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What Does It Mean To Be Resilient?

challenges-aheadThe longer we live, the more we are confronted by serious challenges, such as life-threatening or debilitating illnesses and losses of spouse and other loved ones.

When confronted by catastrophic loss, some people collapse into a hopeless, helpless, state of mind, often relying on alcohol or other addictions, while resilient people are able to meet those same challenges, grow from them, and continue to live rich, rewarding lives.

People who are truly resilient are able to rebound from virtually all forms of adversity. It’s not that they don’t get sad, depressed, or frustrated, and when they lose someone close to them, they do grieve deeply. However, people with resilience are actually made stronger and more resourceful by each of life’s challenges. In fact, the more difficult the challenge, the more they grow from the experience.

friendsIf you want to become more resilient, it is important to know that you absolutely cannot do it in isolation. Hermits are not resilient; they are avoidant, and that leads to a very limited life. In order to develop and live a resilient life, it is important to cultivate healthy relationships. It is important to have friends you can depend on when you need support. However, the relationships should be based on mutuality. In other words, you want to be able to be there for each other.

Trying to escape emotional or physical pain exacerbates it. Courageously allowing oneself to fully experiencing it is part of the cultivation of resilience and hardiness.

Resilience is not a skill you can practice for a while and then go back to your old ways. It is a way of life. It can be cultivated by living the way the most resilient people live.

It is cultivated by becoming committed to meeting daily life challenges as learning opportunities rather than as roadblocks. It can be helpful to adopt an attitude of being a fighter. Different tactics work for different people. For many of us, what has proven most efficacious is the following process:

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  1. Identify your personal life values. Personal life values are not religious, national, or cultural values—they are values that come from you. Ask yourself what matters most to you in life. What do you want your life to be about? To help with this task, it can be helpful to work with a life coach or a therapist specializing in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).
  2. Identify actions you can take that are aligned with those values.
  3. Step up and courageously take those actions that you know are most in harmony with what you want your life to be about.
  4. Appreciate how empowered you feel as a result of taking actions that line up with what matters most to you.
  5. Practice those behaviors every day.


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What Does It Mean To Be Resilient?

Dr. Larry Berkelhammer

Dr. Berkelhammer is a retired mind-body medicine psychologist. He writes about mindfulness-based practices with a unique emphasis on optimization of wellbeing and health. Dr. Berkelhammer also lectures at San Francisco State University and UC San Francisco, and is currently teaching a class in Marin County through College of Marin. He is the author of the book "In Your Own Hands; New Hope for People with Chronic Medical Conditions".

See his extensive website:

In Your Own Hands: Mindfulness-Based Practices to Optimize Wellbeing - College of Marin Community Education

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APA Reference
Berkelhammer, D. (2015). What Does It Mean To Be Resilient?. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 30, 2020, from


Last updated: 8 Jan 2015
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