Can we learn to become more resilient?

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Can we learn to become more resilient?

Practicing Resilience: Hinchinbrook Island. April 1997...

We can easily understand the concept of resilience, but to truly become resilient, it must be practiced….

It happened again last week. Following my keynote presentation in northern Idaho for a healthcare group, a gentleman approached me as I made my way to the book-signing table:

“What I heard throughout your talk tonight seemed primarily based on resilience. Do you think that is something that can be taught?”

There it was again. The “R” word.

Here’s the deal when it comes to resilience:

No, you can’t learn to become more resilient.
Sure, you can get a better understanding of the concept of resilience by studying it. But you can study it as much as you like; that alone won’t make you more resilient.

To become more resilient, you practice resilience.


Like this:

You don’t feel like going to the gym, so you don’t go. Will this make you more resilient to the weight of the weights on your next visit? No, absolutely not. Lifting weights is all about becoming more resilient.
So when faced with the decision of whether or not to go to the gym, a person practicing resilience goes.

Your boss has this annoying habit of asking you to submit reports in the form of an excel spreadsheet.
You hate excel….
You’re not very good at it.
So when he hands it back to you every time for the mistakes to be corrected, you fume inside, all bent out of shape on what a pedantic, demanding, $%@#*%*@ he is…
Hint: This is not leading you towards resilience…
What if you decided that it wasn’t good enough to be lacking in this skill, and took it upon yourself to increase your skill level with excel?
What if you turned yourself into an excel superstar so that you became the go-to person on your team when it came to spreadsheets?
Would that make you more, or less valuable?
Would that make you more, or less resilient in terms of weathering a storm in which people are being let go?

You become more resilient through each and every decision you make, and each and every action you take. It’s got nothing to do with what you know, and everything to do with what you do…

Simple? Yes.
Easy? No.

If this is something you could use some help with, you might want to check out my Solution Revolution. It’s the system I use to get through challenges that come my way, which of course leads me to becoming more resilient. It might you do the same for you too.

Warren Macdonald
Warren Macdonald

One catastrophic moment redefined Warren’s life in April 1997 with a freak rock fall on a remote Australian island that left him pinned under a one-ton boulder. For two days he lay trapped and alone, surviving the ordeal only to lose both legs at mid thigh.

Doctors told him he’d never walk again. Warren’s response: “I don’t recall them saying anything about cycling, kayaking, or climbing mountains…” Just ten months later he scaled Cradle Mountain, and in February 2003 Warren became the first double above-knee amputee to reach the summit of Africa’s tallest peak, Mt Kilimanjaro.

Born in Melbourne, Australia; Warren lives in Canmore, Alberta (an hour from Calgary, 20 minutes from Banff National Park) in the Canadian Rockies with his partner Margo.


  1. Mike says:

    I have a war on the idea of resilience. It’s a concept sold by the life coaching, self-help ‘gurus’ who love making false claims. I have bipolar disorder, and it makes me angry when people are suggesting I can just grow stronger.

    I’ve learned all the resilient tricks in the book, and it never helps me avoid a bipolar crash.

    • Warren Macdonald Warren Macdonald says:

      Hey Mike, thanks for stopping by.
      While I don’t agree that resilience can’t be learnt, or rather practiced, I’ve never had to deal with bipolar; so I don’t have that lens to see it through.
      Neither, I’m guessing, do the folks telling you you just need to be stronger.
      That being said, I absolutely agree with the practice of practising resilience.
      Because even though you say you can’t stop the crash now, does that mean you won’t be able to stop it in the future?
      Or lessen the effect?
      I don’t know, but I see only two options:
      1/ Accept that you can’t change it, and do nothing.
      2/ Practice anyway, regardless of the outcome.

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