Juggling and Resilience – Is there a connection?

Do you know anyone that is good at juggling 3-4 objects at a time? Chances are, this person is also calm and alert under pressure. Being able to juggle requires dexterity and coordination but you must also be focused to do it well. These attributes are important when carrying out postgraduate research. Like juggling, if  you have resilience, you are also more likely to be able to remain calm and effective in a critical situation such as preparing for your doctoral oral exam or persevering with a difficult problem.


Resilience is “the ability to persevere and adapt when things go awry” (Reivich and Shatte 2002). Resilience can determine who succeeds and who fails and the way we think determines who is resilient and who is not. In addition, “Our resilience is influenced by our genetic inheritance, early upbringing, environmental shaping, culture and personal effort” (Hansen 2015). However,  if we have an open mind, resilience can also be learned or cultivated.

So why is resilience relevant to your postgraduate studies? I think resilience helps you to have a better balanced life style.  For example, in the initial stages of carrying out research for a Master’s or Doctoral thesis, life is generally fairly relaxed but as you get closer and closer to the thesis endpoint or the dreaded completion date, the pressure mounts exponentially. Having a positive mindset and building resilience into your daily life will help you to cope with that pressure and enable you to remain focused on your research. To build resilience you need exercise, regular relaxation, a good night’s sleep, sound eating habits, positivity and optimism in your day.

Hansen (2015) uses an “integrated model of resilience” to explain resilience. You need:

  1. Bounce – bounce back when adversity strikes. Those people that focus on what they can achieve rather than blaming someone else will be more likely to maintain and engage supportive networks, meaning they are more likely to take action.
  2. Courage – when faced with a challenge do we stay calm and engage constructively or collapse. Courage enables us to embrace the future with a curious mind and an open heart resulting in a positive action.
  3. Creativity – our ability to advance and reach our full potential without fear. Creativity requires deep self-awareness, skill mastery and perseverance.
  4. Connection – respectful engagement with others in work, study and play.res mod5

An Integrated Model of Resilience (from Hanson 2015)

Weaving these resilience characteristics together will enable you to reduce pressure and constructively engage with the challenges you face in the future.

For those of you that can’t juggle and would like to learn, here is a YouTube link to get you started: click here. It might just be a fun way to train yourself to be calm but also alert under pressure.


Hansen, S. (2006). Train your mind: Being focused, decisive and effective. Practical Resilience Series. David Bateman Ltd, Auckland. www.resilience.co.nz.

Hansen, S. (2015). Inside-Out: The practice of resilience. The Resilience Institute, Auckland.

Reivich, K. and Shatté, A. (2002). The Resilience Factor: 7 keys to finding your inner strength and overcoming life’s hurdles. Broadway Books, New York.


About Robyn Kannemeyer

Robyn Kannemeyer was the Researcher Development Coordinator at AUT from October 2016 to the beginning of March 2017. She has an MSc in biosecurity and conservation and is taking up a role at Landcare Research as an Environmental Social Scientist. She is passionate about conserving New Zealand’s unique biodiversity and recently returned from travelling through South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and Tanzania where she climbed Mt Kilimanjaro.

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