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Optimism and Resilience

Professor Jane Burns

People talk about tenacity and resilience and strength of character but it is optimism that drives behaviour when on some days it would be easier to say “stop - I give up, it’s too hard. Optimism is believing in the impossible and then taking the steps to make it possible.”

Robert Moritz, Global Chair, PwC

“Embracing resilience fundamentally means building an optimism in people that will allow them to see failure as a step toward greater knowledge.  I believe building organizational resilience and the ability to adapt to unforeseen circumstances is rising to the top of the business agenda, particularly given the challenges we’re seeing in the 21st century”

Dr Krystal Evans

"Optimism is empowering. It’s the belief that no matter what challenges you face, that you can make a difference. That your voice and your actions matter. It underpins resilience, determination and ambition"


Dr Emily Edwards,  Immunologist

"Being optimistic gives you the resilience and power to overcome life's challenges empowering you to live, learn, lead and ultimately make a difference to the lives of others."

Elaine Lipworth 

"We know people who have a penchant toward optimism are also more resilient in the face of a crisis."

Professor David C. Strubler, Ph.D.

"Optimism and resilience are learned by repeatedly testing our identity against the fears that we face and overcome."  

Wendy A Harris QC

"What makes me optimistic is the galvanising effect of significant adversity; history demonstrates it gives people the opportunity to show what they are truly made of and can bring out the best human qualities in all of us."

Chris Norman, CEO, Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority

"The need for optimism has never been more important in dealing with the whole set of daily and long-term complex problems. Our resilience journey has been strengthened by an understanding of the critical need for optimism to underpin our approaches."

Matt Joski, Sheriff, Kewaunee County

“Optimism is the engine that powers resiliency. While there are many character strengths which we all possess, they are all deficient unless supported by and deeply rooted in Optimism. We are impacted in everything from personal relationships to physical health by the existence or absence of Optimism. This powerful trait is not one founded in the denial of reality or refusal of circumstances, but rather the unyielding belief that even our darkest hours bring with them hope and empowerment.”

Renee Branson, Author

"Optimism is the fuel and the faith that drives our resilience when our other resilience tools (reason, composure, vision) are temporarily out of reach. Optimism is the chair we sink into that we know will hold us until reason and composure catch up."

Michael Crossland, Speaker

"Optimism and resilience helps you not just survive but thrive through uncertain times."

Emily Jaksch

"Everyone faces adversity but it’s how you deal with it that defines the person. Your levels of optimism underpin your resilience and successful response to that adversity!"

Diana Hodgson, Dynamic Global HR Leader

“Leadership – the case for optimism?   People want to be inspired!  Given the future of work and the reality and pace of change as it evolves, optimism is an important trait to keep us moving productively forward.  Resilience is its companion.  As I see it, being an optimist doesn’t mean that you can’t see faults and flaws, but it means that you see them as obstacles to be overcome and gives a language and anchor from which to draw the energy to move forward.”

April Chepovskygold, Lawyer and Entrepreneur

“The Case for Optimism?  Belief in self and dreams inspires others to be the same….Resiliency.  You cannot inspire others with negativity.”

Libby Mears, CEO, Leisure Networks

"I am optimistic when I see the strength of communities who have overcome adversity, seeing people included who are usually excluded and when I see people willing to display gentleness, empathy, compassion and kindness."

Editorial Board, Cape Gazette

"The thing about optimism, however, is the inherent sense that no matter how bad things are, people have the resilience, determination and intelligence to seek and find solutions."

Professor Fiona Wood, Australian of the Year 2005

(I am an) "absolute rabid optimist.  Optimism coupled with resilience is an important combination."

Emily Esfahani Smith, Author of The Power of Meaning

“Far from being delusional or faith-based, having a positive outlook in difficult circumstances is not only an important predictor of resilience—how quickly people recover from adversity—but it is the most important predictor of it. People who are resilient tend to be more positive and optimistic compared to less-resilient folks; they are better able to regulate their emotions; and they are able to maintain their optimism through the most trying circumstances.

“This is what Dr. Dennis Charney, the dean of Mount Sinai School of Medicine, found when he examined approximately 750 Vietnam war veterans who were held as prisoners of war for six to eight years. Tortured and kept in solitary confinement, these 750 men were remarkably resilient. Unlike many fellow veterans, they did not develop depression or posttraumatic stress disorder after their release, even though they endured extreme stress. What was their secret? After extensive interviews and tests, Charney found ten characteristics that set them apart. The top one was optimism. The second was altruism. Humor and having a meaning in life—or something to live for—were also important.”


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