4 Steps To Choosing Resilience Over Resistance

Breaking out of the “victim loop” and moving past a damaging setback can leave you better for having gone through it.

4 Steps To Choosing Resilience Over Resistance
[Photo: Flickr user Thomas Leuthard]

With a business climate characterized by instability and rapid change, who hasn’t encountered setbacks? Resilience is not only a key leadership trait, but also a necessary life skill.


When encountering a life-disrupting event, it is important to learn how to recover and not crumble, become better and not bitter, and emerge stronger and not weaker. Here are four steps towards resilience.

1. Take Ownership

When experiencing a major disruptive event or setback, in either work or personal life, there is a choice to make regarding attitude and mindset. One choice is called “growth mindset thinking.”

According to Al Siebert Ph.D., author of The Resiliency Advantage, the most resilient people immediately take some ownership regardless of who caused the event, or why or how the event occurred. They ask, “What should I do now?” in order to positively impact the situation.

Those who lack resiliency think differently. They have “fixed mindset thinking” and look for someone or something to blame for the setback. Fixed mindset thinking is also commonly referred to as the “victim loop.” If the individual gets stuck in this mental cycle, they deny any responsibility for the event and continue to spiral downward.

2. Examine Yourself

Once resilient people take some ownership for the event, they will engage in self-examination. They proactively investigate their role in the setback and determine if they need to improve some competency such as communication, delegation, or self-management in order to immediately improve the situation or prevent the event from happening again.

The most successful people at bouncing back from a setback also know the importance of trust. Resiliency is strengthened by looking for opportunities to develop trust building behaviors, especially in times of crisis.


During the self-examination stage, there may be the temptation to slide into the “Why me?” mindset, so checking positivity is crucial. Barbara Fredrickson Ph.D., the author of Positivity, reports that resilient people acknowledge the bad in the worst situations but always find something good that can contribute to their personal growth.

3. Keep An Open Mind

After taking ownership and conducting self-examination, the resilient person’s mind is open and prepared to learn some valuable information regarding the setback. This requires using rational thinking and problem solving skills to separate facts from assumptions regarding the setback. The resilient person realizes that setbacks can be opportunities to make adjustments that lead to greater personal and professional success. They look “beyond” the setback and utilize the disruption as a stepping-stone for future success.

Mary Steinhardt’s research at Motorola revealed that employees using problem-focused coping in a constantly changing work environment are more resilient, have good relationships, and enjoy better health. In contrast, someone still traveling the “victim loop” continues to rationalize, avoids responsibility, doesn’t change, and feels helpless about recovering from life’s disruptions.

4. Take Action

The final step in the Growth Mind-Set cycle is to take action. Based upon the results of the prior three steps, a resilient person is now confident and knowledgeable enough to set some specific, measurable, achievable, and relevant goals for both the personal and professional aspects of life.

A turbulent, constantly changing environment is now a fact of life. Setbacks happen. However, resilient people make a choice when encountering a life disruption to learn from the experience, adapt, and become better.

The alternative is to blame others, deny reality, fight against the ongoing process of change, and stay stuck in the victim loop. The choice is resilience or resistance.


Jim Bauer has been helping organizations and individuals succeed in the workplace for 25 years. His areas of expertise include Resilient Leadership, Crucial Conversations, Resolution Conflict, Building Trust, Strategic Planning, and Systems Thinking. He is a lead instructor for the School of Extended Education at Brandman University.

Kathleen Wilson is currently the director of Leadership Programs and Corporate Training in the School of Extended Education at Brandman University. She has extensive experience working with adult learners and partnering with organizations of all sizes and types to design, develop, and deliver custom employee development programs.