The five steps you can take to be more resilient is to have a buddy in any challenging circumstance. That can be a coach, a therapist, a best friend, a work colleague, or an accountability partner. Somebody that’s taking the journey with you. One of the biggest challenges of times in our lives when we’re suffering and we need the capacity to be resilient, is that when we’re suffering, we often retract from others. We isolate ourselves more in the times when in fact, we need the opposite.


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 Paul Krismer.

Keynote speaker Paul Krismer teaches the practical application of positive emotions to achieve corporate and personal excellence to audiences around the world. As an employee engagement speaker and expert, Paul delivers strategies to attain healthier workforces and increased profits- these are the scientifically proven results of highly engaged team members.


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?

I came about my current work in a kind of roundabout way. I was very fortunate in my early career to be elevated to a position of, frankly, way more responsibility than I had ever expected to have in my early 20s. I was overseeing massive departments with hundreds of millions of dollars of expenditures, and I simply felt inadequate to the task of managing people and businesses of the size that I was doing. To deal with my insecurity, I read tons of business books by gurus, many of whom I still respect today.

One of the takeaways I noted was that many of these “experts” provided opinions from their personal experience in sometimes rather unique situations that were not always relatable to other types of businesses.

Nevertheless, these books helped me out a great deal. But when positive psychology became its own subscience within the broader field of psychology, I started recognizing that these laboratory-based studies conducted in controlled environments and published in peer-reviewed journals had a lot more to teach us about what makes people fundamentally function at their best, relative to just somebody’s opinion from their limited work experience. So, I used these research findings from positive psychology in my own life, which I found powerful, motivating, inspiring, and assisting me in getting more success in my life. In addition, I found that they were completely practical for me to implement in the teams that I managed, and I used the learnings from positive psychology to develop my teams around me.

And after a great number of years of doing this in a professional corporate environment, I decided to start my own business consulting with big organizations that needed to help with their own workplace cultures. And I love what I do.

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?

This may not be the most interesting story for my career, but it’s a relevant story in the context of this interview.

I had a policy department to run in a large insurance company, and we had a great deal of change underway. I hired a number of temporary workers from a Master of Public Administration program, and I gave them really hard jobs that they had no familiarity with. They basically had to research a whole unique policy question, write a detailed paper for public consultation and consideration by our Board of Directors, and then ultimately write the policy itself. And I remember one occasion I hired this young woman named Amanda. Her first stab at a very difficult policy paper fell short in many ways, not unexpectedly. When I reviewed it, I had a ton of negative comments, big scratches of pen across huge swaths of her detailed, lengthy paper, and a ton of redirection that I asked her to do on the second draft. I’m sure she felt rather defeated by the amount of rework I was requiring from her. About a month later, she came back with a second draft, and it was really quite good, although I still had lots of marking up on her paper. They were comparatively minor tweaks and she had really landed the paper quite well. When I was finished commenting all over the paper, I added a little yellow sticky note to the front of it and I said, “This is great work, Amanda! A

Amanda finished her four-month work term with us and went back to university to finish her master’s degree, and several years later she was hired back by my same organization. Except this time, it was in our human resources department.

I recall having a conversation with her as I was waiting in that department to go into a meeting with the director. Amanda and I were chit-chatting, and she was going to reference something from the company’s collective agreement. She lifted the cover from the credenza over her desk to get to the collective agreement document, and there, stuck to the inside of her credenza, was my yellow sticky note from four years previously saying, “This is great work, Amanda! A+” It was a lesson to me about how valuable the right kind of feedback at the right time is for individuals such that she would treasure this tiny little piece of paper for years and travel with it from place to place. Not only did it touch me about who she was as an individual, but it showed this human need that we all have to be seen and appreciated and made to feel that our contribution matters.

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

It sounds silly, but genuinely, we live to fulfill the purpose of making positive energy come alive. It’s the same kind of positive energy you see in children when they’re spontaneously playing and just thrilled with the moment: focused and concentrated and loving the teamwork and the play they’re having together. Well, human adults are no different. We want to be creative. We want to work on committed, high functioning teams. And we want to feel we’re contributing something that innately meets some need of our own to add value to the world.

