The Resilience Rule of Two

It can help us commit to resilience-building habits during this challenging time.

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In the past few weeks, we’ve talked about optimizing resilience through the work of doing and building resilience through the work of being

This week, we delve into creating an equilibrium between the two: how can we find balance between doing everything possible to build resilience vs doing nothing at all to move it forward? The answer lies in the Resilience Rule of 2, a science-backed strategy to create positive change and build resilience in small, incremental, and lasting ways. 

The basic premise of the Resilience Rule of 2 is that humans have the cognitive processing ability to incorporate only two new changes into our daily lives at any given time if we want those changes to be sustainable.  Anything more and our system gets overloaded. 

So even if we had the best intentions for a major lifestyle overhaul during the pandemic, our new habits can only become permanent ones when we incorporate them slowly, two at a time.  Let’s look at why incremental changes made two at a time can have the biggest impact on our resilience.

Source: David Venne


Our brains are amazing agents of change, but they have a finite processing ability when it comes to making change.  That’s because our brains register any change as a stressor, even if its something positive. 

So while our original quarantine checklist was big (declutter the basement, renovate the bathroom, write a book) its now morphed into something very different (shower daily, wear clean clothes, eat some veggies).  When we’re stressed, we pare ourselves down to our basic needs for survival.

Yet, to build resilience and create new positive habits during stressful times, we need to find a way out of survival mode and into safe mode.  The Resilience Rule of 2 can help us make this cognitive leap.  When we hold ourselves accountable to only two new resilience habits at a time, we work with our biology rather than against it, and we’re more likely to follow through.

Let’s bring the Resilience Rule of 2 to life with the checklist below. The first step is choosing the two resilience-building habits that most resonate with you. But the second step is perhaps even more important: celebrating your wins and tracking your incredible growth, success and progress.  There are so many way we can give ourselves kudos for the hard work of building resilience.  Low-tech options like the classic paper notebook or high-tech options like a habit tracker app can both work wonders.  The key is to pick one that’s easy for you.  Building resilience is hard work, celebrating our wins doesn’t have to be. 

WANT TO BE THE MOST RESILIENT PERSON YOU KNOW? Check out our free weekly newsletter here for all Dr. Aditi’s science-backed tips on building resilience!

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