Become more resilient and improve your life

Resilience makes the difference between success and failure, and happiness and depression, say psychologists—and, until recently, most believed it was a trait you were born with or without. But work with survivors of traumatic events shows that’s not so. “Resilience isn’t all or nothing. No matter how resilient you are today, you can become more resilient tomorrow,” says American psychologist Karen Reivich, co-author of The Resilience Factor, who’s identified ways to increase it.

Resilience has nothing to do with being stoical, so forget the stiff upper lip. Feeling angry or sad when things go belly up is only natural—the difference is that resilient people don’t get stuck in an emotion. “They might feel scared, but their feelings don’t prevent them from coping,” explains Reivich.

Cautious optimism (not the blind hope that everything will be fine) is key, because it gives you confidence to take on new challenges. Flexible thinking is also essential: “Resilient people always have a Plan B,” says Reivich. And because they score high on empathy and are quick to help others, they have a support net-work of people to turn to when bad luck strikes.

Self-aware, resourceful, hopeful and caring? It’s more appealing than back-stabbing and greedy as a survival mechanism in tough times. What’s more, it works.