One story I can give was being invited to work with a prison that had a particularly poor workplace culture, and the consequence was great. Literally, they knew that they ran a risk of losing control of the prison if they couldn’t have their workforce united and committed to the task at hand.

Over a period of many months, we brought some basic positive psychology tools that led to a genuine and palpable difference in the emotional context of the work. On my first meeting in the prison, you could feel the oppressive nature of the culture. People were negative, they were pessimistic, and there was very little sense of community and camaraderie. And what degree of levity they had was always in gallows humor. And as little as six months later, we could feel the difference: people were friendlier, more cooperative, and genuinely had a sense of shared mission that they knew would only be accomplished through their collective efforts. It was a fun project to work on.

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?

One of my first bosses was a gentleman named Frank Hense. He ran a flower store, and I got a job delivering flowers after school. Frank was a first-generation German immigrant to my hometown. He ran a really tight ship. He was demanding and a stickler for quality work and industrious attitudes. I was a little frightened by those characteristics in him.

But he also simultaneously showed a genuine interest in me as a person. He asked about my family. He was interested in my views on topics. And I can remember one particularly poignant story: One of my jobs, when I came back from delivering flowers, was doing some general cleanup. And he had this ancient old vacuum cleaner that I would be tidying things up with.

I dropped the darn thing down a set of stairs, and I was devastated. I went to check it and it would not turn on. I was sure when I came back upstairs, I was going to get chewed out. He was a tough guy and ran a very frugal business. And of course, they’d all heard the vacuum cleaner go down the stairs. But when I came back up the stairs, and I told him it no longer works, he looked at me with this complete knowing that he was going to surprise me and said, “well, occupational hazard, these things happen.” Literally it was the last I ever heard of it. He recognized that it wasn’t through my lack of effort, my attitude or industriousness that this accident occurred and so he accepted it. It wasn’t a character flaw in me. It was genuinely an occupational hazard. I loved working for that guy. He set high standards and allowed me to flourish.

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?

Before we define resilience, maybe we can define the opposite, which may be easier to understand. There are degrees of burnout, and so resilience from minor challenges is not much to remark about.

When we are really challenged, we can see this three-stage reduction in our capacity to contribute meaningfully to not only our work, but also to engage in our lives for ourselves. And the first level of burnout is just emotional exhaustion. This could result from a couple of bad days, a really difficult customer, or a boss that’s been on our case. We may be able to recover from that exhaustion by simply giving ourselves a little bit of personal care: a bath, a good conversation, a weekend away…. any relatively minor intervention may lead to resilience from that level of burnout.

The second level of burnout is this predominant belief that you lack efficacy in your work, that you’re not making a difference, that your contribution doesn’t matter. And this isn’t necessarily based on fact, it’s the feeling of lack of efficacy. And this is a much more challenging level of burnout to overcome.

And the third level of burnout is when work becomes completely depersonalized, you almost don’t see yourself in it anymore. We behave like robots, and there’s only so long that we can do that kind of work before we become completely cynical. The work is devoid of a personal connection to who we really are. And being resilient from that level of burnout is a profound challenge.

But all of these levels of burnout are more easily overcome when certain personality traits are present. More resilient people tend to be optimistic. And importantly, they also tend to be rational perspective-taking, so that when things go bad, it’s not hugely personal, or they don’t see it as completely pervasive of all aspects of their lives. Instead, they have a grounding in the appropriate perspective to take for the thing that is challenging them.

And so, when we can see one challenging relationship at work is limited to just that relationship, we can see all the other relationships at work and our interpersonal lives as separate and apart, healthy, and good. And it’s that optimistic, perspective-taking that allows us to bounce back more quickly.

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

Courage can actually be a dangerous quality in some people who grind through the hard times. They tend to think that if they can muscle and lean into the challenge that’s in front of them, they’ll always be able to just get through it. And often that’s a wonderful effective quality. But as we just answered in the last question, higher levels of burnout put a person in jeopardy. Courageously grinding through more challenge is not the answer in these cases.

