Take ownership of your choices and the outcomes of those choices. Being resilient means recognizing your power. This requires that you acknowledge your role in every situation. If you constantly view the world as acting on you, you’re adopting a mindset that makes you powerless. Blaming others or the situation for what you experience does not position you to take action

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 Dr Rebekah Wanic.

Dr Rebekah Wanic is a mindset psychologist who works with entrepreneurs and individuals to help them overcome challenges and reach their personal goals. A gifted public speaker and university lecturer, Rebekah is an expert in social psychology and her work has appeared in academic journals and publications around the world.

She is particularly interested in how people’s mindset can influence their outcomes and is a firm believer that resilience is a neglected skill which should be more widely taught.

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?

Yes, thank you for having me! I am a lecturer and mindset psychologist in San Diego, where I have lived for the better part of the last 20 years. I moved out to Southern California from the Midwest where I grew up outside of Chicago for graduate school. I have spent over 18 years teaching a variety of different psychology courses, mentoring students and conducting research. A few years ago, I decided to challenge myself so I moved to Singapore and after coming back to the states, I started my business in order to help mentor clients who were struggling with overcome blocks on their way to self-optimization.

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

A few months before COVID shut everything down, I interviewed for and was offered a position at a top university in Singapore. As you can imagine, I was so excited but shortly after I accepted the offer and began to plan my move, I learned I would have to wait because the country was not letting anyone in due to COVID restrictions. Of course, everyone was forced to deal with a lot of change that year, but I had quite a few more as I had to navigate an international move on top of everything else. When I arrived in Singapore, I had to adjust to a new life, with a new job, new living situation and in new country with very limited ability to socialize because of on-going COVID-related restrictions. It was a huge challenge and therefore a great experience! Honestly, what I learned was that I can do anything. It was a great opportunity to test my ability to adjust to change and build my confidence. Another important takeaway from that experience was the power of nourishing your connections and seeking new ones. I wouldn’t have been able to make the move, get settled in a new place or thrive without the help of numerous wonderful people at each step of the way. Despite the relative isolation from limited opportunities for in-person interactions, I found many opportunities to connect and made sure to take advantage of each one.

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

I’d say it’s my unique background and breadth of experience. As a seasoned educator and conference presenter, I have had to prepare content for wide ranging audiences. This regularly challenges me so that I can hone my communication skills to anticipate audience needs, listen effectively and adjust my message to meet those needs. I also understand fully the importance of client understanding as the basis of effective learning and work hard to help individuals reflect on their own experience as they progress.

I am skilled at identifying when mindset issues are hindering a client’s ability to make progress and working to help them to confront these in a space that is supportive of growth. My sense of humor helps to make honest critique palatable to reduce defensiveness and inspire change. I harness my own skill set to socratically probe during a session, helping clients realize where adjustments are warranted and maintaining motivation to take action.

Just last week I was working with a client who was facing a mental roadblock. I offered a suggestion for changing his behavior and he argued against it. When I asked him why he was fighting to keep doing the thing that wasn’t working instead of making a change, it led to an insight for him. I got a wonderful message the morning after the session about the new action he was taking and thanking me for helping him to have this breakthrough. Those are the stories that make my job so rewarding!

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?

Yes, I am so grateful to all the help I’ve gotten at every stage of my career. Of course, I would not be where I am without the help of my parents, teachers and colleagues. But, if I had to pick one, I’d say my twin sister. I am very lucky to have her in my life and she has been a solid source of support for me whenever I have needed it. She also serves as a great role model because she is fearless in many ways and watching her take risks has inspired me to take on more challenges in my own life. I don’t think I would have even considered taking the position in Singapore if it wasn’t for her. She has lived in and traveled to so many different countries. Seeing her do this successfully gave me the confidence to try it out for myself. She is also a great person to give you a reality check when you need a little help putting things in perspective.

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 take a hit and keep on going, to walk away from the rubble ready to face the next challenge. This doesn’t mean a resilient person never feels bad or falters, but resilient people don’t stay stuck. A resilient person takes responsibility for themself and dedicates effort consistently to moving toward their goals. Resilient people are the ones who own their outcomes and take action from where they are. By this I mean that they demonstrate acceptance of both the good and the challenging aspects of their reality. Rather than blaming others for their discontent or feeling like a victim, resilient individuals say, “This is what I have to deal with, and here is what I have to do” and then they take action. Resilient individuals are also those who reach out for help when needed but don’t expect other people to solve their problems for them.

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

It can require courage to be resilient, but courage is usually more limited because typically often tied to a specific experience. A firefighter is courageous when they run into a building to save someone who is trapped. Resilience is about more than just a single moment or event. A resilient firefighter can perform this action time and time again. Courage is also social whereas resilience is more personal. When we think about courage, it is often tied to a social situation — people are courageous in the service of others or a cause — whereas resilience is about individual strength. A resilient individual controls their thoughts and emotions to position themselves with the power to overcome whatever may come up in the future.

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

I think of Serena Williams. Her and her sister Venus did so much to change the game of tennis and experienced a lot of negativity and push back. They are both strong forces but Serena stands out to me more because of her ability to come back stronger. Not only did she put together an incredible career, but I am astounded by the fact that she was able to take time off to have a baby, nearly died during childbirth, and came back to reach four grand slam finals. She strikes me as a woman who could handle any challenge.

Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?

Yes, when I was a child I was told I couldn’t run. I suffered from very severe asthma since birth and it was the recommendation of my doctor that I not run because it would induce an asthma attack. When I was younger, I heeded this advice because I was often sick with severe attacks. As I got older though, I wanted to test the restriction and started with jogging, slowing increasing my stamina until I was able to successfully complete a distance race. To me, it was a huge accomplishment.

