Contributing actively to team tasksCooperating successfully in teamsLooks for additional resources where neededSkill to clarify roles and responsibilities

Doing out of the box

Resourcefulness as a skill


How many times have you been in a situation where you didn’t know what to do? How many times have you come to a dead-end and contemplated accepting reality? What made you stop or give up?

Has it happened to you, while in a dead-end street, suddenly, a brilliant idea pops-up in your head? Or maybe an idea that will change the status quo? How can you tap into that resource of yourself?

Why did I choose this tool?

As a trainer, youth worker, leader of an NGO and a social enterprise, I encounter everyday, difficult situations that need to be solved. Working with young people who have fewer opportunities, with people from a variety of backgrounds and in multi-layer environments is never a simple and by-the-book activity.

Experiencing the Corona-Pandemic as a trainer in an international Youth NGO, made me implement tectonic changes not only to our working environment, but also to our future goals and plans.

What do you do, when you don’t know what to do? What makes the difference? How do you take the right approach? Do bring the team together and look for any available resources?


Crises usually meet a high level of unpredictability, volatility and stress. Those are the times where we need careful contemplation, mindfulness and time to observe the situation from many different angles, and finally to make a decision that we would be confident with. Those situations expose a good view of our mindset, our drive and resources to handle not only crises, but all-important situations in general. It shows our resourcefulness to use whatever is at our disposal in the resource compartment. Important decisions, complex projects and innovation usually require thinking out of the box.

When people say to you – think out of the box, what do they mean?

What do you do, when you don’t know what to do?


In this video, Tony Robbins talks about the decisions that could shape our lives, and asks important question: “what made us give up or fail”?

Was it a lack of money or time? An unpredictable situation? Lack of contacts? Lack of knowledge or experience? Lack of other resources?

Each one of us has reached a dead-end street, a situation where we don’t know what to do. And no matter how much contemplation we did, there was no sound solution in sight. How many times did it happen, a brilliant idea to suddenly pop up into your mind and save the day?

Where that come from? Could you describe it, what happened?

In his training and books, Tony Robbins talks about resourcefulness. He believes that the deciding factor is not the lack of resources, although the lack of resources must be acknowledged as a fact. That ability of resourcefulness is what makes the difference.

Miriam-Webster dictionary describes the word resourceful as “able to meet situations; capable of devising ways and means”. Tony Robbins lists several characteristics of what it means for him: creativity, determination, love/caring, curiosity, passion and resolving.

Emotional fitness and psychological strength are the things that can make a difference. In Robbin’s opinion, two invisible patterns can shape an individual: the state of mind and the world view.

State of mind, which has two parts: psychological and emotional, determines your approach and attitude in certain situations. If we are in a state of mind where we are fearful, we are going to approach the most simple challenges with insecurity, self-doubt and questioning our abilities, while creating a story that would justify why we couldn’t do it. If we are self-confident, we will approach with bravery, determination and conviction even the direst challenges in front of us. He also claims that a state of mind is something that we can change, we just need to learn how.

Here are two examples:

You are preparing for a training course. It’s something that you have been waiting for some time. Trainers team is full of experts, the audience is experienced and demanding, the topic is new for everyone, also challenging and intriguing. You have a plan in order to be fully prepared for the course, you will dedicate to fine-tuning your workshops in the last 3-4 days. The framework is largely determent, however, there is still work to be done. Suddenly, one of your closest ones needs your help and you cannot work, focus, or think about the workshops until the start. With no time to prepare and facing a big challenge, the question is not “what do you do?”, but “what is your state of mind?”.

State of mind – fearful. Going into the course fearful and insecure, giving the best to read, prepare and adjust during the breaks. You don’t socialize with people and focus only on finishing the work, preparing as much as you can, however you know that it won’t be enough. You are stressed, you cannot think sharp, you start getting a bit sick. Saying to yourself that you know most of the things, that it will be ok. The questions during the workshop just expose that you are not completely prepared for the workshop. You improvise and hope that the participants won’t notice it, but you know that some of them know. Your level of stress increases, your senses open and overperform, you focus and deliver the objectives of the workshop. You are happy, but you need rest, you need to calm down. You stretched the limits and took a toll on your health and energy.

