How to develop resilience?


Just imagine how it must have been for my great grandmother in 1883 when she emigrated from Rotterdam to South Africa. Packing up her belongings in a suitcase and getting on a boot to a destination 5 weeks away! Not just a suitcase, but the now 140 year old suitcase you see in the picture at the top. It arrived here in Australia in our container from The Netherlands last week.

I often wonder what it would have been like back in those days. The only visuals people would have back then were books, foto’s and stories. What an adventure! It was already a lot different for my Aunt Hovyd when she emigrated to the United States in 1966. My grandmother was fully supportive of her daughter moving overseas as she had her mother as the example.

Wilhelmina Tuinzing

Her father (my grand dad) had booked her a passenger cabin (which she shared with a non) on a cargo vessel. He gave her USD 300 and basically sad good luck! Have a safe trip and follow your dream. Hovyd had nothing more than her suitcase, a diploma in Physiotherapy and a green card.

Aunty Hovyd to USA in 1966

She made it and settled in the United States, married and moved to Hawaï. For my great grandmother, grandmother and my aunt these experience built their resilience. Their ability to adapt to change and deal with setbacks as their life’s journey’s weren’t without challenges. We now have the advantage of airplane travel, shipping containers and internet to keep in touch with home. But the experience of moving home and emigrating remains similar. Leaving family and friends behind, packing your bags and go.

Moving home

Moving home is a life event for most families. As a kid we moved home every 6 years, following my dad’s career in the ranks of the Justice Department as public prosecutor. The average Dutch family moves once every 10 years according to the Central Bureau of Statistics (the average Australian family moves home every 5 years and apparently that is twice the global average).


On average 150.000 people emigrate from The Netherlands (on a population of 17 million) of which 1500 immigrate Australia. Our story was a bit different to my great grandmother and aunt. Milou and I are both in our late forties and have four children in their teens. The process itself however bears the same steps from all the paperwork to the actual move. But more importantly it is the resemblance of the affect it has on the way you learn to deal with setbacks and change. How you build resilience. And more importantly, how our kids learn in a way you cannot learn in school. I was talking to Sydney my daughter about it the other day. She reflected on the move and says she wouldn’t have learned so much about life staying in The Netherlands….that felt good.


Ever since Milou and I met in the Holland Heineken House in the 2000 Sydney Olympics we dreamt of living in Australia. It took us 22 years to realise the dream, but we kept believing, despite personal and professional setbacks. We’ve dealt with losing loved ones, dealt with a bankruptcy and many other challenge. But we’ve remained positive and kept our dream alive. That’s (partly) what resiliency is all about.

Resilience: an individual’s ability to adapt in the face of adverse conditions (wikipedia)

According to the same wikipedia page, theory shows that there are five factors (varying from person to person and age group to age group) which develop and sustain a person’s psychological resilience:

  1. The ability to make realistic plans and being capable of taking the steps necessary to follow through with them;
  2. Confidence in one’s strengths and abilities;
  3. Communication and problem-solving skills;
  4. The ability to manage strong impulses and feelings;
  5. Having good self-esteem; 

We both kept our dreams alive, kept talking to each other and with our kids during difficult times, asked for help and learned (and are still learning) to manage strong impulses and feelings. Of course I feel uncertain at times, but I’ve learned to share those feelings, regardless. Not worry too much about what other people think of them, but because it helps me to move on. To keep learning and growing as a person.

On the move

So we sold our home in Driebergen and moved into a rentel, just before Covid hit the world. That is move number one. Due to Covid we experienced a delay in our visa process and only got the final “ok” in December 2021. We left our rental home and packed what we wanted to ship to Australia in a container. The last two weeks in The Netherlands we moved home for the second time and lived in a small holiday home with only our suitcases, getting ready for the big trip. That was delayed by another two weeks due to one of our kids Covid infection.

We finally left on February 24th 2022 to arrive in Australia on February the 26th, to move into our holiday home in Evans Head, New South Wales. It was on that same day the region was hit by the worst floods in recorded history, basically setting us back another month as life stood still here in the Northern Rivers. We managed to get the kids in school. rent a new temporary home and start our adventure Down Under. Life in the region slowly returned to normal as the waters cleared and homes are being rebuilt.

Of course this is not the case for all the people in the region affected by the floods of whom many lost everything they had. A big shout out to all of them keeping a positive mindset and showing resilience in its true form. I also know that I have close friends and family who have to deal with far more challenging circumstances. My thoughts are with them and their loved ones.

Life is never boring

I got a bit distracted with the weekly newsletter the past weeks, sorry about that. Nothing serious happen, but to give you an idea of the last two weeks events in our family:

  • we moved for the fifth time in five years to a rentel home that we can call home for at least the next 6 months:
  • my youngest son Marcus broke his leg playing footy at school (and needs caring and wheeling around;
  • our container from the Netherlands finally arrived (after being delayed for a month);
  • Milou started her new fulltime job at the Evans Head Bowling club;
  • My daughter Sydney started her school (including a 45 minute single way drop-off because there is no public transport);
  • I travelled to Tasmania to meet my colleagues from SDG Align for the first time.

Leading psychologist, Susan Kobasa, describes three elements that are essential to resilience:

  1. Challenge – Resilient people view a difficulty as a challenge, not as a paralyzing event. They look at their failures and mistakes as lessons to be learned from, and as opportunities for growth. They don’t view them as a negative reflection on their abilities or self-worth.
  2. Commitment – Resilient people are committed to their lives and their goals, and they have a compelling reason to get out of bed in the morning. Commitment isn’t just restricted to their work – they commit to their relationships, their friendships, the causes they care about, and their religious or spiritual beliefs.
  3. Personal Control – Resilient people spend their time and energy focusing on situations and events that they have control over. Because they put their efforts where they can have the most impact, they feel empowered and confident. Those who spend time worrying about uncontrollable events can often feel lost, helpless, and powerless to take action.

While doing the research for this newsletter I came across this TedX talk I found very inspiring, so ff you rather watch and listen to a video about resilience, I suggest this one below.

Connect and be present in the moment

I must admit, that, over the past few days I sort of felt overwhelmed. Looking back at the previous two years it has been quite an adventurous journey. We kept moving forward and here we are. Now it is time to built strong connections in the community we call home. I’m confident that my four kids are learning what it is to be resilient and how to adapt to changing circumstances. I wonder where my kids will take my great grandmothers suitcase next…..for now I raise my glas to all my (great) grandmothers and my aunt Hovyd who is still here to tell her stories! Cheers!

#staypositive #keeplearning