Incorporate gratitude and humility: Gratitude is a frequently occurring positive emotion that can provide perspective. Humility allows us to understand we are not perfect and that expecting perfection is unrealistic. Incorporating gratitude can reinforce optimistic thoughts and humility allows us to keep an open mind and be flexible in our thoughts as we remain teachable. Incorporating and developing gratitude and humility promote resilience.


Resilience has been described as the ability to withstand adversity and bounce back from difficult life events. Times are not easy now. How do we develop greater resilience to withstand the challenges that keep being thrown at us? In this interview series, we are talking to mental health experts, authors, resilience experts, coaches, and business leaders who can talk about how we can develop greater resilience to improve our lives.

As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing MAJ Donald W. Chase, OTRL, DSc at United States Army Center for Initial Military Training.

Major Donald Chase is an Occupational Therapist in the U.S. Army and a leader of the Mental Readiness domain of the Holistic Health and Fitness (H2F) System. The Army built H2F to optimize Soldier readiness, across training and everyday life by not only addressing physical fitness, but also mental wellness. Mental readiness focuses on mental, spiritual, sleep and nutritional health and fitness. The idea is to teach and prepare Soldiers how to perform well in any environment they find themselves in.

As an H2F System actions officer, Major Chase is writing and implementing resiliency curriculum that keeps our troops healthy and strong. Some of the ways that he and the Mental Readiness domain support the performance of Soldiers is by teaching exercises in breathing techniques, mindfulness, life balance, stress management and the power of positive thinking, among other tactics that are uniquely tailored to each unit.

Major Chase has Associate of Science degree in Biology and Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in Occupational Therapy.


Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?

Working as a staff occupational therapist my insatiable curiosity got the best of me, and the U.S. Army’s Doctorate of Science Degree program through Baylor University sounded intriguing. Family members had served in previous conflicts, so the thought of joining the military to serve Soldiers with my unique skillset felt natural and like a win. Luckily, I was accepted to serve and through years of military service, family experiences living around the world, a reverence for spirituality, and exposure to advanced training I continue to the quest to build my resilience.

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

An interesting story from my career involved working with a Soldier that had sustained serious injuries in Afghanistan after encountering an IED. He survived the blast and soon found himself entrenched in daily rehabilitation at the Center for the Intrepid (CFI) in Texas. His injuries ultimately led to amputation of several limbs. After multiple surgeries, he began the arduous road to recovery. With the initial assessment, we were collaborating to set some short- and long-term goals. He earnestly desired to get back and support his unit, but also realized the liability he would be to them. He had returned home to his wife and their young daughter, and had mentioned the burden it had become for his wife to provide care for both him and their infant daughter. The very first goal that he wanted to work on was learning how to change a diaper. He said, “my wife does so much for all of us, if I could help change my daughter’s diapers, this would be one less thing that my wife has to do.” A Soldier who was just in a traumatic wartime explosion, wanted nothing more than to help others instead of himself. This optimized the resolve, grit, self-less service, and resilience of the American Soldier. This Soldier’s ability to bounce back and thrive in the face of adversity is a lesson that will never be forgotten.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

The U.S. Army is unique and stands out as a huge organization that is currently investing in its people. Recently there has been emphasis from Army Senior Leaders to place “people first” as people have been identified by as the “ultimate weapon system.” The Holistic Health and Fitness (H2F) System illustrates how the culture in the U.S. Army is shifting to a more holistic mindset toward health and wellness. Based on evidence and current practices in professional and collegiate sports, the U.S. Army is shifting the focus to human performance optimization to promote readiness for our tactical athletes (Soldiers). The U.S. Army is currently investing in Human Performance Teams consisting of occupational therapists, physical therapists, registered dieticians, cognitive performance specialists, athletic trainers, and strength and conditioning coaches on a scope and scale not previously seen. Many may not be aware of the tremendous efforts and resources Army Senior Leaders are taking to place “people first” in the U.S. Army.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

My wife has helped me far more than anyone else to allow me to get where I am today. I am eternally grateful for all the thankless hard work and sacrifices she has made to support me and our children over the years. Learning to lean on others for support in times of struggle and being there for others in their time of need fosters resilience and can forge stronger relationships. Her optimistic mindset, constant flexibility through many military moves, last minute deployment/departures have sustained me and allowed us to be successful as a family. She is the rock-solid foundation upon which our family grows and thrives.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?

