What is Resilience?

When you consider mental fitness as the 11th Skill, keep in mind that it is displayed in many ways. Just as your strength is displayed by lifting, holding and lowering, your mental fitness contains a number of factors, one of which is resilience.

So, what is resilience?

A psychologist will tell you that resilience is a person’s ability to adapt and continue to function in the face of stress and adversity.


There's a key word that is worth giving some attention to: adapt.

Imagine you're a chimpanzee, getting up to chimpanzee stuff in the jungle. You find food, water and shelter every day. Maybe you even find another chimpanzee who digs your cute chimpy ears and wants to get cosy. This is what you need to do as a chimp: find food, a mate, and adequate conditions to protect your family.

Sometimes, being a chimpanzee is hard. The trees you gather your fruit from are destroyed in a storm, and you have to find food somewhere else. A rival chimpanzee wants your mate, and you have to fight them off. Your baby is attacked by snakes and you lose him, which hurts more than anything.

Adaptability is a key ability you need to survive these events and continue to function as a chimpanzee. This is resilience to a chimpanzee. And adaptability is a key component of human resilience as well. But it's not the whole story. 


A chimpanzee has stressors that are more or less consistent, and easy to adapt to. But too much stress will kill any animal, and humans have this weird knack of upping the ante on our stress response. We call it progress most of the time, although it mostly feels like a world that is speeding up and leaving many of us behind.

Our natural resilience was put in place to withstand physical threats to our survival and that of our closest kin. But our brain perceives the modern stressors of the 21st century in the same way as our monkey brains would perceive a leopard going after our baby. Fluctuating markets threaten our bank accounts; changing technology makes us feel obsolete; urban sprawl makes us feel trapped in a rat race.

So, how do we cope with ever-increasing stress in an ever-changing environment?

The resilience needed in today's world is applied in three behaviours: preparation, connectedness, and innovation.


When we work out, our body uses our recovery time to adapt to the stress we placed upon it, becoming stronger and more capable than before.

This is preparation, and we can prepare for psychological hardship through a number of practices including meditation, journalling, and planning.


When we think of resilient people, a few broad categories come to mind: soldiers; parents; entrepreneurs. These people need networks in order to do what they do. 

Recognise that the role that your coaches and gym mates play in your development as an athlete (and the role you play in theirs) transfers to your personal resilience and wellbeing. Be part of the support network of others, and invite them to be part of yours.


When it comes to innovation as a cornerstone of resilience, you don't need to be Richard Branson or Elon Musk. What you need to understand is the thinking that such innovators deploy, which is based around an incredibly useful assumption: problems are the source of opportunities.

Your mobility problems create opportunities to fix your posture and extend your life. Your communication problems create opportunities to build deeper relationships. Your health problems create opportunities to prioritise your life and the people in it.

This attitude compels you to search for problems, proactively building resilience for the problems that aren't so welcome. 


At its core, resilience ultimately comes down to adaptability. We adapt by preparing ourselves, making the most of our relationships, and finding innovative solutions.


What does your resilience training look like? The 11th Skill can customise a mental fitness program for boosting your team's resilience, mindset, and emotional intelligence. Contact us to discuss how we can help you and your people!