How Successful Are You? Answer: How Resilient Are You?

This post by Jan Bruce, CEO and co-founder of meQuilibrium, first appeared on

Frankly, I think Resilience as a life skill is highly  under appreciated so  kudos to Nancy Koehn for her attention to Lincoln’s resilience as having served him and our nation well in her article, The Lincoln School of Management, New York Times, 1/26/2013. Resilience is generally understood as a person’s ability to bounce back and apply patience and tenacity toward achieving one’s goals and as such it is often cited as  a key characteristic of success not only in business and entrepreneurship. I believe it is also a valuable and accurate predictor of success not just in business but in our personal lives.

As a CEO in the field of behavior change I have a ringside view into how resilience traits can predict how people will fare under periods of adversity and duress, but also how these can help people have a better overall experience in daily life—at home and at work.   Here are the seven characteristics of resilience as defined by my colleague, Dr. Andrew Shatte, Chief Science Officer, meQuilibrium:

 1. Emotion Regulation: the ability to control one’s emotion and maintain calm under adversity.

2. Impulse Control:
the capacity to moderate your behavior when you’re experiencing challenges so you don’t burn bridges.

3. Causal Analysis:
being able to look at all the causes of a particular problem and work out what you can control and what you can’t, so you can funnel energy into what you can change and forgive what you can’t.

4. Self-Efficacy:
a belief in yourself that you are competent and reliable. Or: the belief that you can solve problems and succeed.

5. Realistic Optimism:
the ability to be optimistic to the extent that your reality allows.

6. Empathy:
understanding what motivates other people, what they think and feel, and being able to put yourself in their shoes.

7. Reaching out:
a willingness and ability to take on opportunities that come your way.

It’s easy to understand how the skills of Emotion Regulation and Impulse Control can be essential to people who face customers all day, and how Empathy can factor into the talents of people who build and nurture long term relationships in business. Casual Analysis and Self-Efficacy, are also highly important as these help passionate people take that ‘dose of reality’ into consideration, allow them to adjust from the feedback they get, re-tool and hopefully strengthen their chances of success. Finally, Optimism carries us through the inevitable rejections of forging new ground and helps us take the longer view. We often say that entrepreneurs and successful business people are resilient, by which we mean  that they are able to stay focused on their goals, take the long view and keep plugging away amidst adversity and set back. In fact, I don’t think it’s the steadfast focus on goals, and unwavering perseverance that signals resilience; rather it’s the ability to read the situation, adapt to empirical evidence of what is and is not working, and then tack to get to your destination.  I’d argue resilience is in knowing when to push for success, when to hold on, when to cut and run. Lastly, resilience also hinges on a person’s ability to work with others and have them support your goals. Lincoln clearly had many of these traits nailed. How about you?