The global health crisis and recent geopolitical events have tested humanity's resilience, inspiring many amidst significant stress. Psychologists at Peoplewise have researched "positive resilience," emphasising not just coping but thriving. Supported by seven pillars—purposefulness, perspective, control, connectedness, growth, coping, and wellbeing—positive resilience enables effective navigation of challenges.

Positively resilient individuals face adversity like everyone else but excel through daily habits and intentional actions. Mastering these pillars allows individuals to navigate life’s challenges more effectively.

How can we more effectively manage the impact of adversity, challenge and stress?

The global health pandemic, along with recent geopolitical events, has tested the resilience of nearly every individual on this planet and has cast a light on our ability to cope with adversity without breaking. Many people who have faced personal and professional battles over this time have been inspired by stories of individual and collective ‘grit’ under unusually stressful conditions. Indeed, these stories of bending, and adapting but never breaking, provide solace that despite whatever life throws at us, we can cope.

So what lessons can be learned from those who braved unlikely odds and – through dogged determination and courage – survived to tell the tale? Sadly, very little if the moral of the story is simply to ‘dig deeper’.

The truth of the matter is that inspirational stories of resilience alone – with little or no guidance on how to cope in difficult situations without being overwhelmed – are unhelpful.

Simply knuckling down and ‘trying harder’ is not a sustainable remedy for surviving in an increasingly volatile, unpredictable, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) world. What’s more, merely surviving is not enough. Mental health statistics make sober reading for even the most positive policy-maker.

On the bright side

The narrative is not all doom and gloom, however. Over the last decade, psychologists at  Peoplewise have been researching resilience. In particular, we’ve focused on the difference between individuals who are negatively impacted by adversity, challenge and stress and those who actually reset and grow from it.

Empirical evidence shows that some people grow, develop and thrive when faced with adversity. We describe this as “bouncing forward” and have coined the term ‘positive resilience’ to represent this phenomenon.

We define positive resilience as “the science and practice of developing mastery over our ability to not just cope with disruption and challenges, but thrive and reach our full potential for happiness and success”.

What is positive resilience?

Our research and studies across hundreds of private- and public-sector organisations across the globe have identified seven pillars that underpin positive resilience.

These pillars are: purposefulness, perspective, control, connectedness, growth, coping and wellbeing.

They form the bedrock of positive resilience and differentiate those individuals among us with the ability to absorb the shock waves of disruption and challenge and thrive more effectively than most.

Positively resilient people aren’t superhuman. Nor do they conform to a mythical ‘faultless leader’ persona. Adversity, challenge and stress plague us all to varying degrees and at various points in our lives.

So, what’s the reason for the difference in terms of how severely adversity, challenge and stress impact on individuals? The answer lies in daily habits.  The good news is that positive resilience is easily obtainable when we are intentional. Each pillar of positive resilience is constructed by practising and mastering straightforward actions.

Building positive resilience

While selling the benefits of positive resilience is easy, resetting behaviour patterns is harder. Much harder.

© Peoplewise – 7 Pillars of Positive Resilience

But through small and practical actions that target each of the seven pillars, anyone can build their mastery over the twists and turns that life throws at us, no matter how challenging they may seem:


Characteristics: A strong vision for the future and a commitment to meet your goals; able to maintain the determination, tenacity and self-belief to achieve those goals;  has the self-belief and passion to strive for more.

Actions: Create meaningful and challenging goals for yourself, in both your personal and professional lives.

Benefits: Sustained effort, meaning for yourself and others, higher self-belief.


Characteristics:  Maintain a positive outlook; able to pinpoint the cause of your setbacks; deploy resources on the things that can controlled.

Actions:  When facing problems, don’t default to your usual way of thinking without weighing up alternatives and even making a plan.

Benefits: Quicker recovery from setbacks; more focus on things under your control.


Characteristics: Able to stay calm and focused under pressure; manages impulses and emotions in the moment; recovers quickly from setbacks.

Actions:  Stop and take a breath when something elicits negative emotions. The time you buy will help you regain your equilibrium so you’re able to respond rather than react.

Benefits: Staying calm under pressure, rational thinking, optimised performance.


Characteristics:  Builds and maintains positive relationships; finds belonging and identity through different roles (e.g. mother, colleague, volunteer, etc); gives and receive support.

Actions:  Diversify your social groups to enrich the support you give and receive.

Benefits: A richer sense of belonging and identity, give and receive more meaningful support.


Characteristics:  Positively engaged and challenged by your work; confident in your ability to cope and push yourself outside of your comfort zone; performs at your best most of the time.

Actions: See challenges as opportunities to learn from. Reflect upon the situation, then test out your reflections by putting your learning into practice.

Benefits:  Superior ability to grow from mistakes, the ability to see opportunity when the going gets tough.


Characteristics: Excited by challenge and adversity, seeing the chances to learn; reflects and learns from experiences; adapts based on past experiences.

Actions: Reach out to others for support, even if it means swallowing your pride.

Benefits:  Ability to use stress as energy to rise to challenges, added motivation to connect with others.


Characteristics: Engage in daily habits to maintain your physical and mental health and wellbeing; uses effective strategies to cope with pressure and uncertainty; maintain a satisfying work-life balance.

Actions:  Think about how you typically respond to stressful situations. Use a journal to identify the triggers of certain behaviours and what those behaviours are. Applying your increased awareness, begin to differentiate between unhelpful and helpful responses to minimise the former.

Benefits: More energy and psychological strength, enhanced stress management and ability to cope.

In today’s volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world, nobody can accurately predict the future. Nevertheless, the seven pillars of positive resilience offer a gold-standard framework for individuals to develop mastery over life’s trials and tribulations and support leaders to create healthy, thriving and high-performance workplaces.

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