Studies in positive psychology have shown that resilience is one of the most important protective traits that will help you succeed in your career.

These studies show that overcoming adversity effectively is now considered an essential business skill for success.

Let’s see what the research says about overcoming adversity and how you can develop that skill.

Research on overcoming adversity

At the University of Michigan Center for Human Growth and Development, researchers discovered that pre-schoolers who experienced eight or more environmental risk factors, such as maternal mental illness, single parenthood, minority status, or stressful life events, scored more than 30 points lower on IQ tests than children who did not experience any risk factors.

The researchers also discovered that groups of children with strong resilience in high-risk circumstances regularly outperformed their classmates.

If overcoming adversity is critical for success, how do you develop resilience in yourself?

Overcoming adversity strategies

For most people, giving them a firm direction, regular rituals, and an emphasis on their abilities, while simultaneously challenging and supporting them, are strategies where they can develop resilience.

Protective factors, for those who are overcoming adversity on their own, may include independence, social skills, connections, self-esteem, and a feeling of purpose and competence. These people will become resilient on their own.

1. Relationships matter

High on the list of strategies to develop resilience is the importance of social competence among peers, supportive connections with others, opportunities for meaningful engagement, and high expectations. In other words, relationships do matter in developing resilience.

While good working habits are vital for cognitive and personal development, studies show that encouraging peers to interact amongst themselves may benefit not just social development but also emotional and cognitive growth.

Overcoming adversity with good relationships

It is equally important for parents, teachers, and supervisors to have a strong sense of optimism, as well as to comprehend and demonstrate social and emotional competence when they are helping others to develop resilience.

People are not born with a huge dose of resilience; it is something they must acquire, and if they are not acquiring it adequately, then parents, teachers, and supervisors must teach it to them.

2. Learning opportunities

At home and in schools, parents and teachers can play important roles in helping children learn in a good atmosphere. Similarly at the workplace, supervisors can help their staff learn and work in a good atmosphere.

They should demonstrate regularly their conviction that life is manageable and that mistakes are learning opportunities.

When people engage in self-defeating behaviors like acting out, bullying, clowning, or giving up, they may be disguising their emotions of despair, fragility, and poor self-esteem. By using rituals or respectful routines, as well as a safe atmosphere, you can prevent behaviors that distract from the caring environment at the workplace.

When meaningful opportunities and high expectations are combined, many people can acquire a sense of mastery by accomplishing small goals in a step-by-step progression in overcoming adversity. Creating a track record of personal progress and modest victories can result in fond memories and big dreams.

One study discovered that students in more difficult academic programs had significantly lower levels of depression. Student assessments of their abilities were a strong predictor of their academic achievement.

Greater objectives may also serve as a goal and incentive for them, providing them with a sense of meaning and purpose in their lives while also fostering optimism.

So, learn new skills when learning opportunities show up.

3. Resilience training

You can also develop resilience by attending resilience training.

Resilience training is a planned activity aimed at embracing and building a positive mindset and experience in stressful and difficult situations. This is done by training your attention to focus on certain areas of a task and finding and utilizing your abilities to overcome those obstacles.

Studies have found that resilience training can improve personal resilience. This form of training can develop mental health and well-being, enhance psychosocial functioning, and improve performance (Robertson et al.).

Other studies have shown that you can reshape your views to interpret adversities in a more positive and resilient manner and overcome them (Luthar, et al.)

Check out the resilience training in our resilience workshop.

4. Character strengths

In 2004, psychologists Christopher Peterson and Martin Seligman published their landmark text Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification. This text is the culmination of a 3-year study by 55 social scientists on the nature of the positive character. Many psychologists and consultants are now using this text to help their clients develop their character strengths.

According to the research, people who use their character strengths can enhance their lives and prosper. They are able to use their character strengths to manage difficult situations thereby overcoming adversity (Niemiec).

You can find out which are your character strengths at the VIA Institute (website), and how to use them at your workplace.


You have now read something that pertains to people. Implementing it is the next step. How might you enhance what you presently do that corresponds to the phases outlined above?

This isn’t a frivolous pursuit: it’s all about overcoming adversity and how it can affect your life.

Take note of what the study indicates and put them into practice.

So, start:
1. Building relationships that will help you during times of adversity
2. Learning new skills that enrich your life
3. Taking part in resilience training
4. Using your character strengths to help you through difficult times.

Watch this TED Talk video where Lucy Hone talks about her resilience strategies.


  • Luthar, S., Cicchetti, D., Becker, B. “The Construct of Resilience: A Critical Evaluation and Guidelines for Future Work”. Child Development, vol. 71, no. 3, 2000, pp. 5443-562.
  • Niemiec, R. Character Strength Interventions: A Field-Guide for Practitioners. Boston, Hogrefe, 2018.
  • Peterson, C. & Seligman, M. P. Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification. Oxford University Press, American Psychological Association, 2004.
  • Robertson, I., Cooper, C., Sarkar, M., Curran, T. “Resilience Training in the Workplace from 2003 to 2014”. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, vol. 88, no. 3, 2015, pp. 533-562.