Adopting a resilient mindset

Adopting a resilient mindset

by Ingrid Poulson

I am sometimes asked to identify what is the most crucial factor in becoming more resilient, a daunting prospect really, considering the wide range of resilience skills, behaviours and factors available to choose from.

However, if forced to choose, I would have to say the most critical factor would be to adopt a resilient mind-set.


Before  I explain what I mean by a resilient mind-set, let’s explore a little about mind-sets in general.

Throughout the last couple of centuries, there’s been quite a lot of scientific and academic debate around whether people are born with a certain level of intelligence or ability that is then capped for life (known as a ‘fixed’ mindset), or whether people are born with a certain level that they can then expand on or adjust with effort and practice (known as a ‘growth’ mindset). 

To clarify where you stand on the issue, have a look at these four statements, taken from a book by Carol Dweck called Mindset (2008), and decide whether you mostly agree or disagree with each one:

1.     Your intelligence is something very basic about you that you can’t change very much.

2.     You can learn new things, but you can’t really change how intelligent you are.

3.     No matter how much intelligence you have, you can always change it quite a bit.

4.     You can always substantially change how intelligent you are.

If you agreed mostly with statement one and two, this would reflect a belief in a ‘fixed’ mindset.  If you agreed with statement three and four, this would reflect more of a ‘growth’ mindset.

The ‘fixed’ mindset has really dominated our thinking for a long time, largely through the (misunderstood) work of Binet and the infamous IQ test.  Many of us believe that once tested, our IQ results remain stable throughout our lives and that deviating from this score is largely impossible.  This is really a limiting belief.

However, exciting research from Carol Dweck and others has challenged this ‘fixed’ mindset thinking and indicates that we can not only actually improve and increase our intelligence, but other areas of our life such as our personality and disposition.  In order to do so, we need to switch to the ‘growth’ mindset, believing that through effort and practice we can change. 

A resilient mind-set

A resilient mind-set, then, reflects this ‘growth’ mentality; a belief that even if we are born with a particular level of resilience or a particular disposition, we can work on increasing and improving this through effort, practice and application. 

Without this crucial underlying belief, it is easy to fall into the ‘victim’ mode and to simply give up trying.

On the other hand, adopting a resilient mind-set can make the difference; encouraging us to meet the challenge, rise above adversity and cope with whatever comes our way.   I believe it because I do it, and I do it because I believe it; working on being resilient has made me more resilient.

So, start with the statement “I am resilient”, believe it, and take it from there. 

NB: Ingrid is delivering what we're sure will be a fantastic workshop on this very topic early in the new year but we have an early bird discount to get you interested now! To learn more about the workshop, "Rise, Survive, Thrive: cultivating a resilient life", and to register online with the 10% saving JUST CLICK HERE