Resilience Skill Development

Building Resilience: Turning Challenges Into Success

Resilience Skill Development:

It would be great if everyone was born with a full repertoire of traits and skills for resilience. Since we are not, it is reassuring to know that with practice and training we can learn the behaviors, attitudes and skills necessary to increase our ability to spring back from challenges. There are four skill sets that are particularity helpful:

  1. Mindfulness
  2. Effective Communication
  3. Problem Solving
  4. Emotional Intelligence

Mindfulness: The hectic pace of modern life places many demands on your attention. Your schedule may become so busy that you don't have time to stop and truly pay attention to what you're doing, which creates stress. Mindfulness is a technique that teaches how to become more attentive. There is a focus on how your body is reacting to what is happening in the moment. As you go about your daily routine, using the skills of mindfulness, you can increase your enjoyment of those activities. Jon Kabat-Zin, PhD founded the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, HealthCare and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and pioneered a mindfulness-based stress reduction program (MBSR) that has been successfully taught throughout the country. Developing Mindfulness Mediation skills, such as deep breathing and visualization, can also help you to maintain a resilient attitude in the face of pressure and stress.


  • Kabat-Zinn, J. (1990). Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness. Delta Publishing, New York.
  • Hanson, Rick (2011). Just One Thing: Developing a Buddha brain one simple practice at a time. New Harbinger Publications, Oakland, California.
  • Tan, Chade-Meng (2012). Search Inside Yourself: The Unexpected Path to Achieving Success. Harper Collins Publishers, New York.
  • The Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at Vanderbilt University, formerly the Vanderbilt Center for Integrative Health, offers MBSR training classes.

Effective Communication: Good communication is essential to emotional resilience because it breeds positive emotions instead of negative ones. Learning to get your message across is an important skill. Assertive communication is also a skill worth learning because it helps you to communicate more effectively. "Assertive communication involves asking clearly and directly for what one wants and being positive and respectful in one's communication" (Sotile and Sotile). You can minimize the number of stressful situations you have to deal with in life by stating your thoughts and emotions clearly and without attacking others.


  • Peterson, Kerry (2002). Crucial Conversations :Tools for Talking When the Stakes are High McGraw-Hill New York
  • Sotile, Wayne and Sotile, Mary (2002). The Resilient Physician: Effective Emotional Management for Doctors and Their Medical Organizations American Medical Association Press.
  • The Vanderbilt University Human Resources offers Organizational Development services for work groups. Vanderbilt Medical Center Human Resources offers Learning Operations services such as team and individual Coaching and personalized learning opportunities. Finally, you can sign up for Vanderbilt Elevate: Between the Quarters Leadership Classes.

Emotional Intelligence: Becoming aware of how you react when you face stress helps you gain better control over your reactions. This involves developing the following emotional skills:

  1. Gain an awareness of what you are feeling.
  2. Control and manage how you express your emotions.
  3. Avoid acting impulsively.
  4. Develop the ability to notice and correctly interpret the needs and wants of others.
  5. Manage relationships by developing and maintaining boundaries.


  • Bradberry, Greaves (2009). Emotional Intelligence 2.0. San Diego: TalentSmart
  • Goleman, Daniel. (1995) Emotional Intelligence. Bantam Books: New York.

Problem Solving Skills: Resilient people engage in accurate, flexible thinking. It involves gaining a perspective that what you are facing is not insurmountable. This allows you to move forward and look for the solution. Resilient people believe that they are in control of some aspects of the situation and can facilitate a more positive outcome. They view mistakes as opportunities for learning, and embrace change as an opportunity for growth. Clearly not everyone was born with this outlook. With practice, as you would need to do to develop any skill set, you can learn to develop this outlook.

  • Be Flexible
  • Keep it in perspective
  • View no problem as insurmountable
  • Take action
  • Look for opportunities for growth


  • Edward M. Glaser (1941). An Experiment in the Development of Critical Thinking. New York, Bureau of Publications, Teachers College, Columbia University.
  • Paul, Richard; Linda Elder (2006). The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking, Concepts and Tools. Foundation for Critical Thinking. p. 4. Retrieved 3 June 2013.
  • Sotile, Wayne and Sotile, Mary (2002). The Resilient Physician: Effective Emotional Management for Doctors and Their Medical Organizations, American Medical Association Press.​