Psychological resilience is defined as an individual’s ability to properly adapt to stress and adversity. Stress and adversity can come in the shape of family or relationship problems, health problems, or workplace and financial worries, among others. Resilience is not a rare ability; in reality, it is found in the average individual and it can be learned and developed by virtually anyone. Resilience should be considered a process, rather than a trait to be had.
A common misapprehension is that resilient people are free from negative emotions or thoughts, remaining optimistic in most or all situations. To the contrary, resilient individuals have, through time, developed coping techniques that allow them to effectively and relatively easily navigate around or through crises. In other words, people who demonstrate resilience are people with optimistic attitude and positive emotionality and are, by practice, able to effectively balance negative emotions with positive ones.
Grit refers to the perseverance and passion for long-term goals. This is characterized as working persistently towards challenges, maintained effort and interest over years despite negative feedback, adversity, plateaus in progress, or failure. High grit people view accomplishments as a marathon rather than an immediate goal. High grit individuals normally earn higher GPAs in school, and make fewer career changes than less gritty individuals.
Grit affects the effort a person contributes by acting on the importance pathway. When people value a goal as more valuable, meaningful, or relevant to their self-concept they are willing to expend more effort on it when necessary. The influence of individual differences in grit results in different levels of effort-related cardiac activity when gritty and less gritty individuals performed the same task. Grit is associated with differences in potential motivation, one pathway in motivational intensity theory. Grit may also influence an individual’s perception of task difficulty.
Grit was highly correlated with the Big Five conscientiousness trait. Although grit and conscientiousness highly overlap in their achievement aspects, they differ in their emphasis. Grit emphasizes long-term stamina, whereas conscientiousness focuses on short-term intensity.
Grit varies with level of education and age. More educated adults tend to be higher in grit than less educated individuals of the same age. Post college graduates report higher grit levels than most other education level groups. Grit increases with age when education level is controlled for.
In life achievements, grit may be as important as talent. College students at an elite university who scored high in grit also earned higher GPAs than their classmates, despite having lower SAT scores. In a study at the West Point military academy it was found that grit was a more reliable predictor of first summer retention than self-control or a summary measure of cadet quality. Gritty competitors at the Scripps National Spelling Bee outranked other competitors who scored lower in grit, at least partially due to accumulated practice.
Grit may also serve as a protective factor against suicide. A study at Stanford University found that grit was predictive of psychological health and well-being in medical residents. Gritty individuals possess self-control and regular commitment to goals that allows them to resist impulses, such as to engage in self-harm. Individuals high in grit also focus on future goals, which may stop them from attempting suicide. It is believed that because grit encourages individuals to create and sustain life goals, these goals provide meaning and purpose in life. Grit alone does not seem to be sufficient, however. Only individuals with high gratitude and grit have decreased suicidal ideation over long periods of time. Gratitude and grit work together to enhance meaning in life, offering protection against death and suicidal thoughts or plans.
The American Psychological Association suggests “10 Ways to Build Resilience”, which are:
- to maintain good relationships with close family members, friends and others;
- to avoid seeing crises or stressful events as unbearable problems;
- to accept circumstances that cannot be changed;
- to develop realistic goals and move towards them;
- to take decisive actions in adverse situations;
- to look for opportunities of self-discovery after a struggle with loss;
- to develop self-confidence;
- to keep a long-term perspective and consider the stressful event in a broader context;
- to maintain a hopeful outlook, expecting good things and visualizing what is wished;
- to take care of one’s mind and body, exercising regularly, paying attention to one’s own needs and feelings.
The Besht model of natural resilience building in an ideal family with positive access and support from family and friends, through parenting illustrates 4 key markers. They are:
- Realistic Upbringing.
- Effective Risk Communications.
- Positivity and Restructuring of demanding situations.
- Building Self Efficacy and Hardiness.
Brad Evans and Julian Reid criticize resilience discourse and its rising popularity in their book, Resilient Life. The authors assert that policies of resilience can put the onus of disaster response on individuals rather than publicly coordinated efforts. Tied to the emergence of neoliberalism, climate change theory, third-world development, and other discourses, Evans and Reid argue that promoting resilience draws attention away from governmental responsibility and towards localized, laissez-faire responses.
Another criticism regarding resilience is its definition. Like other psychological phenomena, by defining specific psychological and affective states in certain ways, controversy over meaning will always ensue. How the term resilience is defined affects research focuses; different or insufficient definitions of resilience will lead to inconsistent research about the same concepts. Research on resilience has become more heterogeneous in its outcomes and measures, convincing some researchers to abandon the term altogether due to it being attributed to all outcomes of research where results were more positive than expected.
There is also controversy about the indicators of good psychological and social development when resilience is studied across different cultures and contexts. The American Psychological Association’s Task Force on Resilience and Strength in Black Children and Adolescents, for example, notes that there may be special skills that these young people and families have that help them cope, including the ability to resist racial prejudice. Researchers of indigenous health have shown the impact of culture, history, community values, and geographical settings on resilience in indigenous communities. People who cope may also show “hidden resilience” when they don’t conform with society’s expectations for how someone is supposed to behave (in some contexts, aggression may be required to cope, or less emotional engagement may be protective in situations of abuse). Recently there has also been evidence that resilience can indicate a capacity to resist a sharp decline in other harm even though a person temporarily appears to get worse.
The definition also becomes an issue with time. As research increases over time, this gives more information to be referenced and cited. Over time the definitions of resilience and what it encompasses will regress towards a lexical mean that may or may not be inclusive of everything composing resilience. Without objective means of defining resilience in a singular, all-encompassing term, using resilience as a theoretical psychological concept or therapeutic instrument will not be universally consistent or correct.