Velas Coaching

What is Resilience? – 5 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About It.

What is Resilience? -5 Things You Probably Didn't Know About It.

What is resilience? Have you found yourself in a difficult situation and people tell you, you got to be resilient, or you got to cultivate resilience, etc.? I have, and that was a question I asked myself when I was in the process of dealing with a brain tumor a few years ago.

What is resilience again?. The American Psychological Association definition of resilience.

Resilience is a process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or even significant sources of stress.

Resilience is not just a way to bounce back. The difference between resilient individuals is not only how they handle losing, but how they prepare to win.  As Ron Carucci elegantly stated in an HBR article  “Leaders must cultivate resilience as an ongoing skill, not just for the “big moments” of painful setbacks or major change

I was on top of the world once. I was on my way to reach the pinnacle of my professional dream of becoming a University professor, in the process, I got married, bought a house, and all that awesome family stuff. Then, I was diagnosed with a brain tumor and my world became crashing down. I survived the tumor, but neither my professional dream, not my marriage did. Yet somehow, I was able to reinvent myself a couple of times, it wasn’t easy, but here I am. I lived thru the ordeal, and I thrived.

I am not the only, there is plenty of anecdotal and academic evidence of how this actually works. It wasn’t until I started my current career, as an executive coach, when I started to question what makes some people more resilient than others? Why some people can recover quickly and others won’t?.

The importance of resilience
Why is resilience important for successful leaders.

The key word in this APA definition (American Psychological Association) of resilience is adapting. Interestingly, adapting is something we humans have done for thousands of years. In fact, humans may be the most adaptive species in the face of the earth. The most significant two adaptations humans underwent were the ability to sweat and run long distances. Those two adaptations, in response to “stressors,” took place over long periods, but they were vital for humans to grow into the dominant species in the world. So let’s start there, we are wired to be resilient, we are resilient by nature. In addition, there are other very interesting facts about resilience and understanding them was key to my own recovery AND helping leaders I coach.

  • Resilience requires an adaptive capacity
  • Resilience is ordinary, not extraordinary
  • Resilience requires grit
  • Resilience requires deliberate practice
  • Resilience is not surviving


1- Resilience requires to have an adaptive capacity (sneak peek). Often our response to stress is to look for the next gadget that will take the issue away, we look for technological solutions. In response to stress, we tend to look for the outside for the answer. Resilience is to face a threat by making small changes, methodical, adaptive and strategical that will allow us to overcome the threat and thrive. Rather than look for “technological” fixes, we must work on adaptive solutions. For example, taking medication to lower blood pressure is a technological solution; changing of lifestyle to eat healthily, get more exercise and lower stress is an adaptive solution. Adaptive capacity requires a shift in mindset as Kegan and Lahey explain in their book Immunity to Change. To build resilience, we have to have an adapting capacity, and sometimes it means changing our behavior, being open to alternate solutions.

Over the next few weeks, I will explore each one of these principles, from an academic point of view, but also from a pragmatic perspective. The goal is to unlocking resilience with what we already have built within. By understanding what is resilience and how we can leverage it to get better at what we currently do, to prepare for the unknown, to ride the crisis and bloom where we are planted.

Do you have a specific question about resilience? Please add it to the comments or send it to me directly

Luis Velasquez MBA, PhD

Luis is a leadership coach, employee engagement expert, and management trainer. Formerly a University professor and research scientist, Luis holds a dual Ph.D. from Michigan State University; and an MBA in Organizational Leadership.

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