Skip to main content
Two hands stretching out a rubber band

Navigating Life's Challenges: Capacity vs. Resilience

It’s safe to say that everyone has experienced tumultuous times when plans, relationships, finances or some other aspect of our lives has gone awry. Two crucial qualities that help us navigate these challenges are capacity and resilience. While they are interrelated, they serve different purposes and require different strategies to develop. Let’s explore how they differ and how you can improve each.

Understanding Resilience

Resilience is the ability to recover from setbacks, adapt to change and keep going in the face of adversity. It's about bouncing back after life knocks you down. Resilience helps you get back up, regain your balance and move forward.  Here’s a few ideas on how to build your resilience:

  1. Develop a Positive Mindset:
    • Practice gratitude by keeping a daily journal of things you appreciate or are thankful for.
    • Replace negative self-talk with positive affirmations. For example, instead of thinking, “I can’t do this,” say, “There must be another way.”
  2. Build Strong Relationships:
    • Cultivate a support network of friends, family, colleagues or a therapist who can offer encouragement and advice.
    • Participate in community groups or networks that align with your interests.
  3. Enhance Emotional Regulation:
    • Practice mindfulness and meditation to manage stress and stay grounded.
    • Engage in physical activities like yoga or a sport to release tension and improve mood.

Understanding Capacity

Capacity, on the other hand, refers to the ability to handle challenges effectively. It’s about having the mental and emotional fortitude to manage disruptions and stretch your limits whilst maintaining stability. The greater your capacity, the more prepared you are to handle life's unpredictability without falling apart. To improve your capacity:

  1. Expand Emotional Intelligence:
    • Recognize and understand your emotions and their impact on your behaviour. For example, if you feel anxious about a sudden change, acknowledge it and explore why you feel that way.
    • Develop empathy by trying to understand the perspectives and emotions of others. This can help you navigate interpersonal challenges more smoothly.
  2. Increase Mental Flexibility:
    • Practice cognitive reframing to view situations from a different perspective. For instance, if a project doesn't go as planned, instead of seeing it as a failure, view it as a learning opportunity.
    • Engage in activities that challenge your thinking, such as puzzles or learning new skills. This helps your brain adapt to new information and situations more readily.
    • Seek and be open to experiences that stimulate new thoughts, perspectives, understandings and ideas.  Sometimes our routines become our “prisons”, leading to complacency and resistance to change.
  3. Develop Coping Mechanisms:
    • Create a personal toolkit of stress-relief techniques like deep breathing, journaling, or taking the dog for a walk. These strategies can help you manage emotional turbulence until you settle and engage the neo-cortex of the brain to think effectively.
    • Include time for self-care activities such as hobbies, exercise, and relaxation. This consistency can provide a stable foundation in times of uncertainty.

While resilience and capacity are distinct concepts, they complement each other in many ways. Resilience is about recovery and adaptability, ensuring you can get back on track after a setback. This is akin to a rubber band’s ability to “snap” back. Capacity is about preparedness and emotional stability, equipping you with the tools to handle life's demands without being overwhelmed in the first place. Capacity is the “stretch” of the rubber band.

Together, these qualities prepare you to face whatever comes your way. So, invest time in building both your resilience and capacity, and watch as you become more adept at handling life’s inevitable ups and downs.


Check out our 10860NAT Certificate III in Personal Empowerment course that can help you build your capacity and resilience.