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How to develop a resilient mindset: Recovering from setbacks

July 11, 2022 - 13 min read


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What is a resilient mindset?

How to build a resilient mindset

Choosing courage over comfort: The fundamental resilient trait

Start by letting go of control

Yes, you can learn resilience. But you'll have to work

Rest to be resilient

Resilience: A lifetime journey

Picture this scenario: You hyped yourself up for your first day at a new job, leaving your home with plenty of time, a bag packed the night before, and a big smile. 

Then things took a turn when you missed your bus, broke your new laptop, and felt overwhelmed by the new office.

In this kind of new and difficult situation, it would be easy to crumble in the face of adversity. But if you have a resilient mindset you’ll avoid a meltdown.

When you learn how to build resilience, you'll see how to rise above the obstacles you encounter. With effort and hard work, you can develop a mindset that empowers you to take on challenges, adapt to new situations, and see the value in continuous growth. 

Here’s how to get started developing a resilient mindset.


What is a resilient mindset?

Resilience is the process of adapting to difficult situations that you’ll naturally encounter throughout your life. Here’s why resilience is important: it allows you to recover from challenges, setbacks, and other stressors and move forward

People with a resilient mindset see challenges as opportunities to learn new things, not a moment of failure. Being resilient means carrying an awareness of your strengths and weaknesses. 

Your mindset affects how you approach achieving goals and moving forward. One option is a fixed mindset that tells us that we can't improve. Or, you can have a growth mindset and understand that you can learn with practice, effort, and determination.

Resiliency demands a growth mindset and its positive thinking benefits.

If you have a fixed mindset right now, you can always level up to a growth mindset. At BetterUp, our coaches can provide the guidance you need to believe in yourself, set goals, and take advantage of learning opportunities to help you in the future.

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How to build a resilient mindset

You can't sprinkle resilience into your next meal and have a resilient mindset. But there are several key ingredients. BetterUp research has found that five key factors impact how you grow and strengthen your resilience

But there's no need to stop at five. You can use many strategies to build a resilient mindset that supports your well-being and helps you overcome challenges. You can learn to embrace what helps you the most at your own pace.

Check out these eight tips to help you learn how to build a resilient mindset:

1. Deepen your self-awareness: Check in with your thoughts, emotions, and how your body feels as you encounter stress. This helps you identify your strengths and weakness. Strengthen your self-awareness by doing mindfulness practices like meditation or deep breathing.

2. Flex your cognitive agility skills: Your cognitive agility helps you adapt your thought processes for the better. Next time you find that one way of doing something isn't working, try a new process. You might learn that this method works the best. 

3. Develop connections with others: Research shows people with more social relationships have better physical and mental health. Plus, they handle stress better. Make an effort to check in with loved ones in-person or send a quick message over social media. These small steps will strengthen your connections and improve your social health.


4. Work on your emotional regulation: Remaining calm and collected in the face of adversity is important. You think more clearly about your actions when you're in tune with your emotions. You can do this by journaling and reflecting each night.

5. Strengthen your self-compassion: Perhaps you're experiencing job search depression and having a tough time or struggling to get ahead at work. Being compassionate with yourself is important for continuing to work hard and problem-solve. Next time you're hard on yourself, try to remind yourself of things you should be proud of instead. 

6. Remain optimistic: Stressors and setbacks might make you dwell on the negatives. Acknowledge that, then shift your thoughts to more positive thinking. Try to use more positive self-talk to drown out your inner critic.

7. Zero in on your purpose: Reminding yourself of your purpose and what you want to achieve can propel you to set goals and work to achieve them. Think about your values. Try going on a journey of self-discovery to find what makes your life meaningful.

8. Build up your self-efficacy: Whatever events or stages of life you experience, you can be in control over how you act. Plus, you can be confident about it too. Practice your self-efficacy by making lists of things you can control and influence, along with items outside of your control.

Choosing courage over comfort: The fundamental resilient trait

Resilience isn't a card that automatically relieves you of all challenges. Instead, it demands you leave your comfort zone to face them head-on. It can be scary, filled with uncertainty, and make us question ourselves. But it’s also how you grow. 

So how does resilience improve mental health? Well, research has found plenty of evidence that traits of resilience help influence positive mental health characteristics, like optimism, self-esteem, and self-efficacy.

These things help you develop the skills to confront challenges and overcome what's negatively impacting your day-to-day life, like stress or insomnia.

Resilience is crucial to supporting your mental health, but sometimes, you'll need assistance to build it up. If resilience sounds entirely unachievable, you may want to consider seeking support from a mental health professional to get help changing your mindset. 

Either way, it's OK to be afraid. We're all apprehensive about failure at some point. Life's full of challenges. But to properly care for your wellness and health, it’s important to be brave and confront those nerves.

Start by letting go of control


Resilience is a big skill to develop. It’s not always easy to know where to start. By building a resilient mindset, you’ll become better at letting go of things you can't control.

There will be things we can't control. Things like lousy weather, misunderstandings, or heavy traffic are inevitable. But learning how to cultivate an agile mindset will help with your growth and boost your resilience.

Studies have found that resilient people can better deal with and let go of negative emotions and memories. They take healthy measures to balance out their well-being and think with a clearer mind. Holding onto negative feelings or stressors that they have no control over will only consume them.

Letting things go is also a form of self-care. It books your mental health and helps you live in the present moment. Instead of fretting over things you can't influence, resilience allows you to devote your energy to more important things.

Yes, you can learn resilience. But you'll have to work

There's no question that resilience can be learned — but not in a single night. Resilience demands plenty of dedication and what we call Mental Fitness. Mental Fitness is the practice of getting a bit better each day. It prioritizes prevention, purpose, goal-setting, and growth. 

Sustained effort is key to building resilience. A few other habits that’ll aid you as you develop and test your resilience: 

  • Practicing compassion for yourself and others 
  • Having a positive attitude


  • Setting realistic goals 
  • Not backing down from challenges 

Rest to be resilient

Your resilience might have you taking on lots of work and moving fast. Don’t neglect your rest even as you aim to overcome all of your challenges.  And we don’t just mean getting enough sleep.

Rest before you feel like you're in dire need of it to avoid burnout. Don't let yourself become so exhausted that your mental health begins to suffer.

Rest can look different for everyone, and it can be mental or physical. Whatever you can do that helps rest both your mind and body are what matters.

Here's a quick tip to get ahead: schedule your rest. Set the intention and hold yourself accountable by muting Slack, taking a day off, and doing something you love. Finding time for yourself is tricky when life is busy, but this is an investment in your health and well-being.


Resilience: A lifetime journey

Growing a resilient mindset is certainly going to test you. Building resilience is a constant task. Throughout every stage in your life, you'll encounter new stressors, testing your resilience. 

But you can do this. Amidst uncertainty, you can create resilience and benefit from it. Just make sure to focus on your Mental Fitness, rest, and be open to new learning opportunities. 

Your resilient mindset will be a supportive, empowering companion as you work to overcome the obstacles.

Find someone who'll support you as you develop your resilient mindset. At BetterUp, our coaches can provide guidance, plus accountability to ensure you reach every goal you set your sights on.

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Published July 11, 2022

Shonna Waters, PhD

Vice President of Alliance Solutions

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