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Date Author Title
2013-12-14 Steve Gardiner Book Review: The Power of Resilience

In any classroom, there are students who, when faced with anything difficult, give up. They become frustrated easily and will not work beyond their own comfort zones.

There are also students who not only stick with a difficult task, but rise up to it and become more determined to solve the problems or accomplish the tasks.


What is the difference?


Robert Brooks and Sam Goldstein in their book The Power of Resilience: Achieving Balance, Confidence, and Personal Strength in Your Life (2004, McGraw-Hill, New York) examine resilience and what it means to stay with a project when it gets difficult.


Success, the authors say, is not measured only in good grades or high income. It is rather the sum of an individual's perception of personal relationships, satisfaction in school or work, and sense of well being throughout life. It is an optimism about existence that allows a person to overcome stress and hardship and look at challenges as opportunities to grow.


Brooks and Goldstein explained that people who are resilient “have a set of assumptions or attitudes about themselves that influence their behaviors and the skills they develop. In turn, these behaviors and skills influence this set of assumptions so that a dynamic process is constantly operating” (p. 3).


In studying resilient individuals, Brooks and Goldstein found that they exhibit the following traits:

  • Feeling in control of one's life

  • Knowing how to fortify one's “stress hardiness”

  • Being empathic

  • Displaying effective communication and other interpersonal capabilities

  • Possessing solid problem-solving and decision-making skills

  • Establishing realistic goals and expectations

  • Learning from both success and failure

  • Being a compassionate and contributing member of society

  • Living a responsible life based on a set of thoughtful values

  • Feeling special (not self-centered) while helping others to feel the same


Brooks and Goldstein have found these traits to be consistent among resilient individuals. Those who have or who develop these traits are more often likely to demonstrate resilience in school, work, or life.


They have also found that resilience is closely related to what they call “attribution theory.” This theory states that it is important for us to understand the causes to which we attribute both our successes and failures. Those persons who attribute both their successes and failures to primarily their own decisions and actions are far more likely to take control of them and become resilient in their efforts than are people who attribute their successes and failures to forces outside themselves or their control.


Brooks and Goldstein argue that being resilient is a disposition that can be learned. It can be practiced and improved and then maintained throughout life. This positive view of resilience should be good news to everyone who wants to succeed or help others succeed.

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