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Everyday resilience

In this article, Assoc. Prof. Marcus O'Donnell discusses resilience as a response to everyday life and why it's not just about overcoming adversity.
Following a storm, a large tree trunk blocking access on a road in Western Australia.
© Deakin University

We need resilience in our everyday life, not just when we confront major traumas.

So far we’ve talked about our own experience of resilience. We’ve also explored some competing definitions of resilience and and how it can be built. Now, let’s try to develop a clearer definition of resilience you can work with in this course.

In a recent review of studies in this area, Beltman et al (2011) summarised resilience in the following way:

Resilience is a dynamic process or outcome that is the result of interaction over time between a person and the environment … Individual characteristics such as self-efficacy, confidence and coping strategies are important in overcoming challenging situations or recurring setbacks … Difficulties are not simply managed, but individuals are able to bounce back quickly and efficiently, persevere and thrive … Successful adaptation occurs despite obstacles and personal wellbeing is maintained … Reciprocal, mutually supportive personal, professional and peer relationships are important in this process. (pp. 185–207)
This definition reflects the way the concept of resilience has evolved over the last two decades. It emphasises that resilience is:
  • a process rather than an end-state
  • about thriving, not just surviving
  • involves supportive relationships, not just individual effort
  • about adaptive, flexible responses and not a heroic feat.
Some psychologists working in this area have taken this one step further. For example, Dr Laurie Leitch who works all around the world building capacity for resilience with communities responding to disaster, refers to resilience as:
The timely capacity of individuals and groups – family, community, country, and enterprise – to be more generative during times of stability and to adapt, reorganise, and grow in response to disruption. (2017, para. 1)

This simple definition builds on the standard understanding of resilience in a very important way. That is, it reframes resilience as an everyday experience, as a capacity to be more ‘generative’ or creative, not only in times of crisis, but also when things are going well.

This makes a lot of sense. If we train ourselves to respond to everyday situations, we are likely to handle larger problems in a more creative and effective manner.

Your task

Leitch uses a very specific phrase when defining resilience: namely, the capacity to become ‘more generative during times of stability’ (which, in turn, helps us to develop strategies to cope with a greater range of situations in more difficult times).

In the comments, share what you think becoming ‘more generative’ might mean for you in terms of building your everyday resilience in preparation for times of future need.

© Deakin University
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