How Do We Build Resilience?

By Justin Palazzo-Orr

More and more organisations are finding the need for resilience development programs for their staff. What is resilience? Who can be resilient? How do we develop resilience?


What is resilience?

The Oxford dictionary describes resilience as ‘the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.’[i] You can think of resilience like a fruit tree’s ability to blossom and fruit after a long winter.


Who has the capacity to be resilient?

The truth is, if you are reading this, you are already resilient. You have had the resilience to get through all of the challenges that life has thrown at you to this point. We all have the capacity to be resilient and to build on our existing resilience.


How do we build our resilience?  

Thinking about our fruit tree mentioned earlier there are a few steps to developing resilience.

The first step is knowing that winter is coming. Just as winter comes every year, challenging times are inevitable, and that’s ok. The most resilient people are those who expect and adapt to change and challenging times. In their book Great by Choice, Jim Collins and Morten Hansen use the term “productive paranoia.”[ii] The idea of being productively paranoid is to be prepared for challenging times and balancing that preparedness with being a fully functioning individual.


Ensure our fruit tree is well fed, watered and has some slow release fertiliser. Be sure to use the good times to build up your internal and external resources. There are a variety of resources which can help you get through challenging times. One of the most commonly suggested is building up your social networks. Build an orchard around you to help you get through the winter.


The next important step is the pruning. Ridding our lives of branches which are not going to contribute to supporting us through the winter, flower in spring, or fruit in summer means we save our valuable resources for those which will. The pruning phase can create discomfort but has the double advantage of providing us with more resources to face challenging times and, being a challenging event itself, will add to our resilience.  


Now you are prepared, you’ve built up your resources and stripped away parts of your life which will work against you, you are ready for winter. The first step in making it through the winter is remembering that it will pass. The mantra ‘this too shall pass’ is not just a cliché but a helpful fact to remember. Each day you get through is one day closer to spring. The next step is to tap into the resources you have built up in the good times. Use as many resources as you need to, but as few as you can get away with.


Once winter has passed, take the time to reflect on the challenge you have just made it through. Think about a challenging time which you have been through. How did you contribute to successfully making it through the challenge? Resilient people tend to take ownership of their own good fortune.[iii]


Just as the seasons come and go, so do our challenges. After we have made it through one challenge, and we have taken the time to reflect on it, we need to replenish our resources and begin to prepare for next winter.


APRG offers tailored Resilience Development Programs which can be delivered over a full day or as a series of workshops.

If you have any questions or concerns relating to your mental health, you should discuss them with your health professional.

Please call 07 3231 6500 to speak with Justin about the APRG Resilience Program and how you can strengthen your orchard.



[i] (Oxford University Press, 2018)

[ii] (Collins & Hansen, 2011)

[iii] (Seligman, 2006)