Building resilience in 5 steps

How can you be more resilient? Here’s 5 ways

‘How can I develop resilience?’ is one of the questions we are most often asked at Strengthscope. Well, we’ve spent years in research and practice to discover the simplest and most effective ways to answer that question. And in this blog, I’m going to share with you the model that we’ve arrived at and the methodology that we’ve taught through our training courses for quite a few years now.

It’s a 5 step model, but building habits in any one of these areas will make a difference to your overall resilience, so the more habits you add, the more resilient you will become. At the end of the blog, I’ll let you into a little-known secret that we’ve been hiding away on our website for a while that will give you access to much more of our thinking and tools on resilience but for now, let’s go through the basic steps, which are:

  • Taking charge and controlling the situation that is causing stress
  • Mastering your mindset and making a choice how you perceive uncertain, unwanted or stressful
  • Optimise your strengths and energy to increase the liklihood of a positive outcome
  • Building a strong social support to act as a protective factor during stressful times
  • Embrace the challenge and keep growing and developing





Step 1 – Take charge

First of all, taking charge. This step is about recognising the role that stress plays in resilience and ultimately, how you can reduce your experienced stress in unpredictable situations by controlling what you can control.  During stressful times, or those situations that you perceive to be stressful, information you get through your senses is only processed in the part of your brain focused on survival. So you go into fight or flight or freeze.

When you’re not stressed, you don’t need that survival response, so in those situations, information can travel into the part of the brain that provides higher functions like problem-solving and decision-making. So the question is how can you reduce your perceived stress to help keep your brain functioning optimally?

Stress happens when the demands of the situation exceed your perceived ability to deal with them. The more you perceive you can control, the less stressed you feel. Stress isn’t an external phenomenon, it’s how you respond to your circumstances and if you identity what you can control, your stress reduces. So, Step 1: work out what causes you stress and then consider how you can realistically take more active control of that situation, for example through preparation, breathing, reframing. There’s more on taking control at Season 7, episode 4 – managing stress and change: controlling the controllables.

Step 2 – Master your mindset

Step 2 of building resilience relates to mastering your mindset and knowing that you have choices in the way that you perceive uncertain, unwanted or stressful situations.  At Strengthscope, we’ve developed a handy model to show you what we mean which I wrote about at Season 7, episode 5 – mastering your mindset in tough times – the path of possibility.

For now, all I want to say is that accessing positive emotions when you’re not feeling it has a net positive effect on your brain and can help buffer you from stress and panic by kicking off a positive emotional chain reaction which can give you a sense of hope, where you can see the potential to move through a tough situation rather than feeling stuck and helpless.  So when you’re feeling stuck on a path of negative thinking, ask yourself ‘When have I dealt with something similar before and it worked out ok?’, ‘What can I do now to get a different perspective on this thing I’m sitting with?’. Just allowing yourself to be curious in a stuck, stressed moment will up the chances that you can move into a more positive frame of mind.

Step 3 – Optimise your strengths and energy

The third step in building resilience is to optimise your strengths and energy. For today, let’s go to strengths – those qualities that energise you and that you are great at or have the potential to become great at. Now imagine a tough situation you are facing at work or at home and the choices you can make in that situation so that it feels less threatening and more in your control. If you choose to take your strengths into that situation, and use them in a way which is more likely to lead to a positive outcome, de facto you will be covering off steps 1 and 2 of our model. You’ll be taking charge and you’ll be taking in a more positive mindset to the situation.

Example – preparing for a big presentation at work

Here’s an example: I might have a big presentation that I’m going to do at work which is causing me some stress. So rather than getting stuck worrying about how I might not be able to answer questions, or that I lose the audience or forget my point, I could bring my strengths into the situation. My Collaboration or Relationship building could help me reach out to a prep buddy who can give me some honest feedback during a run through, or help me organise my thoughts before I start my first draft.

My Efficiency or Results focus could help me break down my prep into a plan so that I get the presentation done before time, giving me confidence that it will go well. My Empathy can help me think about my audience and what they might need or want to hear. Each of these choices about bringing in a strength or strengths will build my confidence, ease my stress and increase the chances of the presentation going well. There’s more to this step than just strengths, there’s also energy but that’s for another time.

Step 4 – Build support

Your next step, and I’ve hinted at it just now, is to build support. Having social support acts as a protective factor during stressful times. And I mean this at the neurobiological level. When you feel that you have strong social support, it has been shown to reduce stress-related illnesses, increase self-confidence, improve problem-solving and release the social bonding hormone oxytocin, which reduces fear and anxiety and improves mood. And practically speaking, the stronger your bonds with your social network, the greater your resilience will become. So, working on your relationships and deepening the connections you have with those around you is 100% guaranteed to build your resilience. I wrote more on the ‘how’ of this at Season 8, episode 10: Supercharge your well-being: how to connect well.

Step 5 – Embrace challenge

Our fifth step is to embrace challenge and keep growing and developing.  To keep working on your skills to increase your ability to adapt and flex when things get choppy or uncertain.  One of the best ways of doing this is to develop a growth mindset. This helps you move away from a win-lose analysis of a situation where you may be anxious about failing or a negative outcome and focuses you more on the process of learning and development, where there is always positive to be found.  It moves you away from thinking about trying to be perfect and towards a focus on progress. I wrote more about that at Season 9, episode 10: how to develop a growth mindset.

Want more?  Go find our online resilience course

So that’s my super-quick guide to developing resilience: take charge, master your mindset, optimise your strengths and energy, build support and embrace challenge. At the start of the blog, I said that there would be a place for you to go to get more on all this.

Well there is more – if you click on this link:, you’ll find a course which gives you much more depth on each of the five steps plus access to Strengthscope, our strengths assessment tool. And if you’ve done Strengthscope already as many people have, there’s a button to press which will take you to our team and they can sort things for you.

If you found this blog useful and I hope you did, do please share it with people in your network, I will see you next week for more on how you can keep on thriving in the digital era.  Till next time, stay strong.

You can find this podcast on Apple podcasts, Spotify, Google podcasts, Stitcher, ACast, TuneInBreaker and Soundcloud. Please support it by subscribing to get it at the start of the working week!