Imagine what might happen if you did not service your weapon after a day of shooting at the range. Perhaps skipping the cleaning and lubricating of your gun one time might not make a noticeable difference. Yet, could you be assured it would function properly if you needed it to save your life or the life of someone else? Would you willing to take the risk? 

When you take the time to clean the dirty residue left behind from shooting and maintain your weapon, you are making sure it is ready for the next round whether that is at the next range day or in the line of duty. The breaking down and maintaining your firearm is trained as a part of weapon safety and is as important as the act of shooting. 

What if after you used your brain in the critical situations you face on duty, you were able to service your mind as you service your weapon? What difference might it make to ensure it is in tip-top condition for when you need it most? This is what the action of resilience is all about. 

It is developing a mindset of resilience around the actions we take before, during, and after stressful and traumatic events. 

Resilience is a word we hear more often these days in law enforcement. Unfortunately, resilience is still often thought of after the fact, once an event has happened. When it is discussed it has typically been talked about as something that one might have…or not. It is viewed more often as a passive attribute rather than something you can develop and strengthen with intention.

A quick look in any dictionary and you will find resilience is identified as a noun and the definitions have pretty much the same meaning:

  • The capability of a strained body to recover its size and shape after deformation caused especially by compressive stress.[1] Ugg…personally, that is not inspiring at all!
  • The power or ability to return to the original form, position, etc., after being bent, compressed, or stretched; elasticity.[2]
  • The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.[3]
  • The ability to stand up to challengeswork through them step by step, and bounce back stronger than you were before.[4] Ok, this is getting better…

HeartMath® defines resilience as, “the capacity to prepare for, recover from, and adapt to stress, challenge, or adversity.”[5]

… the capacity to prepare for, stand up, work through, and rise up stronger.

Nothing passive about that…There is a whole lot of action going on there! 

While we probably will not change any parts of speech in the dictionaries, what if we changed our mindset about resilience? How would it make a difference if we thought about resilience as a verb rather than a noun?

What if law enforcement professionals had a mindset of training resiliency? A mindset they develop, and practice that can help to mitigate stresses or traumatic experiences and prevent the anxious feelings, sleepless nights, and short tempers that often rear their “ugly heads” after a crisis or stressful situation. 

Imagine if we looked at resilience as an act of preparing for the difficult challenges, stressors, and traumatic incidents we know are coming…

Imagine if we understood resilience to be growing through those experiences to rise up stronger, wiser, and even more prepared on the other side

How might the mindset of law enforcement and the fitness of our officers change? What would be the impact on our organizations and the communities we serve? What would the future of law enforcement look like if we began resilience training as an active part of our officer safety tools? 

Just as we use the implements of a gun cleaning kit to clean and maintain our weapon, we can use the components of resilience-training as the cleaning and maintenance kit for our brain. Just as we can set the safety on our weapon to prevent an unintentional discharge, we can set the safety on our brain to prevent an unintentional discharge that might cause harm to ourselves or others. 

That is what building resilience does for us when we make resilience an action word.

By considering resilience as an action word, and the four factors of Resilience⁴ (explained below) that lend to and support our people to be more resilient, we can equip our employees and organizations to be healthier and more effective. The benefits of healthier and more effective employees include less sick-time usage, reduced absenteeism, and a more effective workforce.

Each one of these factors can, and often are, stand-alone. Yet, when they are combined and used together the power of each are amplified. The foundation is stronger and consequently capable of withstanding extreme pressure.

Consider a tabletop with one leg. If you can get it to balance, the leg would have to be completely centered and thick enough to hold the top, the slightest bump or imbalance would cause it to tumble. A second leg might make it a little easier to balance and again, the merest of pressure would topple it. A third leg would create a tripod, obviously much sturdier than one or two legs, but only if pressure is applied in specific areas.  However, put four legs under the top and you have a sturdy, well-balanced structure that is able to support whatever is placed on top of it.

Disclaimer for all mathematical people, I know this isn’t a true mathematical equation, but play along with me. 

