Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today


The Path of Optimal Living

Mastering the nine pillars of resilience and success

After over 35 years studying the field of stress and resilience, my goal has been to define resilience in the broadest possible terms. This notion began when I realized, early in my career, that stress is one of the most important modulators of our behavior, performance, moods and physical health. Given its importance – including its primacy within the evolutionary process – I wanted to make sure that every aspect of our personal process was considered in how it influences stress and resilience. The result of this evaluation was a new model of resilience containing nine components within three areas: relationship, organismic balance and mastery and process, how we engage with the world.

In my model it wasn’t enough to be able to bounce back from adversity. I wanted to know if you make the best choices that optimize your utilization of personal energy. Someone who appears to bounce back well, but keeps putting themselves into more stress than is necessary, clearly has emotional wounds that haven’t been addressed. This interferes with their resilience.

In my newly released book, “The Path: Mastering the Nine Pillars of Resilience and Success”, my focus on resilience encompasses all aspects of optimal living. Thus the first three components have to do with relationship: relationship with self, relationship with others, and relationship with something greater. Much of our stressful behavior is driven by either unmet needs, feelings that haven’t been addressed or negative aspects of one’s relationship to themselves.

Within organismic balance and mastery there is physical balance and mastery, cognitive or mental balance and mastery, and emotional balance and mastery. In the last grouping of how we engage with the world, there is presence, flexibility and power, which I define as the ability to get things done.

My other important experience after years of doing stress management workshops is that people have great resistance to managing their stress. At the heart of this resistance is a frozen adaptation to our childhood environment which then interferes with adult adaptation and change. I have written about what I refer to as our Primitive Gestalt Patterns that cause this difficulty. The survival lessons learned early in our lives become the blueprint for future life strategies that color our relationship with stress.

Dealing with all these factors that contribute to difficulties in life can be overwhelming to the point that we just throw up our hands and say, “Well, I guess life is just stressful.” This is quite understandable. And it’s why I’ve developed the device of “The Path”. Wouldn’t it be great if, at any time that you are feeling overwhelmed, all you had to do was ask yourself one question, “Am I on The Path, or off The Path?” And if you are off The Path, you could simply do one thing – based on the nine components of my model of resilience - to put yourself back onto The Path. And once on it, there is nothing more or better that you can be doing in that moment. You can then breathe a sigh of relief.

Right now you can get onto The Path by practicing a relaxation exercise on a daily basis. This is the best thing you can begin with to create resilience. You can find a relaxation recording, or you can go to my website: and download a free relaxation exercise.

More from Stephen Sideroff Ph.D.
More from Psychology Today