Resilient Reading

Resilience, a term that’s been banded around a lot this year, of all years, but what does it mean? There are plenty of definitions out there, depending on the context but the one I’m going to borrow is Togade and Fredrickson’s description that they used for their research (1).

“Resilience is characterised by the ability to bounce back from negative emotional experiences and flexible adaptation to the changing demands of stressful experiences.”

Sounds good eh? But why do we need it, why do we need resilience? Well, we’re in a constant arms race between the stresses we face and the resilience tools we have at our disposal to counter them. This war rages so that we can grow, move forward and learn from our experiences.

Think how stressful it was to first take a drill to a patient’s mouth, to have your first patient hang on your every word about stuff that you’re still being taught. How routine that all is now? It was necessary to move through that stress to get to where you are now?

What happens when our stressors overwhelm the capacity of our resilience skills? Or the stuff that has worked in the past for us stops working or stops having the same effect? Well, we start sliding down that slippery slope of anxiety, depression, burnout and suicidal ideation. The challenge is to have a range of tools at our disposal that we know how to use in response to the changing face of stress. To allow us to bounce back or to adapt and try something else if what we are doing isn’t working well enough. To develop our own resilience tool kit, not a generic list of things that work for other people but things we know we are able to do, will do and work for us. As in most of life it isn’t one size fits all, we have to use the guidance of others to write our own user manual.

Finding things that resonate with you can be easy once you know your strengths. Martin Seligman and Christopher Peterson developed a list of 24 strengths : Values In Action, an inventory of strengths. Strengths that were universally valued across all cultures and throughout time. You can have these strengths ranked for you by taking the questionnaire at

One of my top strengths is a Love of Learning, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that reading is in my resilience toolkit. I read about 10 pages non fiction and a chapter of fiction daily. The fiction to wind down as part of my sleep routine, the non fiction might be dental but is often leadership, self development or a biography.

As I write this the UK has just gone back into a mass lockdown, and as we all live alongside COVID and in the shadow of imminent lockdown, I thought I’d share a short reading list with you, some non fiction I’ve recently read. In no particular order:

The Crossroads of Should and Must – Elle Luna
A short, thought provoking book about where we are and our motivations for the things we do and the directions we are heading in.

Black Box Thinking – Matthew Syed
A thoughtful book about our attitude to failure, contrasting how the medical world manages failure to the aviation industry. This book inspired my article, Permission to Fail to bring these lessons to the dental profession.

Braving The Wilderness – Brené Brown
One of many of Brené’s books that stands alone about paving our own way and belonging rather than fitting in.

Resilient Grieving – Lucy Hone
A practical, research-based guide to finding your own path to recovery from devastating loss.

Man’s Search for Meaning – Viktor Frankl
Observations of hope, optimism and survival within world war 2 concentration camps.

The One Thing – Gary Keller
‘What’s the one thing, that you can do, such that by doing it every thing else that follows will be easier or unnecessary?’ Whilst it focuses on business management it’s as much about managing our personal lives as applying in a professional context.

From my lockdown experience to yours, happy reading. If you want to discuss what you are reading then join me @fang_farrier on twitter.


  1. Resilient Individuals Use Positive Emotions to Bounce Back From Negative Emotional Experiences. M Tugade, B Fredrickson. 2004