Finding your element in adversity

Whilst many understand that resilience enables people to bounce back from adversity or misfortune, the term has fallen victim to oversimplification and misunderstanding. The human stress response is both complex and dependent on a variety of interconnected factors.

Most would define resilience as the ability for an individual to properly manage stressful situations and to recover well from change and challenges. However, this is not entirely correct as our individual experience of change and challenge is so synonymous with modern life that certain challenges may not evoke a stressful response at all!

To illustrate more accurately, a distinction is required between resilience and its lesser known counterpart resolve:


The ability to deal with significant challenges
and bounce forward by:

  • maintaining healthy levels of psychological functioning when faced with a significant disruptive life event, and
  • demonstrating effective adaptation in the face of significant adversity created by that life event.

The ability to deal with everyday challenges
and find a path forward by:

  • finding the motivation to overcome common life challenges whilst managing the stress response, and
  • investing cognitive resources to find an effective solution to overcome those common life challenges.

Resilience specifically refers to significant disruptive life events; such as the death of a family member, or the pain of separation and/or divorce. Whereas resolve is what we use to manage everyday stressors (eg. running late for an important appointment, dealing with a misbehaving child).

The difference is even more apparent in the workplace as we draw on our resilience to cope with significant financial uncertainty, even redundancy; and we rely upon our resolve to meet an impending deadline or address an unhappy customer.

Both qualities are needed in order for individuals to flourish and organisations to thrive.

At Sentis we understand this. We appreciate that resilience, whilst invaluable, is not needed every day; whereas individuals rely more on their resolve to fight daily stressors. That’s why our model – Rr – encompasses both resilience and resolve. represents ‘resilience’ and those big disruptive life challenges; and r represents ‘resolve’ and the smaller, more common, challenges we face.

By introducing this new element to our vocabulary, we hope to change the conversation regarding proactive mental health and wellbeing in the workplace. After all, it is certain that life will test us with change and adversity – both at home and at work. With resilience and resolve to draw on, we have a better chance to effectively manage significant and common life challenges in order to keep bouncing forward.

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