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Resilience

‘I’m bored’


Having heard those words uttered from my daughter’s mouth, I instantly said something that my mother said to me as a child, ‘Bored people are boring people’.


I ended up having a conversation with my daughter about trying to find something to fill this void of being able to interact with her friends, that she enjoys doing and that just maybe helps her learn something. I am an avid book reader, so ‘read a book’ I said. My daughters book reading has lapsed since she found TikTok, but do not get me started on that. We finally agreed on an audio book, Terry Pratchett’s Truckers, I am not going to argue with that, a marvellous book for those of you not in the know!


There was no malice behind those words, ‘Bored people are boring people’ that I uttered almost too quickly, from me or from my mother for that fact. But in the days since I said them, it has given me pause to think.

What makes one person generally happy and one person generally sad? You can use many words associated with that question, positive & negative, glass half full or glass half empty and of course that led me to start whistling ‘Always look on the bright side of life’!


As I find myself coming back to this conversation with my daughter, the word that keeps popping into my head is resilience. But what does this word really mean in both the personal and business world. Why is it that some people are more able to bounce back from challenges they face in their life, whilst others are not?


Clearly, I have no medical background and understand that a person’s neurological and chemical makeup can directly affect their mental health, however there must be techniques, both physical and mindfulness techniques that can help us to be more resilient.


Values

Values are a key part of my resilience, I am not sure where these came from, my parents, from school or my love for the game of rugby? I believe my schooling had a big part to play in my unwritten Values, I also believe the game of rugby has helped, if you ask any rugby player what the Values of the game are, they would probably come up with a similar short list. That is not to say that other sports do not have Values, but I know that rugby does. What is curious as an afterthought, is that personally, unlike many organisations, I have never defined them, but I could, probably, if pushed, write them down, what I believe to be my guiding sense of purpose. Why are these important? At times when things are tough, I

know that I reflect on the person I am trying to be, the father that I want my children to be proud of, my Values are my backstop.


Baler Twine

What on earth has baler twine got to do with resilience I hear you ask. The lessons that we learn in life are rarely apparent at the time, this is a lesson that did not become apparent to me, sadly, until many years later. I was fortunate enough, at weekends and in school holidays to work at my friend’s dairy and arable farm. Eric, my friend’s father, would always be getting me to rush around the farm doing some job or other, or to be at hand to help him whilst he welded something to something. I had great fun and learned a lot, but one of the things I did learn was to always carry with me, a piece of baler twine. In the absence of a clamp, a cable tie or any other correct implement that was required, baler twine was the temporary answer, I use the word temporary lightly! Baler twine taught me the lesson to not get flustered or come to a complete stop when the correct tool is not available to sort the problem. There is usually another way, you just need to look at the problem from a different perspective and make use of the tools and people around you. Thank you, Eric.


Tokens

I have an imaginary jar of tokens; these tokens represent my ‘emotional stability’. In my normal interactions with my wife, children, and colleagues these tokens flow from me to them, but they, in turn, also top up my token jar. I recognise when my token jar is low, and I need to do a bit of self-repair. There can be many reasons for the token jar being low, having spent time with those that need greater support, please do not for one moment think I resent this, or maybe I have had a run of challenging situations. How do I refill my jar? At times it can be the most straightforward of things such as spending time with family or friends, or by recognising the beauty in life and being grateful for the things that have been given to me. Make sure you look after your own jar, but not at the expense of others.


Review

In both my work and personal life, I review, I take time to ask myself 3 questions, ‘what is working well, what is not, what do I need to do differently’. Asking these questions forces me to take personal responsibility for actions that I have taken, actions I am about to take and most importantly change the things that are not working. We make choices every day and every single one of those choices ends in a reaction, sometimes for good and sometimes not. It would be foolish not to reflect on those actions and use them to inform us of our choices moving forwards. The more I learn about myself and the way I choose to act better prepares me for when that event or a similar event manifest itself before me again. The key point here is not to miss a chance to learn something new.


Circle of Concern and Circle of Influence

(S. Covey, 1999)

In Stephen Covey’s seminal work, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, in Habit 1 – Be Proactive, he discusses ‘How Large is Your Circle’? He presents us with 2 circles, one inside the other, the outer circle is your circle of Concern, the inner, your circle of Influence. He uses this diagram to discuss being either proactive or being reactive, but I think it goes much further than that. Our brains only have so much capacity to handle so many things at the same time, an ability to face so many challenges at any one point in time. How many people do you see wasting their time and energy on matters that do not concern them let alone things that they cannot influence? By reducing the number of things inside our circle of concern, it allows us to truly focus on those things that we can influence. Even the smallest of things can clutter our circle of concern from an untidy desk to a friend’s post on Facebook. Organisation certainly helps remove things from our circle of concern and letting go of things that we cannot either influence and thus is not our concern gives us greater headspace to be proactive and, my personal belief, gives us greater mental wellbeing.


Positivity and Realism

Every day we have a choice as to how we are going to behave and what our demeanour is going to be. Do you remember that saying, ‘it takes a lifetime to build a reputation and a minute to lose it’? I can choose to be like King Lear shouting rage at the wind every day or I can choose to recognise and be thankful for the things I have, my family, friends and the colleagues I work with. We all know those people that are constantly grumpy that no one wants to be around. However, I am not an eternal optimist either, this is quite a dangerous place to be, as it can lead to huge disappointments if your end goals are not met. Rather, I am an optimist with a side of realism. I do believe all problems can be overcome, eventually, but I am prepared to look at the current situation with my rose-tinted glasses off, head on, baler twine in hand and get stuck in with the resources I have to hand.


So, what does all of this have to do with being bored? Being able to cope with tough challenges both physical and mental is key, they rarely come at you individually. Physical activity clearly helps with mental wellbeing, as does I believe having a healthy set of hobbies, whether that be sport, reading a book or gardening. But also, I believe, to be resilient we need to train our brains to work in a particular way. Some people are clearly born with a leaning towards being resilient, but I do think with a little effort everyone can change the way they think.


May 2020


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