State of mind – bold. Going into the course insecure, but confident that you will figure it out. Before jumping into panic mode and scrambling to do more, take the time to think. What do I have as a resource that can help me? My teammates can support me, taking over some of my responsibilities, creating additional time to work on my problem. I cannot learn so many things in such a short time, so instead of forcing it out, maybe I can invite an expert to join my workshop. If there’s no chance someone to come, maybe  they can join you online. Ask the team for an internet connection, projector and a zoom account. Adjust the timetable of workshops so it will fit the schedule of your guest. Leverage the knowledge of them, answer all questions together and don’t improvise too much. You stretched your limits, feel full of energy and achievement. Even new ideas came to you.

We all have had situations where we reacted in both ways. However, if you had the opportunity to realize that you are fearful and that you don’t have the right approach to the situation, could you be able to switch and change it? Robbins believes that people can train themselves and do that, but there is a second important factor that plays a role as well, and that’s the person’s world view.

Personal model of the world / World view that is compiled of several forces – meaning, emotion and action:

  1. Driving force or motive – what do we want to achieve? What is behind it or what is the deeper meaning of it? He believes that what we want to achieve is deeply connected to our needs.
  2. Guiding force or meaning – how do we want to achieve it? We can achieve the goal in many different ways, the question is how? And this connects again with our needs.
  3. Choice of action – how do we decide to act? This choice is always individual and determines how many of our needs will be satisfied and in which way.

He believes that understanding ourselves better is the key to taking a hold of our reactions. And looking at the bigger picture, thousands of mostly unconscious reactions to different situations lead to the outcomes of what we want to achieve. Therefore choices based on values have a much more significant impact than we think and they are all based on our most basic needs.

There are different needs that people have, such as Maslow’s need for self-fulfillment. But, is not only our needs that are important, but also is the way we are planning to achieve them. By doing something selfless and good for humanity or by doing good only for ourselves? Do we reach self-fulfillment by creating something or destroying something as Robbins explains it?

He believes that only by working on the state of mind and the world view, we can train how to be resourceful, how to recognize that we are in a bad state and change the approach, therefore influence our choices.

In the book Reinventing Organizations, the author Frederic Laloux presents the hypothesis that the different stages of human consciousness determine their behavior as part of the organizations that they work at, resulting in the evolution of the organizational cultures. And those organizations have different (evolutionary) characteristics throughout our history.

When there was a need for survival and a global lack of resources, the “wolf pack” organizations emerged with leaders who behaved in such a manner. The so-called Red organizations that are power heavy, require the blind following of orders, usage of fear and loyalty as methods to keep the organizations reach their goals, we’re the ones that thrived the most in those times.

On another hand, in a different era, the Orange organizations thrived during the industrial revolution which required operational efficiency and reliance on innovation, accountability and meritocracy. Those organizations operate like complex clockworks, where a better understanding of the world, means the bigger achievement of the individual, and the best decision is considered the one that provides the highest returns.

Coming back to the logic of the Maslow pyramid, where the basic needs and human behaviors are at the bottom, the self-fulfillment is on the top of the pyramid. The new Maslow pyramid has Self-Transcendence as a new top of the pyramid, and Laloux presents the consciousness of the people, their basic needs and how their needs are reflected by their behavior in the organizations which shape a certain culture.

Learning to disidentify from our ego, having our inner rightness as a compass, taking life as a journey and striving for wholeness with others or with life and nature are just some of the characteristics and needs of the people living today.

How does this apply to be a trainer?

Many times as trainers and youth workers we come to complicated and difficult situations to solve. What do you do if you have a very difficult group of participants in the workshop? What do you do if you didn’t have enough time to prepare? What do you do if suddenly your budget gets decreased by 30%? What do you do if two of your colleagues get into a heated disagreement and now they don’t want to cooperate at all?

