How we train our inner resistance and strengthen our motivation

What makes people resilient? Why do some people manage to react calmly and flexibly to crises and break new ground with a positive attitude? What do these people do that others do not?

Examples inspire reflection

Recently I saw a mountaineering film that accompanies two American climbers on their 19 day climb up the 1000m Dawn Wall of El Capitan in California’s Yosemite National Park. What impressed me was not only the enormous will and the consistent pursuit of a goal of the two climbers, but also their biography. One of the climbers was kidnapped by rebels in Kyrgyzstan when he was 22 years old, fled, lost an index finger a few years later and then had to cope with the end of his marriage. Although his environment tried to convince him that his career as a climber was at an end for psychological and physical reasons, he expanded his resources, developed a new climbing technique, and worked with discipline and an unshakable conviction that he could make it, to realize his dream.

Although this is an example of an extreme sportsman with great mental strength, it vividly illustrates the central aspects of resilience in its importance as mental resistance:

  • Resistance: actively facing the challenges of life
  • Psychologically: believe in yourself and trust your own strengths and competencies
  • Power: consciously directing your own energy towards goals and new possibilities for action

Resilience = elastic reaction

The term resilience is derived from the Latin word resilire and means something like “to jump back” or “bounce back”. Originally, the term comes from the field of materials management and describes the ability of a body to react elastically to external influences and to return to its original shape. Applied to humans, resilience describes the ability to overcome resistance and crises and to grow from them in order to maintain one’s own performance.

Why is resilience important?

In a time of increasing uncertainty, change and constant challenges, resilience is becoming an increasingly important competence. The loss of security in professional and private life, lack of appreciation of one’s own achievements and permanent pressure to perform lead to permanent stress and exhaustion. This results in a decline in motivation and performance.

Emotionally difficult situations and personal crises lead to a phase of reduced performance for every person. What makes the decisive difference, however, is whether we manage to recover and emerge from a depression strengthened, or whether we feel like victims and fall into incapacity or even depression.

A strong resilience enables us to remain capable of reacting and acting and to influence our own life in a creative way. It has a positive effect on physical well-being and health, as stress is reduced and happiness hormones are released through successful coping strategies. Confidence in one’s own resistance strengthens self-confidence and promotes a proactive and solution-oriented attitude towards others.

Levels of resilience

Resilience can be strengthened at different levels without there being a priority. It is essential to take time and take notice of one’s own abilities, resources and attitudes, and then to start where strengthening seems to be most important.


There are people who are more resilient than others because of their personality structure. However, a large number of studies show that this “raw” resilience has far less influence on individual resilience in the long term than the resilience acquired later through coping strategies and personal resources. It is also known from brain research that new behavioral patterns can be added to existing personality patterns through conscious work on oneself.

Questions I should ask myself:

  • Which personality type am I?
  • To which behavioral patterns do I tend?
  • Which components of my personality can I actively influence?


Our personality is inseparably connected with our past. How we look at our own past shapes our future. Experienced traumas and failures can weaken our resilience in the present. If we evaluate memories primarily negatively, this weakens our faith in ourselves and in our own ability to act. However, memories are interwoven by the brain into a new story with each new experience. We can directly influence this story that we tell ourselves about ourselves by changing the emotional evaluation of our past.

Questions I should ask myself:

  • How do I evaluate my personal experiences?
  • What conclusions have I drawn about myself from personal successes and failures?
  • What patterns and repetitions do I notice in my biography?


The inner attitude is decisive for how we look at our environment and evaluate it emotionally. It is responsible for whether we attribute responsibility for a situation to others and take on the role of a victim, or whether we take personal responsibility and actively control our actions. Actively acting in areas that can be controlled or influenced strengthens the feeling of self-efficacy and thus the conviction that we are up to upcoming challenges.

A resilient attitude also includes the ability to control inner impulses and emotions and to consciously break recurring negative thought loops. This requires the willingness to maintain an inner distance to oneself and to observe oneself. If we are driven by circumstances and are deep in our actions, we follow automated behaviors and literally cannot see the wood for the trees. Self-observation also helps us to perceive our own needs and expectations of ourselves and our role, thus opening up space for new mental perspectives and possibilities for action.

Another essential component of a resilient attitude is realistic optimism. People with a pronounced resilience see the occurrence of crises and difficulties as a part of life. They expect resistance, see it as a challenge and prepare themselves for it. Thus, setbacks are part of the progress and mistakes can be understood as feedback for further learning steps.

Questions I should ask myself:

  • When and where do I take responsibility for my own life?
  • With what attitude do I face challenges and crises?
  • To what extent can I positively influence my thoughts and emotions?


Resources in the context of resilience are all the skills a person has developed to control himself emotionally and to adopt an inner attitude that allows him to deal better with difficult situations. The challenge is to find or create these individual resources and then to apply them consistently. Resilience-strengthening resources include above all the ability to reduce stress and to direct streams of thoughts in a direction that allows positive feelings and increases the ability to act. Extrinsic resources can be activities like sports, meditation, and hobbies, objects, music, but also relationships with other people. Positive memories of success or positive beliefs can also give strength and confidence.

