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Director's Corner: On Resilience

By Rianne van de Ven.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month in the United States.  On May 25th, the Mensa Foundation, in partnership with SENG, is hosting a panel discussion moderated by Dr. Lin Lim.  Doctors Lamis Jabri, Maggie Brown, Scott Barry Kaufman and I will discuss “Cultural and Lifespan Perspectives of Intelligence and Giftedness” (tickets still available).  I am sure that we will come to talk about resilience in that session.

“Resilience is the process and outcome of successfully adapting to difficult or challenging life experiences, especially through mental, emotional, and behavioral flexibility and adjustment to external and internal demands.

A number of factors contribute to how well people adapt to adversities, including the ways in which individuals view and engage with the world, the availability and quality of social resources, and specific coping strategies.

Psychological research demonstrates that the resources and skills associated with resilience can be cultivated and practiced.”

-Adapted from the APA Dictionary of Psychology

For a lot of gifted people, developing or maintaining good mental health is hard work. In a world where we experience disappointment, disillusionment, and setbacks on a daily basis because of our intelligence and intensities, maintaining a positive look on life can be a difficult job. Founder of SENG, the late James T. Webb described this very well in his book “Searching for Meaning; Idealism, Bright Minds, Disillusionment and Hope”.

As I see it, resilience is often demanded, especially for gifted people.

The Dutch word for resilience, translated directly to English, means “spring-power”.  Not the season of the year, although I always have a more positive outlook on life in springtime; but, spring as the object in a mattress or in a ballpoint pen.

How do you keep your spring working? There are a number of activities you can do to improve or maintain your resilience. As the APA-quote says: resilience can be cultivated and practiced.  Like building a muscle, increasing resilience takes time and intentionality. Focusing on the four core components of connection, wellness, healthy thinking, and meaning can empower you to withstand and learn from difficulties and even traumatic experiences.

I have found inspiration to improve resilience through Positive Psychology and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy/Training (ACT).  In my work as a professional coach for gifted adults, I love to challenge my clients to gain a more positive look on themselves, their situation and their (work) environment to increase their resilience. Questions based on the acronym PERMA may help you as well:

Positive emotions - When do you experience positive emotions at work and how can you ensure that you experience them more?

Engagement - In which moments or tasks do you really experience flow?

Relationships - Which colleagues do you have a good relationship with and how do you maintain this?

Meaning - To what greater purpose does your work contribute or could your work contribute?

Accomplishments - What goals have you recently achieved and celebrated your successes?

You can work on resilience yourself, and the APA-website has some helpful, related material.  However, professional support through a licensed professional can also help.  Resilience is important for all people; and, it is particularly vital for members of the gifted population.  I hope to see you on May 25th at the  Mensa/SENG panel discussion related to mental health awareness!


Rianne van de Ven (1971, the Netherlands) is a social entrepreneur specialized in gifted adults. After a career in Telecom, ICT, and banking she started her own company as a professional coach in 2007. First part time, next to her job at a large Dutch bank, but since 2016 she is fully self-employed and works as an author, speaker, trainer, supervisor, and teacher on the subject of gifted adults. She started a second company where she provides professional services for gifted adults in the workplace together with 20 colleagues.

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