They have a purpose. With a set of goals based on core values they are less likely to be caught up in indecision. As LeBuffe points out, “You have to know what’s important to you to be able to take action.”

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