Crossing the desert takes a lot of resilience. Have you got the energy reserves to sustain yourself in extreme situations?
Have you ever bargained with yourself to power through a heavy workload with the promise of a big glass of wine, a Netflix binge or a lot of sleep at the weekend? Yep, me too.
Most of us have, at some point, set aside our weekends to recover from a hectic week but it doesn’t have to be like this. A conversation I had with a senior manager I was coaching inspired me to try a little trick known as “the mid-week reset”.
He had decided that every Wednesday he would have a quiet, relaxing evening, going to bed by 9pm, so that by the weekend he was ready and energized to spend quality time with his family, rather than feeling like a zombie. While that might not work for everyone, the point is we can train ourselves to be more resilient and conserve our mental and physical energy.
This is not just a question of routine. In the work I do with leaders and teams around resilience, we cover everything from physical to emotional states. The most important thing we look at is personal habits and tendencies, because self awareness is the key to becoming more resilient.
So think of the suggestions below as a “Resilience Toolbox” to test for yourself and help you find a stronger, better version of you:
1. Check in with yourself today
When we’re feeling anxious, sluggish, de-motivated or just plain unhappy it is very hard to be brilliant and resilient. The quadrant below taken from “The making of a corporate athlete” shows the different states of mind we can find ourselves in. You’re at your most resilient when you’re in the top right square. Just checking where you are right now can help you decide what could give your performance a boost.
Where would you put yourself on this grid?
For instance, if you find yourself in the bottom left square, with a negative mindset and low energy, what could pick you up right now? Perhaps you’re spending a lot of time with others who are in the same mindset. Can you find anyone to talk to in the top right who might boost your energy and change your outlook?
2. Make the choice to be happy
There’s a powerful link between a positive mindset and resilience. In a happy state, we are more motivated and energised and this has a halo effect on those around us. Gratitude and happiness go hand in hand. You cannot be grateful and unhappy and you cannot be ungrateful and happy. So ask yourself, “what can I be grateful for in this moment?”
You might also want to consider these three types of happiness:
Pleasure: Often from a physical sensation like taste or an enjoyable experience
Satisfaction: Something that brings a sense of achievement to you or does good for others
Joy: This is a less rational state of happiness. It could come from anywhere, or out of nowhere
I’m not saying that one state of happiness is more important than another but can be useful to understand if there’s one area of happiness where you might be lacking. Just being aware of this can help you on the path to greater resilience.
3. Recognise when you’re on the edge
The more resilient we are the more we manage stress in a positive way. Stress is a state of mental, physical or emotional pressure resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances. In any situation where we feel we can’t cope, the automatic “fight-or-flight” response can take over, impacting our ability to think, listen and relate. In this adrenaline-flooded state, our thoughts are more chaotic and making decisions is a risky business.
Staying present in the moment by breathing and acknowledging your stress-based reactions can be enough to help find the best course of action, rather than leaping into a kneejerk decision that your calmer self would not have chosen.
4. Identify the support you need
Sometimes it takes more than a positive mindset and a little self-awareness to get you through a tough time. Calling on support from others can be the most important step and is often overlooked when the pressure’s on. Ask yourself “what or who could support me here?” If you’re not sure, simply talking the situation through with someone objective could bring clarity.
Equally, reflecting back on past situations where you really needed to dig deep could uncover more potential resources. What have you been through that’s worse than this? How did you respond? What helped/might have helped you through?
5. Train the body, as well as the mind
I know this sounds obvious but health really does ignite performance. Prioritise sleep, a healthy diet and exercise to rebalance and re-energize. And if you want to know more, take a look at this influential article from Harvard Business Review “The making of a corporate athlete”, which explains the parallels between how athletes prepare and those in the corporate world.
6. Find your sense of purpose
It is much harder to be resilient when you don’t care about the outcome of the situation. Your purpose will fuel you and re-energize you because you truly believe in your heart that what you’re trying to achieve is important. To find out more about the power of purpose, take a look at this blog.
I do this in my resilience training and it really enables leaders to see how and where small changes can be made to create a big impact on performance.
Pick between three and five factors from the list below which you believe are most important in becoming the best, most resilient leader you can be.
Give each factor on your shortlist a mark out of five relating to how much attention and how strong you are in this area currently. What does this tell you about where you are today? What are the potential consequences of staying at this level?
Note down one thing you could do for each that would boost this score.
Playing to strength
Sense of humour
Armed with this additional self-knowledge and a few ideas for your own personal resilience training, I hope you will find more confidence in your own ability to cope with a difficult situation, whatever challenge you may be facing. Good luck and remember you’re stronger than you think!