10 Personal Habits of Resilient People

Take a moment and think about the people you know well.  

Who is the most psychologically resilient of your friends or family?  

Who would cope the best with major setbacks?  

Who would be able to keep their heads while all about them are losing theirs?

Resilience, my own photo (that’s my thumb…)

Dealing with Failure: Resilience

I was at the FC Barcelona football game last night with 2 friends, Jordi & Andre.  Barca beat Getafe 4-0.  Leo Messi made his return from injury.  He played for 20 minutes, and scored 2 impressive goals.

My friend Andre was excited because he has just published a book.  It is available in spanish.

His book is called “He fracasado, y que?”  In english: “I have failed, so what?”  He writes about his life as an entrepreneur, his ups (big) and his downs (big) in the journey of the last 20 years building businesses.

Andre is resilient.  He remains himself, independent of the challenges of the moment.  I have known him as he sold a business for €7M and I have known him in the worst moments of watching servidores.com fall into bankruptcy.  He brings the same energy and discipline to each day, independent of the challenges of the day.  What is it that he does to allow this resilience?

Here’s a short list of Personal Habits of Resilient People, based on my personal experience of meeting many of them, interviewing them and writing about them:

Personal Habits of Resilient People

  1. Constantly Building Relationships – they care about others and how others are doing.  They listen deeply because they have a curiosity for learning about life in all its ways.  Victor Frankl spoke about this in “Man’s Search for Meaning” – living to serve others is a mission that allowed survival of Nazi concentration camps.
  2. Never Share Victim Stories – there are hero stories (I am responsible for the situation, I must change if I want the situation to change) and victim stories (“the traffic made me late”, “my boss won’t let me”, “nobody listens to me when I speak”).  I don’t hear many Victim Stories from resilient people.
  3. Forgive Themselves Quickly – they understand that the “me” of 2 years ago took the best decisions that the “me” of 2 years ago was capable of taking – I didn’t know then what I know now.
  4. Forgive Others Quickly – they understand that everyone is on a difficult journey of their own and face challenges that I am not aware of.  Often someone angry at me may have a sick parent, or a tough financial situation.
  5. Take Decisions Quickly – they don’t wait for perfect information. They take a decent decision with the information available and move on.  They understand that you can take another decision tomorrow – even reverse today’s decision if necessary.
  6. “Thank you” – to waiters, to investors, to toll-booth staff, to teachers, to cleaners…
  7. Reframe Constantly – They reflect upon their life and re-examine past experiences based upon today’s wisdom.  I find that my view of my childhood and 20s changes because I see frustrations, challenges and hard work differently now than I did when I was 25.  Back then I thought “I am gifted and I deserve success”, now I think “all meaningful work requires suffering”
  8. Forward Looking – the first instinct is to ask “what can we do now?” when faced with a setback, rather than “who’s fault is this?”
  9. 5 Pillars in Life – Pillars in life can be work, family, tennis, teaching, gardening, writing…  Resilient people have multiple deep interests.  They don’t live 100% for work or 100% for family.
  10. Separate “State” and “Person” – They understand that the state does not make the person – a state of bankruptcy is not a failed person – it is a momentary point on the journey.  Charles Barrington, the Irish climber who first summited the Eiger mountain in 1858 – was at the lowest point of the mountain at 3am and on the summit at midday – he was the same person at 3am and midday.  A resilient person understands that climbing mountains is not always uphill.

Read more on Resilience & Mental Strength

What else works for you?  What else do you see in the people who you would call “resilient” around you?

17 responses to “10 Personal Habits of Resilient People”

  1. […] January 9, 2014 · by Conor Neill · in Career Management, Confidence, Entrepreneur, Goal Setting,Leadership, Psychology, Purpose, Self-Belief, Self-Knowledge, Success · 15 Comments […]

  2. […] 10 Personal Habits of Resilient People – what makes a mentally strong person? […]

  3. […] Attitude – Resilient; life gives us all blows… some keep moving, some get knocked down.  A players keep […]

  4. GREAT work!

    Do I qualify as “Resilient?”

    *Due to a couple three four circumstances I’m in either of three stages; 1) 100% in pain, 2) 50% in pain and 50% drunk and/or 3) 100% drunk (with ‘shades’ of various other degrees).

    ….yet, my ‘one million dollar forex DEMO account’ ended at a $388,000+ gain last month (March) and I hit $881,000+ on the 9th of this month.

    I was re-injured in a job and the owner wants to evict me (parking space for my van/abode). I got two hernias, re-injured my right knee (postponed Total Knee Replacement), re-injured my right shoulder and my back.

    I’ve had four open-heart surgeries (last one to replace the Aeortic valve with a mechanical one [St. John version]) and have a bullet in the upper left-hand chamber.

    The RAT cut off my electrical connection and shut the water off.

    I’m trying to ‘make it as a forex trader.’

    ……to continue.


    1. Thanks… lets hear more about your adventures!

  5. Woww Conor!!!!. This should go to “paramishijas” blog immediately. Only a week before I read this I was in a talk given by a friend of mine who is living a terrible disease (ALS) and coping with it with resilience. He and his wife were the persons that came to my mind after I read the first paragraph. When I scrolled down for more, I could in fact see that they had all 10 of the habits you mention. Congratulations for the post, Conor, and see you, as well as superPascal, in May for the Reunión. XXX

    1. Thank you very much Elena. Look forward to see you in May 😉

  6. Thanks Conor. Looking back is all part of moving ahead! 🙂

    1. I love seeing you hitting the blog-o-sphere 😉 It is an area that I am very interested in. Would love you to share a post on my blog. I have a few on healthy sleeping habits, but almost nothing on nutrition and how that can affect concentration & productivity.

      1. Thanks Conor. How interesting! I will look into the topic of nutrition and concentration/productivity and will be happy to share it with you.

  7. Conor First of all Happy New Year! Hope you are well, may you wishes come true in 2014! Fantastic blog, many thanks! As I am just going through a phase of coming back from the ashes, very helpful! Hopefully some of these days, we can finally talk via Skype! Abrazo Pascal

    Pascal Kalt pascal.kalt@iese.net pthkalt@gmail.com

    1. Pascal – we just had the 10 year reunion calçotada 😉 only a few survivors still in Barcelona, but May will be a big celebration of 10 years since the big day. Hope to catch you on skype or in person!

  8. Interesting article. The sentence in the photo is a clear and understandable meaning of resilience. About Items 5: How can we decide quickly? How can we distinguish that the available information is enough? Any help please? 🙂
    BTW: Item 10 is interesting too.

    1. Good questions, they need expansion – I’ll write more on 5 and 10 😉

    2. You don’t ever know if the information that you have is enough. That’s the beauty of it.

      If you are waiting to know wether you have enough information, you are not there and will have a hard time making any decision.

      The decision, based on the info available and gut feeling, needs to be taken and waiting makes it harder.

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