18 Resilience Quotes to Help You Overcome Adversity

Resilience isn't something you're born with. It's a learned skill that can benefit you in every area of your life. Get inspired with these resilience quotes.

Start over tomorrow

Thomas Edison’s brilliance led to the invention of things like the phonograph and the first practical light bulb, but his most incredible trait may’ve been his resilience: The prolific inventor watched his factories burn to the ground when he was 67 years old, but instead of bemoaning his fate, Edison told his wife to gather her friends because they’d likely never again see a fire as large as that one.

Once the fire was out, he gathered all his employees and declared, “I’ll start all over again tomorrow.”

The tragedy that befell Edison isn’t unique, but how he handled it was pretty extraordinary, and we can learn a lot about resilience from his story.

Whether it’s a messy breakup, the loss of a family member, getting laid off from a job, or any number of different heartbreaks, everyone has experienced things that have brought them to their knees.

The question isn’t whether or not you will experience hardship—that’s just the price of admission to life—but how you will handle those things when they happen, says Ken Yeager, who leads The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center’s Stress, Trauma, and Resilience program and is an associate professor in the College of Medicine.

(Here are 15 famous people you didn’t know who overcame a disability.)

Will it break you down or build you up stronger?

“Events like these can derail us for months—even years—unless we find productive ways to work through the pain,” says Yeager.

Productively working through pain, adapting to difficult circumstances, and learning from challenges can be summed up in one word: resilience. Simply put, it’s the art of bouncing back. Even though you may feel like you’ve been flattened when you’re hit, you still get back up and keep moving forward.

(P.S. Resilience and gratitude go hand in hand. Check out these gratitude quotes.)

How to build resilience

Resilience isn’t a destination or a goal but rather a process that you repeat throughout your life, says Yeager. And there are things you can do to cultivate more resilience within yourself.

Getting physical activity, spending time outdoors, eating nutritious meals, reaching out to friends, doing acts of service, and talking to a trained mental health professional are a few of the proven ways to build physical and emotional resilience, he says.

Another powerful option is to learn from others who’ve experienced serious adversity and bounced back from it. (Here are 15 self-motivation quotes to help you get started.)

For a little inspiration, we rounded up some of the best quotes from people who have learned how to be resilient.

Get inspired with resilience quotes

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Choose now: Bitter or better?

“It’s your reaction to adversity, not adversity itself, that determines how your life’s story will develop.” —Dieter F. Uchtdorf, religious leader

Deciding now how you will react to challenges and taking steps to prepare yourself can help you be more resilient when the challenges come unexpectedly.

If you’re struggling to feel that you are worth fighting for, these powerful self-love quotes can help you build your self-esteem.


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Change is progress

“I can be changed by what happens to me, but I refuse to be reduced by it.” —Maya Angelou, writer and poet laureate

These heavy trials will change you. That’s a given. But the empowering part of resilience is recognizing that you get to choose how they change you.

Start with these 50 tiny changes that will make you a happier person.


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Resilience is the antidote to depression

“You say you’re depressed, but all I see is resilience. You are allowed to feel messed up and inside out. It doesn’t mean you’re defective—it means you’re human.” —David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas

There’s a two-way street between mental health and resilience. College students who were mentally healthy showed higher levels of resilience, according to a study published in Frontiers in Psychology; what’s more, students who reported being resilient had lower levels of mental illness.

Not sure which one to start with? Here’s how to build resilience to improve your mental health.


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Learn from this

“Resilient people immediately look at the problem and say, ‘What’s the solution?’ and ‘What is this trying to teach me?'” —Unknown

Finding a higher purpose in suffering is one way to avoid getting trapped in a victim mentality.

Here’s how to stop living your to-do list and start living your bucket list.


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It’s not survival of the strongest

“It’s not the strongest of a species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most resilient and responsive to change.” —Charles Darwin, who pioneered the theory of evolution

Darwin, the source of the famous “survival of the fittest” ideology, recognized the importance of resilience in our overall survival.


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Laughter is the best medicine

“What makes people resilient is the ability to find humor and irony in situations that would otherwise overpower you.” —Amy Tan, author

Being able to look at problems from an outside perspective can help you not get as caught up in the whirlwind of emotions. And laughter is an instant mood-booster.

You can also try these meditation quotes to feel grounded.


