Could you be more resilient?

How resilient are you? Our partners Moller Institute look at the different ways you can measure your resilience in this blog



Could you be more resilient?

In the 1800s, Charles Darwin, University of Cambridge Alumnus explained:

“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”

Today, in our 24/7, highly connected, constantly evolving world, developing Personal Resilience is key to your survival and one of the seven key characteristics of an Explorer Mindset, a mindset for 21st century leadership, developed by the Møller Institute at Churchill College in the University of Cambridge.

What is Personal Resilience?

Personal Resilience is the ability to respond well to change, challenges, problems and set-backs and it includes the speed at which people bounce back from disappointments, their tendency to see things as within their control or influence, and their fundamental belief in their ability to overcome obstacles and thrive during adversity.

We tend to have certain, often self-limiting, beliefs about ourselves and the world that influence our base level of Personal Resilience. To be sustained, Personal Resilience needs to be nurtured during challenging periods.

Why is Personal Resilience important?

It has been said that a person’s levels of resilience will determine who succeeds and who fails. The research on Personal Resilience shows that it supports mental wellness, including our emotional, psychological and social wellbeing. People with a higher Personal Resilience tend to experience much lower incidences of depression and anxiety (Judd et al., 2003). In the workplace, Personal Resilience has been shown to predict an employee’s capacity to change (O’Herlihy, 2016). Some aspects of Personal Resilience are also highly associated with people being able to achieve their potential. This is due to their ability to modify their own and others’ behaviour such as taking high levels of personal responsibility (Judge, 2009).

However, Personal Resilience is not fixed, it needs to be nurtured in order to be sustained (Egeland et al., 2003).

How resilient are you?

  • Having high levels of personal resilience involves:
  • having an unwavering belief that you influence your own destiny
  • believing that success is certain, it just may take a little more time or effort than initially anticipated
  • believing in your own ability to get the best out of most situations
  • being honest with yourself about mistakes, but spending little time dwelling on them and more time thinking about what could be done differently

Having low levels of personal resilience involves:

  • doubting your own ability to overcome challenges or adversity
  • being fatalistic and believing that there is a lot in life that cannot be influenced or controlled
  • having a tendency to worry a lot and be highly self-critical, dwelling on mistakes

Jim Collins in “Good to Great: Why some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t” (2001) famously recognised what he termed “the Stockdale Paradox” – named after Admiral Jim Stockdale, a US military officer held captive for 8 years during the Vietnam war. Stockdale recognised that the resilience he had to develop to survive his ordeal was not based on blind optimism but on both confronting the brutal facts of the current reality, whilst also retaining faith that he would prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties.

How can leaders build Personal Resilience?

The Explorer Mindset Programme at Møller Institute, Churchill College in the University of Cambridge, gives you the tools and frameworks to be more resilient, to build on your strengths and acknowledge your weaknesses. The programme will allow you to weaknesses find the resources within yourself to develop your resilience and six further Explorer Mindset characteristics - Preparedness; Leading Innovation; Ambiguity Tolerance; Approach Orientation; Risk Tolerance and Perspective Taking.

To enjoy a fusion of practical and creative leadership development, underpinned by evidence-based intellectual thinking and uniquely structured to fit around your work commitments, visit

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