Building Personal Resilience to Effectively Respond to Adversity

We’ve all faced adversity at some point in our career. Maybe you’ve lost a job, or your project’s budget was cut. Or perhaps you worked for a horrible boss. Factor in an unprecedented pandemic and an uncertain economy and chances are, you’re no stranger to adversity.

While we can’t avoid having bad things happen, we can improve the way we deal with them. 


What is Adversity Quotient and Why Does it Matter?

Your Adversity Quotient (or, AQ) is your hardwired pattern of response to all forms and magnitudes of adversity. The adversity can be internal or external, and can range from everyday struggles to major life events. AQ is a useful predictor of attitude, mental  stress, perseverance,  learning, and response to changes. 

AQ scores range from a low of 40 to a high of 200, with the vast majority of people falling within the moderate (118-177) range. People with a high AQ score tend to be more resilient in the face of adversity, and more likely to find ways to innovate and solve for the challenges they’re facing.

Those with a lower AQ are more likely to feel overwhelmed or helpless and tend to give up easily when facing adversity.


The Human Response to Adversity

While everyone will face adversity in their personal and professional life, how people handle the adversity differs. 

Paul Stoltz, Ph.D., president and CEO of PEAK Learning, Inc., and author of Adversity Quotient at Work, divides the workplace into three groups of people: Quitters, Campers and Climbers.

The biggest characteristic of Quitters is they have mentally given up. They respond to adversity as if they have little, if any, control over the situation. They often deflect ownership of the problem and point the finger elsewhere. Quitters are overwhelmed easily and dwell on the adversity longer than necessary. 

Campers, for the most part, have a reasonable sense of control. Adversity can wear them down over an extended period of time, but they generally exhibit a good level of hope and faith. They, too, may resort to blaming others during times of high stress, but they bounce back fairly easily.

Climbers are best equipped to handle adversity. They never stop growing and learning. One of the key differentiators of a climber is they take immediate ownership over what they can control and begin to take action. Climbers are more apt to focus on solutions and how they can improve the situation rather than placing blame. Perhaps most importantly, climbers believe they can positively influence the adverse situation. 

Do you consider yourself a Quitter, Camper, or Climber? How would others describe you? 


Cultivating Resilience

Psychologists define resilience as the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress. During times of crisis our inability to regulate our attention at work and to fall into a pattern of negative thinking is exacerbated. When we are in this state, fear can cloud our vision, we tend to pull away from people, and our ability to see the bigger picture and find positive or creative possibilities becomes more difficult.    

The good news is, no matter how you’re hardwired to respond to adversity (high or low AQ,) you can cultivate some of the characteristics of highly resilient people and make a conscious decision to practice exercising resilience everyday. 

Highly resilient people generally tend to embrace change as an opportunity, respond intentionally rather than react emotionally, perceive bad times as temporary, and focus immediately on what they can control. Of course, those tendencies help shape the kinds of perspectives and behaviors that yield more positive results. 

Here are some simple, but not necessarily easy, habits you can practice in order to cultivate your own resilience:

  • Focus on calming and clearing your mind 
  • Refuse to get overly upset by the little things 
  • Remain calm when someone treats you disrespectfully 
  • Manage stress proactively 
  • Practice generosity and help someone else
  • Intentionally & deliberately find the good



While some of your innate responses to adversity are hard-wired, it is possible to intentionally cultivate resilience and improve how well you deal with adversities both big and small. In the context of our current business environment, that skillset is more important and more beneficial than ever. As difficult as our current reality may be, it is also an opportunity to cultivate our resilience. 

The next time you start to get distracted and fall into a negative thinking loop, challenge yourself to start practicing these habits, and please let us know how it’s going!

Would you like a customized online training delivered to your team on Building Personal and Team Resilience to Effectively Respond to Adversity? Click here to learn more.

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