Resourcefulness and thinking out of the box are abilities that can make a difference in those situations. Those situations could potentially make a difference if we would reach the learning outcomes with the group or not. Recognizing those situations when they approach us, being aware of our own state and being able to have the right attitude in order to search for other resources, could make a difference if we would achieve the goals or not.

Practical tips of resourcefulness in training and youth work

Once a person has the right attitude, it goes on with leverage of the lack of resources with the ones which are in abundance. The deeper we go into figuring out and understanding the problem, the more solutions will appear that we didn’t think of before.

Lack of knowledge or experience.

In case we have a lack of knowledge on a particular topic, we can leverage the other resources in order to overcome the lack of. We could invite someone on the team that knows, we could use a method where there is an external knowledge base (experts that you use as a living library), or invite a guest speaker/educator from the area on your project. You could postpone other responsibilities that will create enough time to learn and research and prepare yourself as much as possible on the topic.

Conflict / difficult participant

You are having a serious and stressful conflict with one of your participants. If everything you tried didn’t work and you don’t know what to do, there are always more things to do that you didn’t think of yet. Sleeping over, talking about the problem and calming down the situation are some of the first actions we can take. If those don’t work, changing the person who is looking for a solution, changing the environment, or changing the attitude. If you extended everything that you know, you can tap into different resources such as articles or experts that could help you. Trial and error are also important due to lack of experience, however, it is important to keep a positive attitude and to continue looking for solutions.

Lack of time.

Lack of time is one of the most common lack of resources in youth work. Unpredictable activities pop up, challenges appear that require more time to address, or we simply underestimate the needed time to do our responsibilities. What can we do? How can we leverage on the other resources? People normally jump to stressing about it or working day and night which actually tires them out more.

Replan or reschedule of activities, realistically adjust the plans. Downsize the output, delegate the responsibility, or outsource someone who will do some of the other activities from your task list, so you will dedicate more time.


Many times we have had an attitude of – that won’t work. How do we change the attitude to – could this work? Changing the environment, going outside and changing the scenery, even changing the air in the room might help. Adding a new teammate on the problem might change perspectives, or consulting external experts. Each step could help understand the process better and nearing to a more informed decision.

We could leverage the lack of resources with the other resources that we have available. The most important thing is having the right attitude.

Reflection questions

Watch several videos below and reflect on them.

Why does failing help us succeed?

Why do people who learned how to deal with failure seem to be more resourceful? What is learning?

What is blocking you to achieve what you have set your mind to?

What is blocking you from setting your mind to achieve something that is beyond your potential?

What are the most common situations where you say that something is impossible?

What drives you?


Make a framework of resources that you can use and put it on paper. Ask your team for feedback and additional input on how practically you can tap into new resources. Keep in mind the list that you create for your next situation.

Think of situations where you are commonly challenged, and you don’t do so well. This of what kind of approach do you want to take next time.

Discuss with your team the topic of resourcefulness and transcendence when you are facing a lack of resources. Ask them about their approach in such situations. Exchange opinions and develop several approaches if possible.


Author of the article: Darko Mitevski

Darko Mitevski has been an international trainer, project manager and youth worker since 2002. In his career, he has been a trainer for different kinds of NGOs and social enterprises, a lecturer at different universities, trainer for companies and consultant for development of organizations. He has been leading the “Train the trainers – It’s up to me” which is going to have its 7th edition in 2020 and is the founder of the Trainers Library. He is passionate about innovation, the development of young trainers and transfer of know-how. Darko has created many manuals, tools, guides in a formal and non-formal education environment. He has experience in managing virtual multinational teams, leading a different kind of organizations, taking part in a variety of task forces and initiatives. He has an MBA degree and a Bachelors in Business Administration.

Click here to read more about Darko Mitevski

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Robbins, Anthony (1992). Awaken the Giant Within How to Take Immediate Control of Your Mental, Emotional, Physical & Financial Destiny! New York: Simon & Schuster.Laloux, F., & Wilber, K. (2014). Reinventing organizations: A guide to creating organizations inspired by the next stage in human consciousness. Nelson Parker.„Reinventing organizations“ - Excerpt and summaries

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