The Importance of: Resilience

Our character curriculum is centred on building four key character strengths discussed in relation to human flourishing and success since the times of Classical Greek Philosophy: resilience, self-control, good judgement and fairness. Why do we focus on these strengths? This series, called “The importance of”, explores the importance of each of these four topics.

Being resilient means being able to ‘bounce back’ when something challenging happens in our lives. To pick ourselves up and continue walking after being struck down.

Resilience and well-being

In difficult times, it can be hard to stay positive and find our balance. Being resilient enables us to protect ourselves from getting too overwhelmed by stress, predicts well-being, and can protect us from developing mental health difficulties (Mak et al., 2011).

Resilience and positive emotions also promote physical health, including cardiovascular health, better immunity and better sleep quality (Tugade, Fredrickson, & Barrett, 2004). Resilience facilitate healthy behaviour and also support health-promoting practice, for example by reducing the risk of excessive drinking, smoking or drug use, which predicts better health in the future.

Resilience and achievement

Thomas Edison is said to have made thousands of lightbulbs that didn’t work before he managed to invent a lightbulb that worked. While many would struggle with this constant failure, he chose to have a different perspective:

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” ― Thomas A. Edison

Edison is also famously known for saying that 99% of genius is persistence despite obstacles. Indeed, demonstrating commitment and perseverance in the pursuit of long-term goals is key to succeeding academically and in jobs.

This requires commitment and seeing challenges as opportunities, not as threats. Research by the Intrinsic Institute from 2017 found that having the perseverance to complete goals and ability to bounce back from setbacks highly correlates with student grades (Davidson, 2017), and the work of Angela Duckworth suggests that this ability is more significant than talent or intelligence in terms of academic achievement (Duckworth & Seligman, 2005; Dweck, Walton, & Cohen, 2014).

Resilience and other character strengths

Self-efficacy: One of the components of resilience is believing that you have control over your life. That you can grow, you can improve in your abilities, succeed in tasks you set for yourself and learn from your mistakes.

Emotional self-awareness: Resilience is also related to emotional awareness. In order to bounce back and recover from a challenging period, we need to understand and process our initial emotional reaction to what is happening. This is part of what helps protect us from developing mental health difficulties.


Davidson, B. (2017). What Predicts Academic Performance? The Creativity Post. Retrieved from:

Duckworth, A. L., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2005). Self-discipline outdoes IQ in predicting academic performance of adolescents. Psychological Science, 16, 939–44.

Dweck, C., Walton, G. M., & Cohen, G. L. (2014). Academic tenacity: Mindsets and skills that promote long-term learning. Seattle, WA: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Retrieved from: 

Mak, W. W. S., Ng, I. S. W., & Wong, C. C. Y. (2011). Resilience: Enhancing well-being through the positive cognitive triad. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 58(4), 610-617.

Tugade, M. M., Fredrickson, B. L., & Feldman Barrett, L. (2004). Psychological resilience and positive emotional granularity: Examining the benefits of positive emotions on coping and health. Journal of personality72(6), 1161-1190.