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1. High achievers believe that they should be able to bounce back from stressors faster than is realistic.

2. High achievers who are very focused in one or two areas of achievement struggle to grow the multi-faceted identity that promotes resilience.

3. Preventively increasing resilience requires time and personal discipline. This investment can be difficult for some high achievers.


Resilience is the capacity to become strong, healthy and successful after high stress. It affects how well one is able to function during stress and how quickly one will recover when the stressor is removed. Closely intertwined with resilience is the concept of multi-faceted identity.

A multi-faceted identity is when a person’s view of themselves comes from several sources. Imagine a table that is strongly supported by multiple legs instead of only one. A person may have a work identity, a sports identity, a family identity. They perceive themselves and are perceived by others slightly differently as they express these different facets in their daily lives. Rather than creating chaos, these different facets help us feel strong. Yes, sometimes we feel torn in multiple directions; however, if work is going poorly, we can feel good about our family. If everything in the week has gone wrong, we obtain comfort in the fact that we ran an extra mile that morning. Have you met anyone whose sense of purpose was completely wrapped around only one dimension of life? What happens if a professional ball player has no identity except the game and develops an injury that requires premature retirement? What happens when a businessperson invests her heart and soul ONLY into a business and the business is irretrievably lost through tragedy or litigation? By contrast, if she has several non-work relationships and feels good about her fitness, she know that at least there are two areas of her life that are still intact. This is the difference between super-stressed but still standing…. and SPLAT.

Developing and maintaining multiple legs of our table is a proactive skill so that we can maintain optimal wellness and performance in times of crises. Because it is proactive, rather than reactive, understand that many other things will seem to take priority. There are many tasks that are easier and afford more instant gratification than trying to build new friendships outside of the ready-made petri-dishes of college and work environments.  Yet, numerous research studies show that close friendships buffer us against stress and increase longevity. As with many important disciplines, it is difficult to fully realize the full return on our investment until a stressor hits and we think “thank God, I still have _____.”


–Dr. Tricia



If all of your social relationships are from only one or two settings (i.e. work or church), seek to expand your circle. The research on longevity shows that it is social relationships apart from family that begin impacting life expectancy. Join special interest groups, volunteer organizations or find neighbors with similar interests on or other websites that provide information on local gatherings. Anticipate and plan for time and effort on the front end until you are able to find a cluster of healthy, happy people to form your support system.


Do you obtain a sense of satisfaction and purpose in your career? Do you feel a connection to what you are doing or to your colleagues?  If you are just “putting in time” or dealing with Sunday dread on a regular basis, it may be time to explore other options. Vocational stress is the opposite of building resilience. It tends to make people doubt themselves and their place in life.


Do you feed yourself positive information on a regular basis or is all of your information and entertainment from the news, crime shows, or work journals? Do you take time to acknowledge that you’ve made an impact, helped a friend, or offered value to others? Are you tuned in to your emotional needs or do you try to shove them aside? Building your emotional intelligence and nourishing a positive perspective will help you to prevent stress and to bounce back after difficulty.


Find something you like to do that keeps you physically active. If you get bored easily, just make a commitment to change things up every several months or pick a few activities and vary your routine each week. Figure out what is helpful motivation. When I first started training for marathons, I picked destination marathons so that my reward for training was a run and vacation in a fun new place. Here are additional suggestions: community dance classes, swimming, exercise videos, studio or gym classes such as yoga or Zumba, walking with a friend, hiking, jump roping through your neighborhood, or joining an adult sports league. If you dread sweating and getting out of breath, hang in there. Building or re-building a base level of fitness is always the most difficult part.


If you are part of an organized religion, spend the time finding the church/synagogue/meeting place that feels really good to you. If it’s a place you WANT to go, you’ll be more likely to attend regularly and build relationships with other members. If you are spiritual but not religious OR just feel not spiritual at all, focus on what gives you meaning in life. For everyone, the practice of listing things for which we are grateful or ways we can serve others, connects us to the idea that there is a larger meaning to our existence. The research on spirituality shows that regardless of one’s specific belief, people who have some type of spiritual connection fare better during times of high stress. Instead of viewing it as a crutch, look at it this way—running a marathon requires fuel during the race to feed continuous performance. Spiritual connection is another kind of fuel.


Is having fun part of your daily life? Do you have the skill of making tedious things fun? If not, develop it. Play is one of those qualities we accept in children and dismiss as important for adults. People generally don’t compliment each other on their success at integrating joy into their daily lives. Play bolsters our immune system and helps us rebound after difficult times. Figure out what makes you laugh–maybe it’s your pets, funny movies, or a pick-up game of basketball. Maybe it’s trying something new with absolutely no agenda except to enjoy it–a class on belly dancing in the rain, making art out of vegetables, talking your colleagues into a water balloon battle. Brainstorm the craziest things you can think of and have a competition with a friend. Live fully.

Dr. Tricia-Reminder for High Achievers about Resilience

Developing resilience requires developing a way of life in which you are preventive rather than reactive. The only way that the legs of your table will be strong is to monitor them the way you do your car, your finances, or your kids.

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