What is resilience?

Written byHelen Soutar

Helen is a strategist who specializes in Resilience. Mum to Harry and Kit who are both rapidly reaching the stage of looking down to her, she spends her days home educating and then escaping to her studio in the garden to work

15th July 2020

What is resilience?


Google resilience and you’ll get over 200 million results, 165 million if you add ‘define’.  The most common definitions talk about being able to recover quickly from difficulties, to bounce-back. 

The more you read though, the more confusing it gets.  Resilience seems to be this vague, ethereal quality that we can all apparently learn or develop but there is a distinct absence of instructions on how we should actually do that.

The definition I use is based on the one above with the addition of recognising that resilience and resilient are two different things.

Resilient:  a state of being where we are able to adapt easily to change;

Resilience: the toolkit of skills we use to be resilient.

Adapting to change is something we all have to learn how to do.


As the Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, “Change is the only constant in life”.

Whether you are starting a business or a family, planning to travel the world or wanting to put down more roots, change is our constant companion.

I’ve always been a planner.  At 16, I knew how my life was going to look for the next 10 years – I had all the key elements mapped out and scheduled in.  I’d complete my A levels, go to university, get a job then have children.  There were a few alterations along the way – after finishing my A levels, I couldn’t face more academic study so went to work in financial services instead.  I got pregnant at 18 and married at 19.  These were only minor reorganisations though and I wasn’t thrown off course.  I started university at 21 and looked forward to the year I’d graduate just as my son started school.  I knew when I’d start trying for babies number 2 and 3.

And then my husband walked out.

I was 21, just a few days before I was due to sit my year end exams and with a 2 year old son.  Aside from the usual practical challenges, I felt like my world had spun off its axis.  The loss of not just my relationship, or my son’s father as a daily fixture in his life, but all my plans, the expectations of how my life was going to pan out just disappeared.

I’m 14 years down the line now and change is my old friend.

Whether the changes we are facing are positive or negative, joyful or challenging, there are 5 key skills that I find crop up time and time again.

Filling Your Well

Making sure you have enough reserves to function day to day – this often starts with sleep but can also include time alone or with others, love, affection, creativity, fun and so on

Self Care

Looking at the bigger picture of your life and implementing changes which will take closer to your ideal version.  Main focus on goals, overall wellbeing and responsibilities.

Old Scripts

Identifying, acknowledging and then questioning those (usually long ago) judgments made about us which we’ve accepted as truth and which now influence our behaviour


Recognising and articulating exactly how you are feeling and what you are needing to resolve a situation.  Being able to communicate that without resorting to blame.


Knowing when, and how, to say no to ensure you are not pushed to your limits and end up doing things you don’t want to do or hiding yourself away in your safe space all the time.


When you master these skills, dealing with change becomes so much easier!  It doesn’t mean it wont catch you off guard, or make you feel sad or scared or worried…but it does mean you have something to turn to when it does.  You have tools you can use to soothe yourself, to resolve conflicts, to keep you safe.

If change is the one constant in life, becoming more resilient is an essential skill for all of us.


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