Seven Ways to Build Resilience by Chris Johnstone

Raising resilience has been a focus of my work for several years, and Chris is one of my inspirations. Sometimes I wonder if the troubles of our times will keep growing faster than our capacity to handle them, but Chris’s book offers us all the chance of a big step-up in our resilience.

Chris is one of the UK’s leading resilience trainers, with over thirty years’ experience. He draws on his early work as a doctor and addiction specialist, and then his involvement in positive psychology and deep ecology.

Being a self-help writer myself, I’m fussy about style, and I find Chris’s writing voice excellent. He’s readable, and uses great stories and simple analogies, but he’s also really well-informed. This book is exceptionally well researched and referenced. Even if you’ve read some of his previous books, this one is worth getting: it has a lot of new ideas, and builds on recent research in the field.

The Seven Ways in the book include both emergency responses, like the Emotional Capsize Drill, and systemic improvements, such as Thinking Flexibly and Overload Management. This is a self-help book in the best sense, encouraging you towards both short and long-term resilience.

A recurring theme in PM, and in my work on future resilience, is the crucial role of mutual support and collective strength. One of the longer sections of the book is the Sixth Way-Strengthening Support, which includes four main strands:

  • A detailed, research-based guide to giving support to yourself
  • Exploring how to make relationships with others more nourishing, including ways to spot and alleviate blockages
  • An interesting chapter on ‘upstream interventions’: how to create conditions that encourage mutual support and reduce stress, in workplaces, communities, etc.
  • A practical exploration of what could be called spiritual resilience: beliefs and practices such as ‘soul time’ and prayer. This is a big potential upside for our troubled times, in my view.

Chris has a great way of sharing his own struggles and finding vivid case histories to bring his ideas alive, and he repeatedly draws the reader into action with questions, self-review checklists, and easy ways to set yourself a goal. In fact his Seventh Way is all about how to make gains last longer.

The book’s readability is helped by lots of graphics which bring its contents to life. Some PM readers may share my wish that it used more analogies with Nature, but overall, it’s a great asset in growing your resilience, from the roots up!

Chris also offers excellent online seminars and other resources: see more at

Alan Heeks is the founder of Hazel Hill Wood, and leads resilience programmes there and elsewhere: see