Questions I should ask myself:

  • Which energy reservoirs do I use to recharge my batteries?
  • When and under what circumstances do I consciously draw on my resources?
  • What builds me up again in difficult situations?

Brain-body connection

Body, mind and emotions are in constant interaction with each other. Our thoughts influence our feelings and, via our brain, processes in our body. Our body in turn influences the brain metabolism and thus the mental balance, e.g. through sports or meditation. The self-observation of the interaction between thoughts, feelings and body signals is an important resource to recognize stereotypical reflexes and to be able to control oneself consciously.

Questions I should ask myself:

  • What signals does my body send me in stressful or stressful situations?
  • How can I pause more easily and in a more situational way and create an inner space for more serenity?
  • What feelings do I perceive in my body when I think positively?

Authentic relationships

The first studies on the topic of resilience, which were carried out with young people from socially disadvantaged backgrounds, showed that a strong bond to a reference person was decisive for the development of a strong resilience. In crisis situations, it is important to have people around you with whom you have built up trust and whose understanding and support you can count on. Authentic means that I can show myself as I am, privately or within the framework of my role. In difficult situations, it is especially exhausting to have to pretend and keep up appearances – this robs you of strength and energy. Partners, friends and colleagues who show empathy are a strong emotional support and can give impulses to see difficulties as opportunities for new options for action.

Questions I should ask myself:

  • Which private and professional relationships do I find trusting and supportive?
  • When and under what circumstances do I confide in other people?
  • How can I use these relationships even better?


Sense is the conviction to know why it is worth living. We experience meaning when our actions are integrated into a larger context and have significance and direction. Since meaning is a conviction, meaning is changeable when we take a different perspective on our lives. Personal values are dimensions of meaning and give our actions an inner orientation. If our actions are aligned with our values, we experience them as right and meaningful – it makes sense. However, a lack of inner orientation or understanding why we do something increases our susceptibility to life crises.

Questions I should ask myself:

  • Does my daily action make sense in my eyes?
  • Am I aware of the values I want to base my actions on?
  • What long-term goals give my actions an inner orientation?

Mental strength training

It is often not difficult for us to train our bodies: we go to the gym, jog, take time for our favorite sport. This is important to recharge our batteries and to gain distance from the daily challenges. However, we often neglect to train our mental resilience.

To train our own resilience is an inner process that requires self-reflection and trying out new ways of thinking and behaving. As with sports, the positive effect does not come about after a visit to the gym. It requires discipline and endurance and sometimes even walking to one’s own pain threshold.

6 steps to train your own resilience

1. Do a SWOT analysis of your own personality

The SWOT analysis of personality is a good way to identify starting points for change. An example:

2. Become aware of your crisis competence 

  • Make a note of what you have done in a difficult situation to overcome it. What was the saving decision?
  • Ask a friend what they think is the secret of your success in dealing with crises
  • Think about how you can use these features to face future challenges with more composure.

3. Clarify your goals and values

  • Write down why you do what you do.
  • Visualize a personal target picture for the future.
  • Write down the values that guide your actions.
  • Define the values that you would like to implement in your everyday life in a more concrete way.

4. Act actively and strengthen your self-efficacy

  • Make decisions in those areas of your life that you can directly control, such as your body, your family, your department, etc.
  • Direct your energy to those areas that you can influence indirectly, for example the family and departmental climate.
  • Do not waste energy on areas you cannot control.

5. Strengthen your personal resources

  • Make a personal energy balance: What gives you energy? Where do you lose energy?
  • Define a target state for the use of your resources.
  • Make a personal agreement on the use of your resources with yourself and enter it in your calendar.

6. Observe yourself

  • Practice stopping yourself when automated thoughts or action impulses appear in a situation that is perceived as negative.
  • Take a few minutes, look around in your system and ask yourself how you could think and act differently and which options arise from this.
  • Think about your goals and your values.


Resilience is an interplay of many different factors and each person can work individually on his or her personal resistance. The above examples are only possible training steps. As in sports, it makes sense to start where it can go easily and still expect an initial leverage effect. As in sports, however, we need consistent practice and discipline to integrate new ways of thinking and behaving into our everyday lives, which make us more resistant to the feeling of being overtaxed and health problems.

It gives me pleasure to see the smile when recognition begins and new things are created – as a coach, as a consultant, as a trainer and as a mother. With my background as a management consultant and my many years of coaching know-how, I accompany people in using their abilities and strengths to develop themselves further in a goal-oriented way and to break new ground. In management development, potential diagnostics and the strengthening of leadership skills are my main focuses. Since I myself lived abroad for many years, I work with managers from different cultures in English, French and Italian. Openness, curiosity and appreciation are the basis on which I build relationships with my clients.

Christl Bubik, Handelswissenschaftlerin und Lebens- und Sozialberaterin