Exclusive Interview with Lyn Worsley of the Resilience Doughnut

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Lyn Worsley Resilience Doughnut 06 copy

Schoolwell caught up with Lyn Worsley, founder of The Resilience Doughnut and she shared her thoughts on school staff wellbeing.

SW Hallo Lyn, thanks for taking the time to talk to us. Resilience is being discussed more and more here in the UK. You have been working with the concept for years, how would you define resilience in the context of school staff wellbeing?

LW Resilience is a process not an actual state of being. It is defined as the interaction of three processes; the development of competence, through navigating and negotiating with available resources, while going through adversity.

In the context of the school staff, such as teachers and support staff, the resilience process would have an ebb and flow of times when the staff member is not coping well and times when they are doing exceptionally well. To master the resilience process would be to recognise the factors that are working well to develop the competencies they need in the context of the school environment and knowing which resources are most helpful during the inevitable difficulties of school life.

SW You are well known for developing the Resilience Doughnut concept. Can you explain a little about how it works and its benefits for schools?

LW The resilience doughnut is a model showing the interaction process. The model is in the shape of a doughnut with an inner circle and and outer circle. Copy of The Resilience Doughnut

The inner circle represents the personal and social competencies that a person brings to any relationship or experience. The outer circle represents the 7 different contexts or resources where personal competence is reinforced or learnt. The key to the resilience doughnut is noting the interaction of a person’s personal competencies with their outside influences. From the research we know that the more positive contexts that exist in a person’s life in any one time the more resilient they will be. In order to ensure a person is coping well, the doughnut proposes that the presence of three strong contexts provides a healthy base for the development of personal and social competence. When inevitable difficulties arise, the linking of the strongest three resources can tip the balance toward healthy coping during crisis or times of change. Furthermore, the absence or the loss of three strong resources can also predict times of mental instability or not coping. These difficult times are often noted during times of transition in an adult’s life.

You can learn more about the resilience doughnut at on their Australian site and their UK site.

SW Australia is much more proactive than the UK in promoting wellbeing within schools, both for pupils and staff.  In her recent interview with us, Sue Roffey said she felt that the UK has gone backwards in wellbeing issues over the last 10 years and she feared that Australia is “at risk of going the same way”. What are your thoughts on this issue?

LW It is nice to hear that we have a reputation of being switched on to wellbeing, and I cannot comment as to whether the UK has gone backwards however I can say that the risk that both our countries have in becoming increasingly disconnected from intentional and purposeful relationships which build our resilience is high. There are a number of factors that are leading us away from connecting our strongest and most helpful resources. These are;

  1. The increasing fear of litigation with regard to caring for children and families, which leads to a culture of mistrust.
  2. A movement towards doing things by the book, which breeds a culture of perfectionism and a blame and shame reaction to difficulties.
  3. The rising of individualism which breeds a culture of competition rather than compassion.

Each of these movements disable the support networks that help us to accept the changes in our lives. The Resilience process is often through the clumsy, and awkward interactions with others in times of crisis and grief. During these times a person learns about themselves in ways that develop their understanding of the world. Each experience of successful connection and support prepare a person for the next level of difficulty in their lives. The process ensures a developing level of skills and connections that prepare for life.

SW When you work with schools, what would you say are the biggest wellbeing challenges they face?

LW The biggest wellbeing challenge is disconnection. I have been in schools where the workload and the pressure is high, however when there is a culture of mistrust, perfectionism and competition there is a disconnected staff. When there are staff who are connected and supportive, there is trust, forgiveness and compassion which flows on to the rest of the school community.

SW Schools in the UK are facing funding cuts. What would you recommend for schools looking to support staff wellbeing on a tight budget?

LW I would recommend the resilience doughnut model in the whole school to guide their decision making, their wellbeing tracker and their conversations. The resilience doughnut has a whole school program that involves, staff, parents and students all practicing the model and using it to guide their interactions. It is self sustaining and as it evokes a change in the school culture it continues to have an effect.

SW Who are your wellbeing heroes?

LW Anne Masten is awesome, she has the famous quote.

“…resilience is in the “ordinary every day magic” that occurs in the lives of our families, teachers and our communities. “

Michael Ungar also practices resilience as an academic as he links people across the world to study resilience across cultures.

Bonnie Benard has had such an influence in bringing the resilience concept to schools and notes that one-off teaching programs don’t help raise the wellbeing of our students in schools but rather working with parents, communities and staff  in purposeful and meaningful connections has a greater effect on wellbeing which is longer lasting.

The bottom line is that resilience is about connecting and that that is our mission at the resilience centre in Australia. We run activities that help people to connect, with our programs aimed at activating the available resources in each person’ life. Working in schools is vital as there are opportunities to connect friends, community, parents and staff as well as helping students to learn for life. Some of the connections that occur in schools continue for life.

The Resilience Doughnut model is a simple tool to help us to see how our connections are going and where the most helpful resources may be. It can be used to develop the resilience skills when we are children or it can be used to guide us and prepare us for the inevitable difficulties that arise with life as adults.

Contact the Resilience Doughnut