Last Tuesday, UTM’s Backpack to Briefcase event titled “Developing Emotional Resilience” focused on the various forms used to build psychological resilience in the face of adversity and stress. The keynote speaker Dr. Rumeet Billan, a UTM alumni who graduated in 2006, has become an award winning internationally recognized entrepreneur, speaker, author, humanitarian and an expert in psychological capital. She is the CEO of Viewpoint Leadership, a company that through her work has aimed to transform workplace cultures, and provide a platform that helps youth, women and communities envision what is possible.

Billan recognizes the traditional definition of resilience to be “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties and toughness” but in her words “it’s not enough just to be able to recover from the difficulties that we face, it’s actually expected that we learn from and grow from the challenges and setbacks that we have.” Billan focused on the strategies to deal with obstacles and to prepare people for challenges and jobs that do not yet exist. Instead of focusing on building resilience in corporations, the focus should be to build resilience in individuals who can then affect change in their communities.

Billan began the event by addressing the question “why build resilience?” She addressed issues such as self-talk, impact of others opinions, self-criticism and hope-theory to develop and achieve personal goals unhindered by the mental struggles one imposes on themselves. She spoke about the five components of resilience, one of them being self-confidence or the question: how we feel about ourselves? Billian asked the audience “If I were to give you 100 pieces of feedback and 98 pieces of that feedback was positive and two of those pieces were not so positive what would you spend your time on?”

According to Billan, statistics demonstrate that a person, on average, has about 60,000 thoughts per day and most of those thoughts are repetitive. Due to this, a big part of building resilience is preventing those thoughts from becoming negative. Founded on previous models of resilience she illustrates that a big trait related to success, is the ability to create clear and meaningful goals, have the motivation to accomplish said goals and find ways to fulfill them.

Before ending the conference, she addressed questions from the audience. The questions she addressed dealt with parents helping their children develop emotional resilience, how teachers and students can manage stress, developing the language and conversation on mental health, and becoming sympathetic and empathetic.

The general answer to those questions was to build resilience, and in order to do so individuals must acquire a positive outlook on life and believe in their own abilities without letting rejection and adversity hinder their goals. The event helped to identify problems with stress and discussed how to deal with stress in a healthy fashion.