Resilience is the ability to bounce back from adversity, regulate emotions, and develop the ability to learn and grow from challenges. Characteristics or traits of resilient individuals include, but are not limited to:

Developing a growth mindset: Keep an open mind and understanding that there may always be a different way to tackle situations. Listen to others — particularly subordinates — and you may be surprised at the ingenuity and ideas that can come from where the rubber meets the road.

Value relationships: Within your home, within your family, at work, in the community, at church, within your organizations, value relationships and lean on others in your time of need and help others when they need help. Being resilient doesn’t mean a person has to handle everything on her/his own.

Maintain balance in life: Take breaks when needed. Going 100% all the time and eventually burning out is not practicing resilience. Pace yourself, learn when to accelerate and when to pump the brakes, and work hard and take time for active recovery.

Regulate emotion: Learn when anger or resentment is developing, understand how stress or anxiety manifest themselves, develop skills to mitigate these emotions and accentuate more renewing emotions of joy or satisfaction. Understand that it is normal to have a wide variety of emotions as humans are not robots and that it is human to display and experience emotion. Learn to better read emotions in self and others and synthesize this information prior to taking action (behaviors).

Be humble: Understand that we are not perfect and expecting perfection is unrealistic. Learn to grow from setbacks, understanding we can develop all these characteristics/traits further as there is always room for improvement. Overall, be teachable without rigidity in our thinking processes.

Optimistic: Stay realistic while recognizing the many good things that happen in our lives. Fight our seemingly natural human tendency to focus on negative information/feedback. Identify the things we can control and the things we cannot, and learn to develop hope and confidence in the future.

Communication: Learn to express the intents of our thoughts in a clear, simple, and concise manner. Learn to assess and assimilate verbal, non-verbal, written, visual, and all types of communication. Learn and develop etiquette and to display respect with communication including e-communication. Develop active listening skills and understand communication loops and how to effectively complete them. Learn how to have difficult respectful conversations (i.e. how to respectfully disagree with spouse, family, your boss, etc.)

Courage is often likened to resilience. In your opinion how is courage both similar and different to resilience?

Courage can be defined as being self-reliant, the ability to do something frightening, trusting ones-self, displaying confidence or strength in the presence of pain/grief, and displaying a willingness to take risks when prudent to exploit opportunities. Courage while similar to resilience in some respects differs as courage may be more likely to be characterized as an individual trait whereas resilience can include more collaborative aspects (i.e. developing relationships, reaching out in times of need, etc.) Courage is the ability to take the first step in any given situation, and resilience may be characterized as displaying courage after a setback. Courage may be characterized as a piece in developing holistic resilience.

When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

General George Washington epitomizes resilience. He was courageous in accepting the position to lead the Continental Army to take on the vastly superior British forces. He was tenacious despite what arguably must have seemed like insurmountable odds against his foes. He displayed humility as reportedly feeling unworthy to lead the Continental Army. He understood when he needed to reach out and effectively communicate his need to rely on others for assistance and did this regularly as he reached out to the Continental Congress and ultimately to France for resources and support. He displayed the ability to be optimistic and be realistic while being optimistic. He displayed the ability to bounce back after multiple costly defeats.

Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?

When I first joined the U.S. Army, I was not able to pass the Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT). This may sound silly to some, but this was a big deal to me. I played multiple sports in high school and played sports for over ten years recreationally as an adult. However, I guess I didn’t do too many sit ups and therefore I was lacking core strength. If unable to pass the APFT, there was a chance I would not be able to pursue higher education and a career in the US Army. I did not let this get me down and although I had to work extra hard over the next few months, I was able to pass the APFT and then went on to max the APFT many times thereafter.

How have you cultivated resilience throughout your life? Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?

Resilience is something I have and still continue to develop. When I was 19-years-old, I had a good friend who was diagnosed with Leukemia. At first, he didn’t tell any of us, but it soon became apparent that something was seriously wrong. In the last three months of his life his, health deteriorated rather rapidly and we were able to slowly watch our friend wither away. He provided a lot of insight and thoughts over our last interactions. He fought until the very end, and although he didn’t make it, he inspired me as well as others with the resolve and desire to live every day to its fullest. He taught me a lot, and for the first time in my life I felt challenged to determine the type of person I wanted to be. Through this experience I learned a lot about myself, and what I really wanted out of life. I learned to value relationships, to be grateful for every day, and to strive to become an eternal optimist. My friend did not realize before he passed the lasting effect he would have on me. He taught me that although bad things may happen in life, not to focus on that, but rather to think about the good attributes from every person that you meet. Then contemplate why you judge those attributes to be good. Finally, do what you can to pass those good attributes forward so that you and others can benefit from them.

Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.

Some may think that resilience is an inherent trait, which some are born with and others simply lack. Luckily, this is not the case as resilience can be cultivated and developed by everyone. Below are some steps people can take to foster their personal resilience.

Learn yourself: Nobody knows you as well as you. Become aware of your personal thought patterns, emotions, and actions. Recognize your personal tendencies that are productive and those that are less productive. Learn to recognize how your body reacts to physical, emotional, and cognitive stress. This is the first step in becoming self-aware. Once our personal tendencies and responses to stress are recognized and we develop some self-awareness we can learn and develop skills or strategies to mitigate or regulate the less productive thoughts, emotions, and actions. Conversely, in time and with practice, we can develop resilience and the ability to accentuate the more productive patterns for more desired results. Another part of learning our self is learning how physical exercise, sleep, and proper nutrition can influence our self-confidence, health, wellness and our ability to be resilient.

Be flexible with yourself and others: While learning about yourself, also learn to be flexible with yourself and others. Rigid thinking patterns don’t allow for new or novel ideas. In our ever-changing, fast-paced world a resilient individual is one that can be flexible. Technology is ever evolving and improving, so too can our resilience skills. Be open to feedback from others and be open with yourself as insight into our individual tendencies may not be expected or desired if we are honest with ourselves. As we keep an open mind and are willing be honest with ourselves and others we can learn new strategies and build our personal resilience and the resilience of those around us.

Develop a personal mission statement: Understanding our personal purpose is huge! As we develop a personal mission statement, this will remind us of our personal purpose and can provide strength, perspective, and rational to bounce back from adversity. For some this may include tapping into a higher power, God, source energy, nature, family obligations, family ties or deeply held values or beliefs. This can be particularly helpful and leveraged in trying times as protective, or motivating factors to get us up to fight again when we are proverbially “knocked down”. Developing a mission statement may take some deep introspection, and require some individual flexibility. Understand these mission statements may shift with life experience and provide greater insight as we attempt to learn ourselves and develop resilience.

Develop optimism: As humans we tend to notice what we are doing wrong instead of what we are doing right. One way to develop optimism is to create an optimistic dialogue in our thoughts. This may come more naturally for some, and the idea is to begin to change our thought process. There are many perks of optimistic thinking including more successful relationships, optimized performance in athletic or tactical situations, increased reported levels of happiness, and less likely to become ill. We all have internal dialogues, and as we shift these toward optimistic internal dialogues we are more likely to learn and experience growth from setbacks or failure.

Incorporate gratitude and humility: Gratitude is a frequently occurring positive emotion that can provide perspective. Humility allows us to understand we are not perfect and that expecting perfection is unrealistic. Incorporating gratitude can reinforce optimistic thoughts and humility allows us to keep an open mind and be flexible in our thoughts as we remain teachable. Incorporating and developing gratitude and humility promote resilience.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

Random acts of kindness with no expectation of anything in return are a fantastic way to bring about the most amount of good to the most amount of people. As we perform random acts of kindness the person receiving the kindness feels better that they have received a kind gesture and that another person thought of them in a benevolent manner. Interestingly, and perhaps defying logic or reason, the person performing the random act of kindness often reports feeling better themselves after performing these random acts with no expectation of anything in return. These effects can be cumulative and spread exponential good.

We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them.

Honestly, I would prefer to have a private breakfast or lunch with my wife. I love spending time with those I cherish the most.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Scan the following QR Code that provides further information about the Holistic Health and Fitness (H2F) System of the U.S. Army.

Or visit GoArmy.com to learn more about life and work in the U.S. Army.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

Author(s)

  • Savio Clemente

    Board Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), Media Journalist, #1 Best-selling Author, Podcaster, and Stage 3 Cancer Survivor

    The Human Resolve LLC

    Savio P. Clemente is a Board Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), media journalist, #1 best-selling author, podcaster, stage 3 cancer survivor, and founder of The Human Resolve LLCHe coaches cancer survivors and ambitious industry leaders to amplify their impact, attract media attention, and make their voice heard. He inspires them to get busy living in mind, body, and spirit and to cultivate resilience in their mindset.

    Savio has interviewed notable celebrities and TV personalities and has been invited to cover numerous industry events throughout the U.S. and abroad.  His mission is to provide clients, listeners, and viewers alike with tangible takeaways on how to lead a truly healthy, wealthy, and wise lifestyle.