Dove Nest Group

Resilience Bouncing Back

Resilience Bouncing Back from Set-backs, Road Blocks and Mistakes 

Have you ever lost a sale, lost a customer, made a career limiting mistake or experienced failure? Our ability to bounce back and overcome such obstacles is increasingly important. But what exactly does Resilience mean? In this post, we will look briefly at resilience and how we can increase our bounce-back abilities.

For most of us, the longer you have been in work, the more likely it is that you’ve encountered one or more of examples of failure. We each have our own preferred coping strategies. For some people, its “just one of those things” for others its “its my fault because I missed something” some might blame the product or service, competitors or even the customer! Of the variety of responses, which would we consider the most healthy or useful?

Its Just one of those Things

The response, “its just one of those things” fits with our experience that some things really are outside our control. On face value, this seems quite a healthy and forgiving response: it is not our fault why something went wrong. But if this position is taken to the extreme, there’s a risk that we can side-step accepting our personal responsibilities. If we perceive external forces as determining the outcome, then how can we be blamed? Whilst the position is attractive, because we are not to blame, it is problematic. In not accepting the part we played in the problem, we can miss out on a valuable opportunity to learn from it and improve. At its worst, if we believe that a failure is never our fault, then we are probably doomed to repeat that same mistake.

Its all my fault

In contrast, the response “Its my fault, I missed something” suggests the reason for the failure was entirely down to us. It had nothing to do with external factors, it was something we did, or failed to do. Although it is healthy when we accept responsibility for our actions, we might be blaming ourselves for more than we deserve. If the previous response “its just one of those things” can lead to abdicating responsibility, then the alternative response “its all my fault” can lead to blaming ourselves unreasonably.

So, when facing adversity, which of these two examples might lead to the more resilient position?

Locus of Control

Julian Rotter talked about our Locus of Control. How we perceive our ability to influence circumstances, may hold the key to a healthy response to setbacks.

A person with an internal locus of control believes that he or she can influence events and their outcomes, while someone with an external locus of control blames outside forces for everything. – Gillian Fournier

The viewpoint from many Psychologists is that the internal locus is preferable. When I have an internal locus, although I am responsible for the mistake, I also have the power to change it, or at least learn from it. Those with an internal locus of control will both hold themselves to account and see themselves a responsible for changing the situation. As they see themselves as in control of their own destiny, they are more likely to bounce back from a set-back than those with an external locus of control.

Susan Tynan, the founder and CEO of Framebridge, credits her success to resilience and self-confidence.

“The difference between succeeding and failing may be just in the speed you can dust off, regroup and start running again” 

So, what sort of behaviours can help us to bounce back in a healthy way? Our advice is to look at 3 important areas: how we think, the language we use, and the goals we set for ourselves.

How We think

In terms of how we think, clearly this influences how we bounce back. Dodging the blame, although convenient, doesn’t help us to see that we are in control. Better to accept some responsibility for what went wrong. Re-framing the ‘failure’ can help us to both accept responsibility AND bounce back faster. Reflecting on what went wrong, but looking for new interpretations can help to view it in a less negative light. For example, had I won that order it could have crippled the company financially. Alternatively, what can I learn about improving my proposals, based on missing out on this order?

The Language we use

The language we use can also be critical to bouncing back. Stopping using words like “can’t” “ought” “should” “we” and “you”, can start to shift the perception of control, moving it away from factors that are external to us. If we start using words like “want to” “choose to” and most importantly “I”, can put us firmly back in the driving seat when it comes to control.

The Goals we set

Finally, setting performance-oriented goals rather than outcome-oriented goals can increase our sense of control and be more satisfying. Outcome goals or “big picture goals” are often outside the sphere of our immediate control – for example, I want to double the sales in my organisation would be an outcome goal. To achieve this, some of the factors influencing this goal are outside of my control, for example the behaviour of competitors isn’t something I can influence.

A performance goal would be a building block to help me achieve the outcome. For example, I’m going to make fifty phone calls today. This is something that IS under my control. When I complete the calls, not only will I be a step closer to realising the outcome goal, but I will also feel that I have achieved something.

Dove Nest has supported clients by developing solutions in learning and development for over 35 years, and has helped shape, develop and deliver their resilience programmes.

For more information about practical approaches to resilience, how to develop and roll out a resilience strategy, or to have an informal conversation with one of our learning experts, please get in touch either by calling us on 015395 67878, email us at or visit our dedicated website