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Failure is necessary

“Failure is an important part of your growth and developing resilience.” —Michelle Obama, author and former First Lady of the United States

You can’t become resilient if you’re never pushed hard enough to need it. Seeing adversity as a tool for strength helps you put your failures into perspective.

Setting goals can also make your life more meaningful.


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The only person you have control over is yourself

“Life doesn’t get easier or more forgiving; we get stronger and more resilient.” —Steve Maraboli, author

Once you stop expecting life to get easier over time or for someone else to solve your problems, you recognize how much control you really do have over your own experiences.

Sticking to a routine schedule, including when to go to bed and when to get up, can help you feel more in control of your life.


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There’s no such thing as 100 percent resilient

“Resilience isn’t all or nothing. It comes in amounts. And no matter how resilient you are today, you can become more resilient tomorrow.” —Karen Reivich, psychologist and researcher

Resilience, like any learned skill, can be honed and improved. It may also depend on the situation. For instance, you may feel more resilient when confronting challenges at work than you do in relationships.

Recognizing where you can use more resilience can help you strengthen those weaknesses. These are things successful people do every day.


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It comes with perks

“Resilience is a precious skill. People who have it have three advantages: a belief they can influence life events, a tendency to find meaning and purpose in life’s turmoil, and a conviction they can learn from positive and negative experiences.” —Amanda Ripley, journalist

It’s not just about slogging through the struggle. Resilience offers benefits in other areas of your life.

The more resilient you are, the better you can be as a friend, a parent, a coworker, or a lover because it increases your capacity to give. Just make sure to maintain and set healthy boundaries.


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Do more than just survive

“Resilience is all about being able to overcome the unexpected. The goal of resilience isn’t to just survive but thrive.” —Jamais Cascio, author

Learning to choose happiness even in upsetting situations is a powerful skill, helping you to not just survive them but to come out better for it.

It can be especially tricky when you’re surprised by the pain, but that makes it even more valuable to practice resilience before you need it.


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Look around you

“Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.” —Helen Keller, author, educator, and advocate

Almost nothing is more inspiring than watching someone else overcome great obstacles and emerge stronger.

The news is full of beautiful stories of resilience if you look for them. Start with these quotes from people who’ve conquered mountains in their lives.


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It’s not about being happy all the time

“Resilience is very different than being numb. Resilience means you experience. You fall. You hurt. You fail. But you keep going anyhow.” —Yasmin Mogahed, psychologist

Pollyanna was the main character in the movie of the same name, known for her relentless positivity even when everything was going wrong.

A permanent smile isn’t the goal, however—this is called toxic positivity and it can cause more harm than good. Resilience isn’t ignoring or masking the pain, it’s being able to keep moving forward with the pain.


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Flexibility is key

“Wind does not break the tree that bends.” —Unknown

Brittle people break, so one of the best things you can do to cultivate resilience is to learn to be flexible and roll with the punches life throws at you. It also helps to be flexible with yourself.

Here’s how to stop feeling guilty all the time and forgive yourself.


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There’s nowhere to go but up

“Rock bottom became the solid foundation from which I rebuilt my life.” —J.K. Rowling, author

There is no sign that says you’ve hit your rock bottom, but that means you can decide when you’ve reached that point where you will turn it around.

Here’s how one woman handled hitting rock bottom with her depression.


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People are incredible

“Man has never made any material as resilient as the human spirit.” —Unknown

If you worry that you’re just not one of those “resilient types,” consider this: you’ve already overcome 100 percent of your worst days. You are stronger than you realize, and you can build on those successes.


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Do something

“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” —Arthur Ashe, professional tennis player

A major roadblock to feeling resilient is simply not knowing what to do. When you’re feeling down, everything can feel overwhelming. So instead of trying to change everything at once, start with one small positive change at a time.

Sources
  • Ken Yeager, PhD, director of The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center's Stress, Trauma, and Resilience program and an associate professor in the College of Medicine
  • Frontiers in Psychology: "The Relationship Between Resilience and Mental Health in Chinese College Students: A Longitudinal Cross-Lagged Analysis"
  • CNN: "In New Jersey, an inventive way to save Thomas Edison's battery factory"

Charlotte Hilton Andersen
Charlotte Hilton Andersen has been covering health and fitness for many major outlets, both in print and online, for 13 years. She's the author of two books, co-host of the Self Help Obsession podcast, and does freelance editing and ghostwriting. She teaches fitness classes in her spare time. She lives in Denver with her husband, four children, and three pets.