Rather, more self-care and limiting the demand on your limited resources becomes more and more important. So I think courage is very dissimilar to resilience. Resilience requires the acknowledgement that sometimes I need to retreat and not muscle through something. It takes a different kind of courage to know our limits.

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

The person who most readily comes to my mind when it comes to resilience is my own mom. She had six children under the age of ten when my dad died unexpectedly of cancer. That crept up in a young, healthy man and quickly took his life. And the task of raising six kids on a limited salary must be absolutely overwhelming. And for years she had the wherewithal, both in terms of the physical labor and the psychological strength to see us all through, to get us off to school, off to university, into our first job, and all the things that come with teenagerhood, she saw through six times all by herself, and it was interesting.

She experienced a significant depression when the last of us, me being the youngest, left home, and only then did she have this huge letting go and took the opportunity to recognize what an enormous challenge she’d been through for many, many years. She’s a very tough woman, and I think she’s a saint. All her kids worked out alright, and I couldn’t be more grateful for her.

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?

The question makes me laugh. Lots of times, people have told me that the thing I want to do is unrealistic, ill-intended or virtually impossible to do. And the example that comes to mind most recently is my business, which had been mostly giving in-person training or keynote speeches at conferences and corporate events, was slammed when the pandemic first arrived. All my bookings immediately canceled or said in some uncertain terms they were rescheduling, and no new work was coming in. And in the midst of that grave situation, there was also the personal risk of the pandemic for myself. Canada, which is where I lived, was managing the pandemic on a relative basis quite well compared to the United States.

But during this, I decided to make a move to the United States because I thought it would be better for my business. My family thought I was crazy. It was a bad decision, both for my personal health and the risks I was taking, and also because the business climate for someone who does in-person speaking seemed abysmal and a wiser person than me would choose to do something else. Well, my business has never been more successful than it is right now. And yes, it took some perseverance, some creativity, and the move to more virtual work to make all of this stuff work out.

But other people telling me that something’s impossible oftentimes is invitation to get creative and courageous.

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?

I think suffering is an educator, and if we don’t learn the lesson from our suffering, we are sure to have to repeat the suffering. And my divorce in 2015 was perhaps one of the best examples I can think of.

It was devastating for me personally. I felt tremendous guilt. I was worried about my kids who were in their teenage years at the time.

But the learning I found from this very sad and depressing time in my life was that I could come to terms more with my own integrity, setting clear prioritized values about how I wanted to live and what I wanted for my life. And that learning was invaluable. And it came as a direct result of suffering.

And I would say I am stronger than ever, more focused on what’s important to me.

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?

Perhaps one of the best examples of learning I grew up with that helped me become more resilient was the depression I suffered in my second year of university. There are basically two kinds of depression and the first one most people will be familiar with where there’s a lot of regret in looking to one’s past broken relationships, jobs that didn’t work out or whatever the bad circumstances were and kind of having this negative spiraling sense of doubt about your meaningfulness and capacity to make a difference in the world. And that isn’t the kind of depression that I’m vulnerable to. I’m more vulnerable to the kind of anxious depression where I’ve got so many things on the go, so many projects that I’m eager to get going with that I don’t set healthy boundaries for my own wellbeing. And in university I was the president of a campus club.

I had a full-time course load and a nearly full-time job on top of that and I just pushed through all the time when it was really wearing me down. I’d never really noticed it before that I was being worn out and, one day, I just hit the wall. I couldn’t keep up any longer and do all the things that I had been doing in the past. I wouldn’t wish a depression on anyone, but it invited me to look at how I lived my life, and it was actually back then, some 30 years ago, that I learned to meditate, which was maybe the first positive psychology intervention. Although I wouldn’t have called it that then, I learned and have found meditation as a useful tool in my life. Still today.

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.