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

Yes, I gave up a great job for a relationship and was planning to move abroad when I realized it wasn’t going to work out. I had to remake my life at that point but it put me in a position to make changes. I realized that I could complain and let it drag me down or see it for what it was, a great opportunity to take advantage of the upheaval. There is nothing like feeling everything you’d plan on fall away to expose your vulnerability but also your power. I was able to use my gratitude to motivate my own action to make some changes. My productivity and career have taken off in the wake of this experience in a way I never would have anticipated. I got to reinvigorate old relationships and make amazing new ones. While it was not what I wanted, I feel like perhaps it was exactly what I needed.

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?

As I mentioned, I grew up with severe asthma. If we had more time, I could recount countless stories about the horrible medications I had to take and the endless play dates or parties I had to leave early because of my attacks. More recently, I developed some neuromuscular issues that have made the running I found so valuable and empowering no longer an option for me. What I learned from both is that I need to take ownership of my condition, pay attention what I can and can’t do, and fight for myself to get the help I need. Unfortunately, trying to get doctors to take your pain seriously as a middle-aged woman can be challenging. Dealing with chronic illness your whole life teaches you the value of resilience from an early age, and although I wouldn’t wish it for someone else, it has helped to make me who I am and for that I’m thankful.

Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient?

1. Take ownership of your choices and the outcomes of those choices. Being resilient means recognizing your power. This requires that you acknowledge your role in every situation. If you constantly view the world as acting on you, you’re adopting a mindset that makes you powerless. Blaming others or the situation for what you experience does not position you to take action.

This is what I was referring to in the relationship set-back from the earlier question. I was able to be resilient because I accepted that I had made the choice to quit my job and to move and therefore I was the one who had to deal with the consequences of those decisions. Letting myself feel like a victim would not have empowered me to make changes.

2. Adopt a mindset to view challenges with gratitude. When you are faced with a new challenge, it is easy to feel upset, overwhelmed and aggrieved. These are powerless emotions. Choose gratitude instead and acknowledge the benefit of having a new opportunity to test yourself and grow. It may be something you wouldn’t have picked but we often don’t know what we’re made of until circumstances require us to rise to the occasion. If we train ourselves to view challenges and setbacks as opportunities, we can be thankful when things don’t work out the way we wanted them to. This gratitude is a powerful force to help motivate you to refocus on your values, reflect on what changes you can make, and then take action.

3. Take action every day and practice doing what is hard. A little bit goes a long way if you consistently work toward building resilience. The easiest way to think about this is with a parallel to exercise. You must do it regularly and you must do what’s hard. If you don’t regularly work out, any gains you’ve made will be lost. And, if you always pick the lightest weight or jog at the slowest speed, you’ll never be able to improve. You don’t go from never running to running a marathon either. It’s a training regime that gets you to the goal. If you think of everything in life through the lens of this metaphor, you’ll position yourself to do the small things now to build to the bigger ones in the future.

4. Don’t confuse wants with needs. So many of us complain about things because we confuse what we want with what we need. It is only in a state of plenty that we have the privilege to do this. Acknowledging this reality goes a long way in helping to develop a mindset of resilience. You can tolerate so much more when you realize that much of your discontent is about wants not needs. Once you realize this, you are in a powerful position to appreciate all you have. This appreciation can then fuel your motivation to put in the work for what you want. Reflect on your values and whether the wants are really what you want and if so, you’ll be better able to make the choices that will help you get more of what you want — with gratitude that you have the opportunity to do so.

5. Use your network wisely and always give more than you get. Being connected with others is important for building resilience. Other people can help us to put things into perspective and provide us with support. The key is to remember that every time you ask for help, you’re putting your needs over someone else’s and every resource is limited. What you take, someone else can’t get. This doesn’t mean you should feel bad about asking for help or connecting but it is important to be cognizant of what you take and what you give. Importantly, being there to provide support for others is also a way to grow your own confidence as you share your strength.

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. 🙂

Start every day by considering three things you have to be thankful for and identify at least one thing you will put in extra effort toward. We are awash in people telling us to use our grievances to gain attention and encouraging us to claim victimhood to seek accommodations. This keeps people mired in negativity and is disempowering. It undermines resilience, damages mental well-being and hurts those around you. Empower yourself and others by doing the opposite. Start each day by celebrating what you have, even when you might be struggling, and considering where you will use your power to maximize your outcomes.

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 🙂

I would love to meet Charles Barkley. I have been a fan of his since I was young. His personality is infectious and I love listening to his commentary and stories. Also, since I mentioned her earlier, Serena Williams. I think being able to hear more about the hardships she’s faced and how she pushed through to learn from her would incredibly inspiring.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

I publish a weekly blog, Optimization Notes, with advice for maximizing your potential. You can find it at https://venttoreinvent.substack.com/

or connect with me on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/rebekahwanic/

Learn more about mindset services at www.venttoreinvent.com

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


  • Savio P. Clemente

    TEDx Speaker, Media Journalist, Board Certified Wellness Coach, Best-Selling Author & Cancer Survivor

    Savio P. Clemente, TEDx speaker and Stage 3 cancer survivor, infuses transformative insights into every article. His journey battling cancer fuels a mission to empower survivors and industry leaders towards living a truly healthy, wealthy, and wise lifestyle. As a Board-Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), Savio guides readers to embrace self-discovery and rewrite narratives by loving their inner stranger, as outlined in his acclaimed TEDx talk: "7 Minutes to Wellness: How to Love Your Inner Stranger." Through his best-selling book and impactful work as a media journalist — covering inspirational stories of resilience and exploring wellness trends — Savio has collaborated with notable celebrities and TV personalities, bringing his insights to diverse audiences and touching countless lives. His philosophy, "to know thyself is to heal thyself," resonates in every piece.