home | resilience library | individual resilience | Characteristics of resilience

Characteristics of resilience

The article that follows was written in 2012 when our programme was developing. We have since expanded and extended our list of resilience characteristics to 18, and Amber Beardmore has developed a questionnaire based on this new list, which you can take by following this link. We also have a description of each characteristic here. There is still much that is useful in the article below, so we have left it in for reference. MT.

There are certain traits that resilient individuals tend to share. Many of these skills can be developed and strengthened, which can improve a person's ability manage the problems, issues and setbacks that they might face in their personal and professional life.

Here is a list of the main characteristics of resilience. You will no doubt find that you are already resilient in some of the areas listed. Rather than looking at this list and trying to change everything at once, why not select the aspects that you feel you would benefit most from and work on them one at a time?


• Finding a way to see the positives in most situations and believing in your own strength.  This includes taking criticism from others and turning it into a development or learning opportunity.   This also means allowing compliments and positive feedback to make you feel good.

• Considering what your purpose in life is and making a positive contribution to society.  This includes developing a range of interests – in and out of work, and developing your curiosity to learn new things.

Having a moral compass / set of beliefs
• Being able to take your approval from within, rather than waiting for others to approve or give permission.
• Being willing not to conform, value your individual differences and idiosyncrasies!

Faith and Spirituality 
• Having a spiritual or self-development practice – (for instance prayer, meditation, tai chi, zen, or contact with nature) has been connected with stronger emotional resilience. 
• Contact with nature (such as animals and gardening) has also been found to reduce stress.

• Being able to laugh, and maintaining a sense of humour during tough times.

Having a role model
• Role models are important for us, helping to guide us through life during our development, to make important decisions that affect the outcome of our personal and professional lives.  A good role model should be someone you admire who is hard working, creative, free thinking and moral.

Social support
• Resilient people know the value of social support and are able to surround themselves with supportive friends and family.  Developing relationships where you are able to be open and honest about your feelings is key.  Trying also to find the good in everyone – this will help you to become less judgemental of others and develop more empathic and authentic relationships.

Facing your fears
• When you’re scared you automatically begin to make excuses on why you aren’t capable of doing something. This quite frequently involves needless procrastination and lame excuses for why you can’t reach your goals. But you can’t honestly know what’s possible until you give it your all.
Having a mission or meaning in life
• Whether you’re working toward outward goals or on inner coping strategies, being able to trust in the process, flexibility about how you achieve those goals, and not giving up are all key factors which add up to a resilient approach.

• The willingness and ability to understand what you are feeling and why.   This might include becoming aware of and working to overcome negative thinking, managing emotions such as fears, phobias, guilt, worry or shame, and developing assertiveness so that you can communicate your needs and get them met.
• Being willing to learn from your mistakes, see obstacles as challenges, and allow adversity to make you stronger. Finding meaning in life’s challenges rather than seeing yourself as a victim.

Physical resilience

The above points refer to psychological resilience, however the importance of physical health cannot be underestimated.

• Take the time to take care of your physical health.  This means listening to what you body is saying - noticing tiredness, concentration, and memory problems, and letting yourself have a break.  Developing healthy habits of nutrition, and reducing dependence on stimulants such as sugar, caffeine, alcohol and nicotine.