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Endurance vs. resilience: Balancing success with your well-being

September 16, 2022 - 16 min read


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The difference between endurance and resilience

Is endurance better than strength and resilience?

Endurance vs. resilience training

The role of work-life balance and resilience

A balance for a better level of resilience

The cost of success shouldn’t be burnout

Success is about being at your best

Good things take time. Whether you’re training for the Olympics, saving for a house, or moving your business to New York, you’re committing to ambitious multi-year goals

And, in your pursuits, you’ll inevitably encounter tough times. You’ll experience moments where nothing seems to be going your way, as if the world is conspiring against you. 

In these moments, it’s easy to feel trapped between two options: quit or endure. 

On the one hand, quitting isn’t inherently bad — sometimes, it’s necessary for your wellness. In fact, 1 in 4 American workers quit their jobs for mental health reasons, according to a recent poll.

On the other hand, you can endure until you reach your goal. You do run the risk of harming your physical and mental health, as chronic stress takes a toll and can potentially lead to burnout.

But this kind of binary thinking will likely exacerbate your woes. Instead, let’s look at a third option: developing your resilience.

Endurance might seem like the more noble path forward. But resilience encourages you to develop your elasticity in tandem with your well-being

Let’s take a look at the differences between endurance vs resilience. Once you’re aware of how they fit in your life, you can decide how to stay motivated — or not — to meet your goals.


The difference between endurance and resilience

Let’s start with some basic definitions:

  • Endurance refers to your stamina and persistence over a long period of time
  • Resilience refers to your strength and ability to recover from misfortune

Both concepts are related to how you deal with difficulty. If you walk down a path uninterrupted, you’ll start to feel tired. Endurance is your push to keep going, despite the fatigue.

Now, let’s say you walk down that same path and encounter a fence. Resilience is your capacity to 1) hop the fence and 2) rest and recover before continuing down the path.

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Is endurance better than strength and resilience?

So, which is better: endurance or strength and resilience?

In the world of long work hours and results-oriented offices, resilience wins out as the more desirable personality trait. In fact, it was one of the top soft skills valued by employers in 2021. That’s because resilient people tend to:

  • Be more optimistic. They stay positive about the future, even when faced with difficult situations. This, in turn, leads to better problem-solving.
  • Generously give their time and energy. They lend a hand when others are feeling overwhelmed and need to de-stress.
  • Make decisions based on their values. They have a strong moral compass and beliefs about right and wrong.
  • Mentor and coach others. They’re usually great role models and resources for guidance.
  • Have strong support networks. They understand their own limits and ask for help when needed — and people are willing to provide it.
  • Step out of their comfort zone. They’re more willing to confront their fears and try new things because they understand it will help them grow.


Compared to endurance, resilience is a more sustainable way of working — especially if you hope for long-term success. It gives you tools to cope with adversity.

Endurance, on the other hand, encourages you to power through without taking time to rest, which can have serious health consequences.

Let’s use the gym as an example. There’s a reason people have “leg days” and “arm days” for their weight-lifting exercises. Your muscle groups need time to rest in between sessions. Otherwise, you risk muscle sprains, tendonitis, stress fractures, and chronic joint pain.

It’s a similar story for your mental health. If you push through without resting, you open yourself up to chronic stress. If left untreated, this can also lead to negative health symptoms like:

Endurance vs. resilience training

When deciding where to put your energy, you would do well to build resilience. It’s a healthier way to deal with the stresses of work and will serve you better in the long run.


