“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything” – George Bernard Shaw.

When our change load is greater than our capacity to adapt, people will display dysfunctional behaviours and their performance suffers. Resiliency is the human ability to recover quickly from disruptive change without being overwhelmed or acting in dysfunctional or harmful ways. People who are described as being resilient can generally be characterised as follows:

  • Optimistic: Resilient people are optimists. They display a self-assurance that is based on their view that life is complex, but filled with many opportunities. Optimists believe that defeat is temporary and its causes are not solely their fault, but rather due to unfortunate circumstances. Conversely, the pessimist believes that defeat will last a long time and will assign blame to someone—including himself or herself.
  • Focused: The focus of resilient people has to do with having a clear vision of what they want to achieve. Focused people take the time to write down their goals, objectives, and obstacles and the strategies they will employ to find solutions for problems facing them.
  • Flexible: Flexible people are those who demonstrate a special pliability or adaptability when responding to uncertainty. This resilience enables you to identify and compartmentalise your fears when facing new and intimidating situations.
  • Organised: Organised people have the knack for developing structured approaches to managing ambiguity. They creatively plan, carefully set priorities and engage in deliberate action steps in order to accomplish tasks.
  • Proactive: The proactive characteristic of resilient people means that they engage with change rather than simply oppose it. They are not reactive. They take the offensive rather than defend themselves. They take calculated risks and then apply lessons learned from past experiences to similar challenges facing them.

The term resilience suggests something negative such as bouncing back from adversity. The world of work is in constant flux. This is “the new normal”, and thus one should not be considered as resilient but rather fit for change.

Below are 10 strategies on how to build fitness for change during turbulent times:

  1. Make good connections: Good relationships with close family members, friends, or others are important. Accepting help and support from those who care about you and will listen to you strengthens change fitness. Assisting others in their time of need can also benefit the helper.
  2. Accept that change is a part of life: Certain goals may no longer be attainable as a result of adverse situations. Accepting circumstances that cannot be changed can help you focus on circumstances that you can alter.
  3. Move toward your goals: Develop some realistic goals. Do something regularly — even if it seems like a small accomplishment — that enables you to move toward your goals. Instead of focusing on tasks that seem unachievable, ask yourself: “What’s one thing I know I can accomplish today that helps me move in the direction I want to go?” 
  4. Take decisive actions: Act on adverse situations as much as you can. Take decisive actions rather than detaching completely from problems and stresses and wishing they would just go away.
  5. Look for opportunities for self-discovery: People often learn something about themselves and may find that they have grown in some respect as a result of their struggle with loss.
  6. Nurture a positive view of yourself: Developing confidence in your ability to solve problems and trusting your instincts helps build resilience.
  7. Keep things in perspective: Even when facing very painful events, try to consider the stressful situation in a broader context and keep a long-term perspective. Avoid blowing the event out of proportion.
  8. Maintain a hopeful outlook: An optimistic outlook enables you to expect that good things will happen in your life. Try visualising what you want rather than worry about what you fear. 
  9. Find meaning and purpose even in difficult times: Viktor Frankl’s 1946 book Man’s Search for Meaning offers profound lessons on being resilient in dire situations. Frankl, who was sent to a death camp during the Holocaust and lost his entire family, says meaning and purpose are found in every moment of life; life never ceases to have meaning. No matter what is going on, you can always choose your attitude. Frankl said we can discover meaning in life in three different ways:
  1. by creating a work or doing a deed to help others;
  2. by experiencing something or encountering someone; and
  3. by the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering.
  1. Take care of yourself: Pay attention to your own needs and feelings. Engage in activities that you enjoy and find relaxing. Exercise regularly. Taking care of yourself helps to keep your mind and body primed to deal with situations that require resilience.


American Psychological Association (APA). (2002). The Road to Resilience. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/road-resilience.aspx

Brenner, A. (2011). 5 Tips to Help You Respond Effectively to Change: Thriving through Change. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/in-flux/201107/5-tips-help-you-respond-effectively-change

Conner, D.R. (1992). Managing at the speed of change:  How Resilient Managers Succeed and Prosper where Others Fail. New York: Random House.

Dickason, K.S. (2006). Managing Change with Resilience. Retrieved from http://virginiatech.healthandperformancesolutions.net/Resilience/Managing%20Change%20With%20Resilience.pdf

Frankl, V.E. (1946). Man’s Search for Meaning. Boston: Beacon Press.

Morgan, N. (2017). How to Build Resilience in Times of Change. Retrieved from How to Build Resilience in Times of Change.

Naiman, L. (2017). Creative Resilience: 5 strategies to help you thrive during times of transition. Retrieved from https://www.creativityatwork.com/2011/08/10/creative-resilience-5-strategies-to-help-you-thrive-during-times-of-transition/

Tasler, N. (2016). How to Get Better at Dealing with Change. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2016/09/how-to-get-better-at-dealing-with-change

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