Learning & Development people are enthralled by Resilience right now. Having attended a couple of lectures and a taster event it would appear that a definition is a slippery thing, let alone trying to develop Resilience. So I decided to conduct my own experiment with one guinea pig – me – to find out ways to build your Resilience. The executive summary: Resilience resides in the mind: Body is weak but Mind can move mountains. And yes you can develop it, but you have to be determined; you have to be Resilient.
On 12th April I received an exciting email. I was invited to East Region hockey trials for my age group. Succeed and I would be playing alongside and against the best 85 players in England at my age group. Succeed and I would be playing for the Regional trophy. Succeed and I would be playing in front of the England selectors. I have played at this level before but now was time to push myself to impress the England selectors.
“After 7 marathons the body said ‘OK, so this is the new normal’
I set myself a challenge; to train every other day for the 42 days leading up to the Regional trophy weekend; 21 intense, muscle-busting runs or gym sessions designed by my friend and personal trainer Iain Gordon. Day One and I am buzzing. How difficult could it be? I normally train twice a week, so one more should be easy. Body would cope. My only worry was finding the mental strength and the time to squeeze in these sessions during a busy period of work. I recall the documentary about Eddie Izzard running 43 marathons in 53 days, age 47. I remember him saying, “After 7 marathons the body said ‘OK, so this is the new normal’ and just got on with it”. I felt confident that Body would cope; it was just Mind that stood between me and peak fitness in 42 days time.
On Day Twelve Mind had decided to join the party
Very quickly I realised that resilience is born in the mind and not the body. I was surprised that Body did not like it; not a bit. By Day Ten I was forcing myself out for another run and putting the dumbbells in the middle of the lounge so I had to pick them up. It was Mind that was having to do all the work, finding the self-motivation and determination to keep going. And then something extra-ordinary happened. It was Day Twelve. I had just completed a roadshow of back-to-back presentations, delivering to 280 delegates in four cities. This involves massive mental agility all day, driving all evening and rushing to bed before starting again at 7.00am the next day. On Day Twelve Mind had decided to join the party. I knew this because, despite being tired and hungry, I just had to go out for a run. Body didn’t have a choice; nor did it put up a fight, so all three of us went out. And we had a lovely time running through swathes of Bluebells in the woodland that surrounds my cottage. It was amazing and amazingly uplifting. On Day Thirteen, Fourteen and Fifteen, I ran or did a gym session daily.
you need to help the mind to think clearly, to take care of the body, your diary and your colleagues around you
Then on Day Sixteen Body decided to step in. My left knee had had enough. A doctors appointment and a seven day lay-off followed. At first Mind was livid, but then a second lesson dawned on me. Body needs to come on the journey too. Mind can’t bully Body into submission. Mind was addicted but I needed to control the habit. Resilience resides in the mind but it needs to take the body on the journey because one does not exist without the other.
It is fascinating when you put Mind and Body into the ring together. Try it by setting yourself a daily challenge or change in behaviour. It could be making 10 cold calls each morning; reading one chapter of that business book on your daily commute; having those difficult conversations. Like me you will need to coax the mind with patience and determination. And once on-board, you need to help the mind to think clearly, to take care of the body, your diary and your colleagues around you. Then you will know how to build Resilience in yourself and your team, at work and at play. But be prepared to be determined and tough minded in the process. Just like most things in life, if it is worth having it is usually hard earned.