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Ordinary magic, extraordinary performance: psychological resilience and thriving in high achievers

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journal contribution
posted on 06.10.2016, 08:22 by Mustafa Sarkar, David FletcherDavid Fletcher
Although resilience has been referred to as “ordinary magic” (Masten, 2001, p. 227) that is more common than once thought, the majority of research in this area has sampled individuals who have been required to react to potentially traumatic events outside of their control. The findings of this work, however, are not easily applicable to those who actively seek to engage with challenging situations that present opportunities for them to raise their performance level. The purpose of this study was, therefore, to identify and explore resilient qualities that enable high achievers to thrive and perform at extraordinary levels. Thirteen high achievers (9 male and 4 female) from 11 professions were interviewed in the United Kingdom, and interpretative phenomenological analysis was used to identify resilient qualities that enabled the participants to thrive in pressured environments. Results revealed 6 superordinate themes that characterized resilience and thriving: positive and proactive personality, experience and learning, sense of control, flexibility and adaptability, balance and perspective, and perceived social support. The data highlights the multifaceted nature of resilience comprising a constellation of personal qualities that enable high achievers to excel in demanding contexts. The themes are discussed in relation to previous research findings and in terms of their implications for practicing psychologists. It is anticipated that these themes will provide practitioners with an insight into the distinct features of resilience and thriving in high achievers and help individuals to attain success and well-being in their careers.



  • Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences

Published in

Sport, Exercise and Performance Psychology




46 - 60


SARKAR, M. and FLETCHER, D., 2014. Ordinary magic, extraordinary performance: psychological resilience and thriving in high achievers. Sport, Exercise and Performance Psychology, 3 (1), pp.46-60.


© American Psychological Association


AM (Accepted Manuscript)

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This article may not exactly replicate the final version published in the APA journal. It is not the copy of record.