Have you ever heard of, and perhaps even known, people of great intellect, education, or talent who never realized their full potential? Do you remember asking yourself, What ever became of ... ?

Well, in my work as a psychologist over the years, I've seen athletes, performers, business leaders, and students all of whom had great potential, but had failed to achieve. And in many instances, their failures to realize the success that their talents promised were due to a single factor: a lack of resilience.

Resilience may be thought of as the ability to "bounce back" in the wake of adversity, the ability to get up after being knocked down, the ability to overcome withering pressure, stress, or setbacks. For current and future leaders in business and industry developing resilience cannot only pave the way for future success, but can also be used as a competitive advantage! Sometimes the adage, "The last person standing wins!" is actually true.

After spending decades studying illness and dysfunction, I pivoted the focus of my research. Instead, I began trying to discover what seemed to promote health and success, especially in the wake of adversity. To do so, my colleagues and I interviewed and surveyed a wide range of people including CPAs, U.S. Navy SEALs, financial auditors, special weapons experts in law enforcement, professional athletes, government leaders, and survivors of catastrophic injuries.

To our surprise, the factors associated with resilience in Navy SEALs and special weapons experts were the same factors that predicted resilience in athletes and in survivors. Most importantly, we learned that these core factors could be learned. Of course, this means the sooner they're learned, the better ... but it also means it's never too late.


So what did we discover our core factors of resilience to be?

1. Active optimism

For resilient people, optimism is more than a belief — it's a mandate for change. It's the inclination to move forward when others are retreating. Optimists see failures as temporary setbacks that can serve as learning opportunities. Optimists see failures as exceptions to their rule that "Failure is never an option." This mandate for success can be so strong that it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. But to do so it must lead to our second factor ...

2. Decisive action

Optimism is not enough. You must be decisive and act in order to rebound. As journalist Clare Boothe Luce once observed, "Courage is the ladder on which all the other virtues mount." You must acquire the courage to make the difficult decisions no one else will make and this will help you to climb the ladder of success. Making hard decisions is easier when you are optimistic and when your decisions are based upon factor #3 ... ...

3. Moral compass

Use honor, integrity, fidelity, and ethical behavior to guide your decisions under challenging circumstances. Once your decisions have been implemented, employ ...

4. Tenacious determination

Persistence can be omnipotent. As comedian Jonathan Winters once quipped, "If your ship doesn't come, swim out to meet it!" Be persistent, while at the same time knowing when to advance in another direction. To find hidden opportunities and aid in physical and psychological energy, rely upon others for ...

5. Interpersonal support

Who has your back? On whom can depend? These are essential questions for tapping into your own strength. Resilience doesn't mean that you never require the support, care and positive energy of others.

According to international entrepreneur and author Margaret Heffernan, cooperation and social cohesion (not competition) are the factors within an organization that lead to the best results and the greatest successes. The Institute of Medicine in their 2013 report on workplace resilience noted that one of the factors that supports a ready and resilience workforce is "resilient leadership." Resilient leaders have the ability to create environments with a cooperative and cohesive energy.

It's never too late to start your practice of learning to bounce back from hardship. You can start right now.

Photo Credit: Stocksy

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