3 Learning resilience
Does personal resilience develop from the way that we are brought up from childhood – our early experiences and family background?
Psychologists have argued for more than 100 years that early childhood socialisation has a significant impact on the way that individuals relate to others later in life. Key supporting factors for resilience include:
- strong and supportive family relationships
- good communication skills
- family social networks that extend into the community
- sociability (a liking for developing new social relationships).
Activity _unit3.3.1 Activity 3 Sociability and social networks
Now watch the video ‘Resilience: personality’ and note how Professor Ivan Robertson explains how resilience is connected to our ability to develop social relationships.
Transcript: Resilience: personality
Robertson describes the importance of personality and social support systems for resilience, but he emphasises that these aren’t static things and can be learned and developed. He identifies as key factors such as how we behave with others, how we build long-term friendships, our empathy and the ways in which we actively confront challenges. In particular, he also identifies the ability to remove ourselves from overwhelming emotions in difficult times as important.
You will be looking at both social networks and at the means to handle difficult emotions through the course.
The way we live our lives is not determined by our childhood experiences. There are many success stories of sports people, entrepreneurs, artists, scientists and people in your own community who have achieved in many fields, despite difficult backgrounds and obstacles to success.
You’ll look now at an example of how one entrepreneur, Hilary Devey, acted despite significant obstacles, to start up her own business.
Activity _unit3.3.2 Activity 4 Resilience in a business start-up
Read the extract below about Hilary Devey.
Hilary had a tough childhood. After her father was declared bankrupt, the family lost everything, even their furniture. After leaving school at 16 she worked in sales and logistics for many years, before having her lightbulb moment. Within three years she was a millionaire and is now well-known for her appearances on TV business shows like Dragon’s Den.
As a logistics manager Hilary could see that transporting small consignments of palletised freight quickly and cost-effectively was a huge opportunity. She came up with a business model that would save all parties time and money and that would also have environmental benefits. Unfortunately she couldn’t persuade any of the banks to back her. In the end she sold her house to make it happen. Those early years were very tough. Hilary was also a single parent with no support structure. In the first year of trading she just managed to pay staff, but couldn’t afford Christmas dinner for herself and her son.
Hilary’s company, Pall-Ex, revolutionised the freight industry. It now turns over £100 million a year. Her advice to start-ups: ‘Focus and tenacity: understand the market, people, competition and the opportunities.’
Now visit ‘’ to watch a short video about Hilary’s story. The video is part-way down the web page. You might find it useful to open the video in a new tab or window.
Which of the following characteristics of resilience does Hilary show in the extract and video?
- A positive outlook
- Forward thinking
- A good planner
- A good communicator
- Comfortable with her emotions
What other characteristics does Hilary show?
As well as having confidence, problem-solving skills, a positive outlook, intelligence and being forward thinking, Hilary also had a strong commitment to family, excellent communication skills and a sense of humour! When her bank manager turned her down for a loan, Hilary developed a plan B and sold her house and her car, showing problem-solving skills, improvisation and tenacity. While not everyone will want to become an entrepreneur, the challenges of that experience show how a high degree of resilience is needed to achieve success in running a business.
In the earlier clip Professor Robertson talked of the importance of social support networks, or the ability to develop them, in helping resilience. Simon Weston (Activity 2) also talked about the support of his family and friends contributing to his resilience. The American Psychological Association (2016) says that many studies show that the primary factor in personal resilience is having caring and supportive relationships within and outside the family. These relationships create love and trust, provide role models and offer encouragement and reassurance. This helps to bolster a person’s resilience, particularly in times of difficulty.
You might like to think about what this means to you.