The Resilience Institute Going Strong by Building Resilience Among Workforce

09/23/2018 | By Hira Saeed

This post originally appeared on

Before getting to know more about The Resilience Project in the words of its CEO, Sven Hansen, let’s discuss a little about what The Resilience Institute does.

With over 20 years of experience, The Resilience Institute aims to deliver practical, highly effective integrated Resilience training that will lead to a healthy workforce and stronger minds. The process combines neuroscience, positive psychology, emotional intelligence, and preventative medicine. The project boasts of having achieved a 0.55 increase in Resilience Ratio of the participants who had received their training. Recently, the Global Resilience Report 2018 was published which elaborately compares resilience strength of different regions.

Dr. Sven Hansen expresses, “Humans are an integral mix of physical, emotional and cognitive attributes. Our recommendation is to aim for integrated solutions that address human growth and risk using a common language and model.”.

I had a chance to have a conversation with him and here are some of the interesting discussions about resilience in general and his institute.

  • The meaning of “resilience” goes beyond the capability of enduring tough times. What does “resilience” denote for you?

Dr. Hansen: It’s a learned ability to bounce, grow, connect and flow. Bounce is for the hard times both sudden and protracted. Grow is the physical, emotional and mental fitness for life. Connect builds understanding, trust, and care towards others. Flow brings our talents and skills to meaningful challenges. They are interconnected. To succeed in the 21st Century they are essential.

  • So, how did the concept of The Resilience Institute come to life?

Dr. Hansen: I grew up in a medical family focused on prevention but it was my early experience as a young sports medicine doctor. During that time, it came obvious to me that one could prevent injuries, increase speed, enhance skill, train the mind and work in the team better. Around 1991, I asked this question to myself that if athletes can learn these advanced skills, would it improve business results as well? What if organizations could be a vehicle to get these ideas to more people? This was a tough sell initially but now leading organizations have embraced the concept. It is a very exciting and fulfilling field to be in.

  • “Resilience is learned over time.” Can you elaborate on this statement?

Dr. Hansen: Resilience is not a genetic gift or a trait. We can all learn resilience and if we keep refining the practice, we continue to get better.  For example, if you stretch out your muscles with good technique every day you can be a very flexible person as you grow old. This will protect your joints, enhance your movement and maintain good posture. You will look, feel and be better. At first, it is difficult to learn and to motivate, then you develop a practice and finally, it becomes a habit. Exactly the same is true for muscle strength, impulse control, empathy, attention, etc.

  • According to your Global Resilience Report 2018, Netherlands ranks 1st in resilience factor. But, the report also says that the Dutch are the most self-critical, a liable factor. The rank and the report kind of contradict each other. So, what is actually the reason behind the ranking of Netherlands?

Dr. Hansen: Good question and something we need to learn more about. While they are self-critical and exercise less, they are focused and worry-less. We know that high focus and low worry define the most resilient decile. First, our experience shows that there are many different pathways to resilience. There may be a cultural preference for physical versus emotional or cognitive expression. There may also be influencing factors that we don’t measure. Second, we have a lot to learn about how the different factors combine into the experience of resilience. What we are saying is that there are high impact factors (see p 20 – 23)

  • How does resilience intervention actually work? Do you follow any specific model?

Dr. Hansen: We do follow a model that is customized to the client. In general, we pursue reinforcing cycles of measure, learn and achieve. Almost every intervention starts with the Diagnostic to measure both individual and group resilience. Taking time to pause and reflect honestly is critical in our rushed lives. The report helps individuals target their attention and efforts and the customize the group training. Participants learn from the diagnostic, face-to-face workshops, digital training, and tracking, practice tips, team initiatives, and books. We repeat the diagnostic to assess change and refocus the next period of training. Remember that we continue to measure improvements in the brain even after 50,000 hours of meditation (Davidson, Goleman, Science of Meditation, 2017)

It is worth noting that until recently, most clients simply wanted a workshop to “fix resilience”. We now recognize that it takes time, practice and repetition. We have learned from sports. Expertise, safe and effective practice and skilled facilitation of the process are necessary.

  • In your opinion, which asset(s) contributes to the resilience factor most?

Dr. Hansen: Well, in terms of correlation with resilience ratio and the practices of the most resilient people, we see focus, presence, fulfillment, and optimism at the top of both lists. We can imagine someone being fully focused and present with good posture and an upbeat, hopeful stance as the goal. Health awareness, fitness, sleep, relaxation, and nutrition tend to be the first level gains people make in the first phase of an intervention.

  • Do resilience and success go hand-in-hand? Please elaborate…

Dr. Hansen: Being honest, it depends on how we define success. In the case of high performers in sport, combat or performing arts it is clearly an enabler. If we define success as wealth or power, not necessarily, many are anxious, hostile, narcissistic, manic and sick.

Most successful leaders are planning resilience into their lives. When they don’t, as in the Elon Musk tweets of late, they are scrutinized by the media and the company suffers.

What we do believe is that the skills required to succeed in our modern lives – sedentary, plugged into a screen, overwhelmed by data and pace – did not come with our hunter-gatherer experience. Humans have to learn these skills if they are going to keep up and be successful. This is clearly evident in family life, education, healthcare, getting employed, upskilling, and finding meaning in a very confusing time.

The resilience institute

  • Can you describe the Resilience App a little? How can we benefit from it?

Dr. Hansen: The App is a digital support tool that integrates the measure, learn and achieve cycle. In one secure system, you can assess yourself, define your needs, set goals, learn and celebrate success. We are huge fans of people getting together to learn, debate and practice. The App is a convenient complement that allows you to stay engaged quickly and efficiently.

With a significant amount of learning through short videos, practice tips, and selected references, one can really own and share your resilience journey. It is based on short bursts of information and easy access to further study with built-in content tests to assess your learning.

  • What has been the most successful “resilience intervention” story for you so far?

Dr. Hansen:  We are blessed to be able to help hundreds of organizations but I think one that was very meaningful was helping a bank through the Christchurch earthquakes. The bank committed to providing support to their people and employees families. The city was flattened and many people lost homes, offices and loved places. The earth shook several times a day triggering debilitating uncertainty and anxiety.

We ran a number of workshops helping people understand how to negotiate this threatening time. We worked through the details of how to bounce forward, how to stay calm in a shake, how to re-establish sleep patterns, how to recreate daily disciplines and how to master destructive emotions and thoughts. Leaders were supportive. It was great to see a long-term client apply resilience in such a helpful way.

  • Lastly, what would your advice be for a young millennial to become more resilient?

Dr. Hansen: This is a question in the minds of many caring people. Many reports echo the themes of increasing suffering from attention disorders, social withdrawal, self-harming, anxiety, hostility, and depression. At the same time, many millennials are thriving. Our data shows that millennials score lower in focus, purpose, emotional agility, flow, and decisiveness. They are also more prone to sleep disorders, boredom, disengaged, self-critical, and worry. All of these can be improved with awareness and simple skills.

My recommended action list for millennials:

  1. Extricate your life from your phone – it is not your friend
  2. Train your mind to focus – meditate and make conscious decisions
  3. Relax about the world’s drama and be kind to others
  4. Build emotional intelligence
  5. Find your flow by seeking challenge and refining your skills
  6. Sleep discipline – enough, right timing, right quality
  7. Be present and be kind to yourself