How do people overcome challenging life events and experiences, like the death of a loved
one, losing a job, or being diagnosed with a serious illness? Most people react to such
circumstances with a surge of negative affect and a sense of uneasiness, yet, over time,
they somehow adjust and adapt. People can “bounce back” from adversity, trauma, tragedy,
threats, or significant sources of stress because of their inherent resilience: “the process
of, capacity for, or outcome of successful adaptation despite challenging circumstances.

Resilience is associated with inner strength, competence, optimism, flexibility, and the ability to
cope effectively when faced with adversity, and minimizing the effect of risk factors, such
as stressful life events, and enhancing the protective factors, such as optimism, social
support, and active coping, increase people’s ability to deal with life’s challenges.

Resilience is not a trait that people either have or do not have. It involves behaviors,
thoughts, and actions that can be learned and developed in anyone One way to develop resilience is to draw on one’s learning from similar challenges
in the past and remembering what he or she already knows but may have forgotten. What
was it exactly that enabled a person to get through a period of illness, or a divorce, or
being laid off at work? That is, what supports did he/she call on, what strategies did he/
she use, what sagacity did he/she hold onto, and what solutions did he/she find? These
resources of resilience are also known as the 4 S’s.

This tool helps people unpack their resources of resilience by giving them a framework
(The 4 S’s) to bring out what specifically works for them.

The goal of this tool is to help clients devise a personal resilience plan based on their
existing resources (that is, what has helped them bounce back from difficulties in the past).

Resilience is the ability to cope with whatever life throws at you and bounce back stronger and more resolute than before. Resilient people work through life challenges using personal resources, including social support, coping strategies, sagacity (which is the wisdom and insight that we hold onto), and solution-seeking. This exercise helps you draw on your resilience resources to build a personal resilience plan, which you can use to help you combat any future challenges.

Part 1: My past sources of resilience

Step 1: Recall a recent example of resilience

Think about a time recently when you overcome a challenge or a setback in your life. Perhaps you injured yourself, or received some negative feedback at work, or had an argument with a friend or family member.

Briefly describe this difficulty.

Step 2: Identify supportive people

Which ‘people’ in your life supported you to keep standing when it would have been easier to fall? For instance, did you call an old friend or ask a teacher for advice? Perhaps a parent or grandparent gave you a pep talk. Write down who you called on for support in the top right cell of the table in Appendix A.

Step 3: Identify strategies

What ‘strategies’ did you use to help yourself cope with any negative thoughts and feelings that showed up in response to the difficulty? For example, did you meditate, write in a gratitude journal, go for a walk, listen to a particular song or type of music, or have a massage to release tension? Write down the strategies you used in the bottom left cell of the table in Appendix A.


Step 4: Identify sagacity

What ‘sagacity’ helped you bounce back from this difficulty? Sagacity is the wisdom and insight that you hold onto. It can come from song lyrics, novels, poetry, spiritual writings, quotes from the famous, the sayings of one’s grandparent, or learning from one’s experience. Write down your sagacity in the bottom right cell of the table in Appendix A.

Step 5: Identify solution-seeking behaviors

What solution-seeking behaviors did you display to help you actively deal with the problem? For example, did you problem-solve, seek out new information, plan, negotiate, speak up and voice your opinion, or ask others for help? Write down the solution-seeking behaviors you displayed in the top left cell of the table in Appendix A.

Part 2: My resilience plan

Step 6: Describe a current difficulty

Describe a current difficulty or challenge that you are facing.

Step 7: Apply the resilience plan to the current difficulty

Given the social supports, strategies, sagacity, and solution-seeking behaviors that helped you last time, let us look at how you could use the same or similar resources to help you bounce back from this current difficulty you are facing (identified in the previous step). Read through your completed plan (Appendix A) and write down the skills, supports, strategies, and sagacity that could work for you again in the blank resilience plan template in Appendix B. Allow some flexibility here in the sense that the same type of social support/ strategy/ sagacity/ solution-seeking behavior could be tweaked according to your current situation, for instance, going to your manager rather than a parent for support with a work-related problem. An example of a completed resilience plan is shown in Appendix C.

Step 8: Carry out your resilience plan

The next step is to put your resilience plan into action. To do this, consider the order in which you would use your different supports, strategies, sagacity, and solution-seeking behaviors: Which resource is most feasible to start with? Often the most feasible resource is the smallest step that you can take, such as calling your partner. In your resilience plan (Appendix B), place number 1 next to the first resource you will use.

Then, continue to number your different resources in the order in which you would feasibly use them.

Then, start using your first resource and continue to work through your resilience plan (in order) until you have overcome this difficulty.

Once you have come through the other side, please move on to the next step.

Part 3: Evaluation

Step 9: Evaluate your resilience plan

Discuss the following:

How was it for you to carry out your resilience plan? Did it help you bounce back from this difficulty?
What resources (specific skills/supports/strategies/sagacity) were most helpful to you? Why?
What resources (specific skills/supports/strategies/sagacity) were least helpful to you? Why?
Did you not use any resources, and if so, why?
Is there anything you would like to add to your resilience plan?
In what other areas of your life could you use your resilience plan? How might things improve for you?

Appendix A: My Past Sources of Resilience

Supports that kept you upright Strategies that kept you moving

that gave you comfort and hope

Solution-seeking behaviors you showed

Appendix B: My Resilience Plan

Supports that keep you upright Strategies that keep you moving

that gives you comfort and hope

Solution-seeking behaviors you can show

Appendix C: Example of a completed Resilience Plan

Difficult situation: Stuffed up a job interview and did not get the job

Supports that keep you upright

Called my partner Joe – 0432182074

Called my mom – 0409867222

Booked an apt with my therapist

Strategies that keep you moving

Went for a walk

Smiling Mind meditation app

Calming breathing technique

Played with my dog

Did some gardening

Wrote in my gratitude journal

Expressive writing


that gives you comfort and hope

Remembered that growth comes from mistakes.

“This too shall pass” – sticky note on the fridge

Thought about what I could do differently next time  and wrote down on paper

Solution-seeking behaviors you can show

Asked for feedback from job interviewers

Applied for 3x new jobs

Sought professional coaching for job interviewing