Here’s what you can do to build a resilient mindset and hone this skill:

  1. Look at things as they really are. It’s easy to become emotional or overwhelmed when you encounter adversity. Learn to detach and observe the situation objectively. This will help you determine the best course of action.
  2. Turn negative thoughts into positive ones. If you don’t believe a situation will work out, you’re probably right. Flip the script and welcome positivity into your life. A better attitude doesn’t guarantee success, but it does make life easier.
  3. Get physical. Exercise has proven mental health benefits. It gives you more physical energy while boosting your mood and reducing the risk of anxiety, depression, and mental exhaustion/burnout.
  4. Adjust your expectations. If you think you’re entitled to a positive outcome, you’re only setting yourself for disappointment. Let go of preconceived notions and learn to accept any end result.
  5. Focus on what you can control. There’s no use dwelling on things you can’t change. When you focus only on what’s within your control, you’ll feel empowered to overcome anything.
  6. Slow down to speed up. When you can, take a moment to rest. This gives you time to reflect, check in with yourself, and replenish your energy to bounce back after a difficult period.

BetterUp can help you improve your resilience. Through one-on-one sessions with our coaches, we can go over your strengths, weaknesses, and work habits. Together we’ll find how you can thrive in any situation.

The role of work-life balance and resilience

One of the easiest ways to improve your resilience is to improve your work-life balance. This means making time for your hobbies, interests, and connections outside of work. Here are some of the benefits of striking the right balance:


  • More energy. If you’re constantly working hard, it’ll eventually affect your focus and productivity. Finding time for other interests can help you recharge.
  • Better relationships. It also lets you foster the relationships that matter most in your life. Whether it’s your friends, family, or romantic partner, these are the people who make up your support system.
  • Higher productivity. How can less time at work lead to more productivity? Turns out, you’re rarely productive every waking hour at work. In fact, your productivity falls sharply after a 50-hour workweek and keeps dropping with every extra hour worked. Remember: high-quality, late work is better than sloppy, on-time work.

All of these benefits tie into improved resilience in life and at work. Better work-life balance helps you feel more confident that you can overcome it.

A balance for a better level of resilience

Finding time for self-care can feel impossible when you’re used to extra-long work weeks. Here are some tips that can help:

  • Take breaks throughout the day. Try making time for stretches, mindful breathing, or a simple cup of tea. Even a 30-second microbreak can help improve concentration, reduce stress, and make work feel more enjoyable.
  • Eat lunch. You have a lunch break for a reason. Use it! It’s a good way to relax, connect with colleagues, and refuel after a stressful morning. When you get back to your desk, you’ll feel refreshed. Plus, mindful eating and nutritious meals will help boost your concentration and productivity. 
  • Be flexible. Does your organization have flexible work hours? Take advantage of them. Sleep in on slow days and work longer when it’s busy. It’ll balance out in the end. 
  • Set boundaries at home. Home can be as much a stressor as work sometimes — especially if your spare room doubles as an office. Communicate with your loved ones or roommates to truly have an evening off, and with your team when you need a break.
    People don’t need to have unlimited access to you, even if the COVID-19 pandemic and work-from-home made that feel like the new normal.

The cost of success shouldn’t be burnout

At the end of the day, resilience is meant to curb the negative effects of endurance. Your natural tendency to power through can have serious consequences if left untamed.


These symptoms of burnout are signs you’ve endured too much:

  • Every day is a bad day
  • Constant fatigue
  • Feelings of helplessness and defeat
  • Loss of motivation
  • Chronic cynicism and negativity
  • Decreased sense of accomplishment
  • Chronic loneliness
  • Change in sleep habits
  • Lowered immunity/frequent illnesses

If left untreated, these symptoms can lead to depression and anxiety. Reach out to a mental health professional if you’re struggling to cope. You may also consider requesting stress leave.

Success is about being at your best

It’s tempting to gather your willpower, put your head down, and clench your teeth through adversity. But if you don’t take care of yourself, you’ll flame out or fade out before you achieve your goals. Or, you'll be unable to celebrate and appreciate when you succeed.

That’s why it's important to proactively protect and maintain your well-being while you’re pursuing goals. No matter your goal or personal experiences, your health isn’t worth sacrificing.

Understanding the difference between endurance vs. resilience is a step in the right direction. If you want to develop self-awareness and resilience and build a foundation for life, consider working with BetterUp. Our coaches are here to help you become the best version of yourself, whatever challenges life serves up.

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Published September 16, 2022

Maggie Wooll

Managing Editor

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