The five steps you can take to be more resilient is to have a buddy in any challenging circumstance. That can be a coach, a therapist, a best friend, a work colleague, or an accountability partner. Somebody that’s taking the journey with you. One of the biggest challenges of times in our lives when we’re suffering and we need the capacity to be resilient, is that when we’re suffering, we often retract from others. We isolate ourselves more in the times when in fact, we need the opposite.

We need community. So don’t travel difficult roads in life alone. Have a partner.

Second, a quick, everyday tip is to time block your day for work segments of about 45 minutes. And then after 45 minutes, have a little alarm that goes off on your watch or on your computer that gets you to just stand up and take a quick break. I call this the 45 and five that every 50 minutes. You’re getting a five-minute break within that time period. And it just allows us to remember to do a little self-care, take the break, reprioritize what’s our lives all about, and not just slog away at the hard stuff.

Third, I call this one most it post it. And it’s just a way to put little sticky notes or somehow have a little gratitude journal or some way of recognizing when you’re accomplishing things. So many of us get so busy in life, and, let’s face it, who isn’t busy these days. We fail to recognize the number of accomplishments we’ve actually achieved. So every time I am using this tool, I’m writing down the thing that I crossed off my to do list and putting it up on the wall. And it’s shocking how in a week, how many amazing number of things I do.

And if I weren’t putting it up on the wall where I can see it, I would fail to recognize my own accomplishments. Instead, I would just be seeing the never-ending, seemingly never getting smaller to-do list in front of me rather than all the accomplishment behind me.

The fourth idea is to have one scheduled item of self-care every day in your life. This is bigger than the five-minute break. It’s bigger than writing down your accomplishment. It’s something that you’re doing for yourself. Maybe it’s a regular meditation practice, maybe it’s getting to the gym, maybe it’s prioritizing a healthy meal, maybe it’s going out with a friend for a social visit.

But somehow every day, schedule something that’s written down as your commitment to yourself from meaningful self-care.

And the fifth one is exercise. We simply know from tons of credible scientific research that when our bodies are moving, we process our emotions. We regenerate mental wellbeing and there’s a number of factors here that include the chemical cocktail of both endorphins and brain derived neurotropic factor which are both really, really good for giving us the flexibility in our minds to roll with the hard stuff. It relieves stress and allows our brains to literally grow and be resilient through hard times.

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. 🙂

The movement that I am genuinely invested in is my life’s mission to increase the amount of happiness that the world has. And so the movement that individuals can take on is to make their own personal happiness their main priority. And that doesn’t mean that they get to simply become completely self-centered and selfish. In fact, altruism is one of the best research tools to make one feel better. So, happiness as a personal priority doesn’t mean that we become self-centered, but it means we actually prioritize what’s most important in our lives.

It’s that idea that I can’t handle the issues of the world. My relationships, my employment, the current political circumstances, all the things that are challenging our lives right now unless I first put on my metaphorical airplane oxygen mask. If I take care of me, I prioritize my happiness and from that place of strength I can take care of the others around me.

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 🙂

Elon Musk because he’s not only capable with his tremendous power, but he’s also motivated to change the world. I think he’d be a pretty cool guy to partner with to make the world to a happier place.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Readers can find me via LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/paulkrismer/

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

Author(s)

  • Savio P. Clemente

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

    The Human Resolve LLC

    Savio P. Clemente coaches cancer survivors to overcome the confusion and gain the clarity needed to get busy living in mind, body, and spirit. He inspires health and wellness seekers to find meaning in the “why” and cultivate resilience in their mindset. Savio is a Board Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), #1 best-selling author, syndicated columnist, podcaster, stage 3 cancer survivor, and founder of The Human Resolve LLC. He has interviewed notable celebrities and TV personalities and has been featured on Fox News, The Wrap, and has worked with Authority Magazine, Thrive Global, BuzzFeed, Food Network, WW and Bloomberg. Savio 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. Savio pens a weekly newsletter in which he delves into secrets to living smarter by feeding your “three brains” — head ?, heart ?, and gut ? — in the hope of connecting the dots to those sticky parts of our nature that matter to living our best life.