Resilience in the Face of the Unexpected


We’re grateful to host this guest post by author Cheri Torres, who co-authors the book Conversations Worth Having, which is being released this week! 


Most of us don’t imagine having a crisis or family emergency, and we don’t want to plan for it—that might make it inevitable.  We can, however, equip ourselves to be resilient and to have strong relationships that can support us no matter what happens in our lives.


Here are some ideas for building resilience and strong connections that will come to your rescue if a crisis does occur:

  • Start now developing compassion for those who have had, or are having, the worst befall them.
  • Give your best and your all to whatever you do, as well as to your relationships. Look for ways to be of value over and above what’s expected. Support others and contribute to their success and resilience.
  • Be a part of a community. Belonging builds resilience and, if things fall apart, your community is there to support you.
  • Develop your capacity to look for silver linings, opportunities, and lessons. Looking for what’s of value shifts your thinking, feeling, and perceptions.
  • Develop your courage and capacity for honesty, transparency, and asking for what you need and want.
  • Resilience can be a matter of mindset, personal worldview, and personal beliefs/values. If your sense of worth and being okay is tied to everything going well, if the worst comes, it will topple your life. If you—your being—is not attached to “the way things are,” then it frees you to ask creative and helpful questions if the worst happens. Instead of asking why this terrible thing happened to ME, you are free to see the events in a much broader context. Questions such as:
    • I wonder what this is about?
    • What is there to learn or see in this situation that might be important?
    • What’s possible, now that THIS has happened?

This doesn’t mean not feeling hurt, scared, angry, or whatever; but being freed to ponder the broader context of work and life in relationship to this means you are more resilient. And by the way, “derailing your career” just might be what’s supposed to happen. The worst doesn’t mean jumping to the conclusion that you’re not supposed to be where you are, doing what you’re doing. Nonetheless, that question might arise in the broader context if you are not attached to your career. If you’ve ever had doubts, thought about doing something else—well, sometimes the world works in mysterious ways to support you being on the “right” path.

If the worst befalls, it’s time to look at your strengths, your values, reassess what’s truly important and reflect. Again, asking generative questions can breathe life back in, tap your resiliency, and bring energy when it is most needed:

  • What can I do?
  • What is there to learn here? How can I grow through this?
  • Where is the opportunity? (It might be where you’re not looking: self-knowledge, facing fears and surviving, accepting compassion and help, bringing forth your best self, expanding your capacity to be human, deepening connection with others, etc.)
  • What’s possible?

Things happen. Whether we judge them as a crisis, an emergency, something terrible, or the best thing in the world is often a matter of time and perspective. How often has “the worst thing happened”—and yet 2 years later, it was the best thing that could have happened. Stay open to the outcome in your life, especially when what happens feels awful in the moment. It will strengthen your resilience!


About Cheri Torres:

Cheri Torres, Ph.D. brings the practice of Appreciative Inquiry, design thinking, and an ecological worldview to communities and organizations striving for sustainable growth. Her work facilitates learning, innovation, and dynamic interpersonal relationships capable of achieving remarkable outcomes. Cheri has worked with diverse communities across the globe, from public schools and community organizations to corporations and government entities, to elevate their strengths and broaden their capacity for collaboration and collective intelligence. She has trained thousands of trainers and teachers in the use and practice of Appreciative Inquiry and Experiential Learning, with a particular focus on leadership development, teamwork, creativity, and sustainable collaboration.

She has authored or co-authored numerous books and articles, the newest of which is Conversations Worth Having: Using Appreciative Inquiry to Fuel Productive and Meaningful Engagement co-authored with Jackie Stavros.


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