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How do we move forward from disaster? In light of the natural disasters that have devastated populations around the globe of late, as well as the anniversary of 11 September here in the United States, I have found myself thinking about how people and communities recover from traumatic events.

I looked back on articles about the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami — one shortly after and the other 10 years later — and there were two themes running through them: resilience and adaptability. The stories were both heart-wrenching and inspiring.

So what is resilience? The American Psychological Association’s brochure,  “The Road to Resilience,” defines it as “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress.” Some people are more naturally inclined toward resilience than others, and the strength seems to be related to having a strong internal locus of control. But more importantly, resilience is not a personality trait or a quality people either have or don’t have. There are ways to cultivate it.

This is excellent news considering the VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) world we live in. We all require resilience at some point, although I hope not to deal with the kinds of disasters I’ve been talking about. While it is difficult to compare, and I don’t mean to suggest equality in scale, I would be remiss not to point out that modern careers require resilience, too.

So, what can we do to develop resilience? Here are two factors that are most commonly identified as important:


  • Social connectedness. Personally and professionally, the people you surround yourself with are essential to your success. Build a robust network before you need it. And do so by staying in touch, assisting others whenever you can, and asking for help when you need it.
  • Flexible thinking or mental agility. Shift the way you see a situation and be open to finding opportunities and “the bright side.” This allows you to adapt more quickly to new realities. Practice mindfulness and journaling. Dedicate some time on a regular basis to reflecting on lessons learned and identifying the things you are most grateful for. This will facilitate more flexible thinking.

More Reading on Resilience

Pieces on Leadership and Leadership Skills 

Here are Some “Lighter Side” Links to Peruse    

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All posts are the opinion of the author. As such, they should not be construed as investment advice, nor do the opinions expressed necessarily reflect the views of CFA Institute or the author’s employer.


Julia VanDeren

Julia VanDeren, manager, career services at CFA Institute, serves as the subject matter expert in career management skills, curating and developing career resources for members and program candidates. Previously, she served CFA Institute as career services representative, managing the CFA Institute JobLine (now Career Center) and Career Centre (now Career Tools) resources. VanDeren holds a BA from the University of Virginia and an MPA from Virginia Commonwealth University.

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