on resilience and visualization

Why do some people and some companies buckle under pressure? And what makes others bend and ultimately bounce back?


This great article from Diane Coutu in the Harvard Business Review may not be new (actually from 2002) but outlines and explains some important key points on an ongoing hot topic, especially while facing the ongoing crisis, not only for individuals, but organizations as well:



"Resilient people possess three characteristics:

• a staunch acceptance of reality;

• a deep belief, often buttressed by strongly held values, that life is meaningful

• an uncanny ability to improvise

You can bounce back from hardship with just one or two of these qualities, but you will only be truly resilient with all three. These three characteristics hold true for resilient organizations as well…

👉🏼 Resilience is a reflex, a way of facing and understanding the world, that is deeply etched into a person’s mind and soul. Resilient people and companies face reality with staunchness, make meaning of hardship instead of crying out in despair, and improvise solutions from thin air.”


There are further characteristics outlined in the full article such as preserving a certain, sometimes dark kind of humour, no matter the harshness. I personally especially love the ‘improvise solutions from thin air’.

As a teenager I was fascinated from the the extreme-mountaineer James Scott (AUS) who, in winter 1991/92 got lost in the Himalayas. During 43 days he had endured extreme cold temperatures, hunger, isolation and yes, desperation. Clinched on the daily hope that some help troops would find him, it was rationally seen practically impossible that he would survive, but he did. 

The book's german title is “Solange ich atme, hoffe ich” (as long as I breathe I hope). It’s a fascinating true story of living all the above from this article, while literally improvising solutions from thin air.


I have deeply applied and internalised the title of this book when undergoing personal adversity; as long as there is air to breathe in and out, there is hope, means belief and with this the ability to work on solutions, to create and work on meaning in our life and to improvise and improve.

And since the book, respectively James Scott, had such a deep impact on me, it was my dream to go, see and hike the Annapurna area, where he got lost in the Himalayas, myself. A few years ago I could make that dream come true, under not so easy health conditions, but it was amazing to be somewhere I dreamt so many years of, to hike where James Scott hiked.


With this I would personally add to Coutu's characteristics, summarized on the top, on what makes us resilient, is also the unbeatable ability to dream big, in the meaning of visualization. Because what you visualize today you get or become one day - while you accept the presence, hold your personal values high, endure, improvise and create meaning in your life until you're there. 


How does visualization work? Neurons in our brains interpret imagery as equivalent to a real-life action or situation. You kinda can go that far to say the mind doesn't make a difference between imagination and real life until you open your eyes. Your inner eye has the ability to focus on what is not here yet or right now. 


And while you're on the path of visualization you don't give up, you simply don't give up - you adjust and adapt, you believe in your abilities and values, carry on and make the best out of what you have in each current situation, day by day.