Leadership Library Review — Resilient: How to Grow an Unshakable Core of Calm, Strength, and Happiness

June 2019

Resilient: How to Grow an Unshakable Core of Calm, Strength, and Happiness by Rick Hanson, Ph.D. (Harmony, 2018)

What are the big take-aways?

I loved Hanson’s book from 10 years ago, Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love and Wisdom, which discussed brain anatomy and processes in ways that explain why ancient practices of mindfulness (present-moment awareness) and meditation (intentional interior mind-training) actually work to reconfigure the brain. This book, Resilient, is a distillation of the science, habits and attitudes that form the twelve inner strengths of “resilience,” which he defines as the ability to cope with adversity and push through challenges in order to pursue opportunities (p. 2). Resilient draws heavily on neuroscience, and adds more positive psychology and autobiographical real-life examples, to offer strategies to refine the brain rewiring process.

Why do I like it?

Resilient is broken down into four categories of the twelve strengths, which are: Compassion, Mindfulness, Learning, Grit, Gratitude, Confidence, Calm, Motivation, Intimacy, Courage, Aspiration and Generosity. He offers easy-to-memorize methods of repeating certain patterns or habits to build the twelve inner strengths, and at the end of each section there is a beginner exercise in using the strength. If you’re new to any of these strengths as concepts or practices, Hanson makes them all very straightforward and accessible in the exercises. This what I like the most about the book.

In what situations would this be useful?

As a leadership coach, I found that the inner strengths most likely to be of immediate use to my clients at work (while all of the strengths would certainly serve the whole person regardless of context), are the “recognizing” strength of Mindfulness; the “resourcing” strengths of Grit, Gratitude, and Confidence; the “regulating” strength of Calm; and the “relating” strength of Courage. The Malcolm Forbes quotation that opens the essay on Confidence (p. 109) especially spoke to me in terms of what so many of my women and men clients – of all ages and phases of their careers – struggle with at the core of their leadership development process: “Too many people overvalue what they are not and undervalue what they are.”

What other resources might “pair” well with it?

Since they are such different books with different emphases, I recommend pairing Resilient with Buddha’s Brain if you’re curious about brain structure and some basic mindfulness strategies for interrupting strong primitive responses to one’s environment, such as anxiety. If you’re new to mindfulness and want a simple place to start, consider experimenting with apps like Headspace, Calm or Breathe. I like the gentle and easy (and free) guided meditations at UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center, which range from 3 minutes to 19 minutes in length.

My favorite hub for information about resilience and related topics and practices in positive psychology is the Greater Good Science Center out of UC Berkeley, which focuses on the scientific exploration of well-being. The Center has a new set of initiatives designed to support workplace leaders. I recommend signing up for the GGSC’s weekly news magazine, which once featured an interesting article on “The Myths of Mindfulness.”

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