To consider the action of resilience, we can think of resilience-training as a mathematical equation with four factors, where: 

1.    or = Organizational Systems for Resilience

2.    pr = Personal Resilience Capacity Building

3.    rp = Before the Event, Resilience Preparation

4.    rr = After the Event, Resilience Renovation

Formula: (or) x (pr) x (rp) x (rr) = Resilience⁴

We will explore each factor in more depth in subsequent articles. For now, let’s take a brief look at each one and how they factor into the equation.

 or = Organizational Systems for Resilience

Creating a resilient culture within an agency is a group effort. Management can lead to bringing in new and engaging training grounded in neuroscience, resiliency, and whole person fitness. The organization can develop a culture of safety and belonging that supports the individual and the group in thriving together.  Mental and emotional fitness become the goal of the community, increasing the resiliency and effectiveness of the organization. 

“Resilience is knowing that you are the only one that has the power and responsibility to pick yourself up.” ~ Mary Holloway ~

pr = Personal Resilience Capacity Building

This factor cannot be emphasized enough. Your agency can bring all the training and opportunity for wellness to you and if you do not apply it to your own life you will receive little benefit. There is a plethora of information available through books, courses, conferences, and online to support your personal growth. You simply need to reach out and use it.

You must build and renew your resilience; no one else can do it for you.

rp = Before the Event, Resilience Preparation

After a fight in the field, you can’t do a hundred sit-ups and expect it to make a difference in that past fight. You must prepare before the event. You do this by arming yourself with knowledge about stress, trauma, and your brain. Most importantly, by building your neural-pathways of resilience.

You nurture your physical body through proper nourishment, exercise, and rest. You protect your mind/brain through intentional clearing, examination, and maintenance. And, you nourish your spirit through connection, reflection, and restoration

You build your resilience as you attend to the health of your mind, body, and spirit.

rr = After the Event, Resilience Renovation

What you do after the event is paramount to your resilience. You must be proactive in facilitating the resolution of every incident, big and small. We know stress and trauma can layer during each day, and eventually over the career of an LEO if we ignore it. Addressing and resolving these experiences as they occur can help keep us on top of the layers rather than being buried underneath. 

What takes us down does not have to take us out. With awareness, intentionality, and planning we can rise up stronger.

We can create a culture of resilience and mental fitness in our organizations. Combining proactive-resilience training with cutting-edge neuroscience we can bring innovative, interactive learning available to all the employees in the organization and help to equip them to “prepare for, stand up, work through, and rise up stronger” while performing their duties.  

“We cannot lower the mountain, therefore we must elevate ourselves.” ~ Todd Skinner, mountaineer and motivational speaker ~

In the next article, The Action of Resilience Quadrupled (Part 2): The Organizational Role in Developing a Resilient Community, we will explore the factor of “or = Organizational Systems of Resilience” and how leaders and members within the organization can work to develop a resilient workplace for healthier employees and community relations.

Shannon King, founder-owner of Matter of the Heart Coach, works with people who are being impacted by the stresses and demands of their job to help them build resilience and teach them how to better maintain optimal physiological and mental fitness, allowing them to respond more healthily, recover quicker, and perform more effectively in their professional and personal lives. If you would like to learn more about “Resilience⁴ Rise Up Stronger Training” program for organizational training or individual coaching, or the ELEVATE Leadership conference for law enforcement professionals, you can contact her here.


[1]Resilience. 2018. In Merriam-Webster.com.

Retrieved May 4, 2018, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/resilience

[2]Resilience. 2018. In Dictionary.com

      Retrieved May 4, 2018, from http://www.dictionary.com/browse/resilience?s=t

[3]Resilience. 2018. In English Oxford Living Dictionaries.com

      Retrieved May 4, 2018, from https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/resilience

[4]Resilience. 2018. In urbandictionary.com.

            Retrieved May 4, 2018, from https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Resilience

[5]HeartMath LLC. (2014) Building personal resilience™HeartMath®skills for personal effectiveness. Boulder Creek, CA. Institute of HeartMath.