In times of crisis, it is common to feel stuck – even defeated. But one simple trick can help you move forward and, if embraced fully, reach new heights writes Neil O’Brien.
Resilience is described as the ability to recover quickly from setbacks or disappointments, or the ability of a substance to spring back into shape. While this is true, it can be a little misleading and doesn’t communicate the full range of resilience.
I have coached individuals and teams in business and sport for almost 30 years. At some point in our work together, I ask each client about previous setbacks and disappointments, and what they did to recover. On the face of it, they all did the same thing – but some went further and used their setback to reach greater heights. This article is about them: what they did, and what we can learn from them. But first, some background…
It is human nature to get your act together in response to a crisis. It is part of the human condition, pre-programmed from prehistoric times.
Setbacks effectively trigger a survival instinct, and we have come to describe this response as ‘coping’. So, in response to the current global pandemic, we all initially went straight into coping mode, which is precisely the right thing to do.
In response to our sense of loss of how things should be, we set up new daily routines and new habits that require constant tweaking and adjusting. We are also hyper-vigilant because we feel like we are in continual danger. Because of this siege mentality, it is possible to be exhausted each day without actually having achieved anything. Welcome to the coping zone and survival resilience. This is the first level of resilience, but it is important not to get stuck here.
How do you move on? The answer comes from my coaching clients, mentioned above.
I have asked people who suffered health setbacks, business setbacks, and career disappointments what they did to recover. They all said the same thing – they went back to basics. They acknowledged that their confidence was gone, and their self-belief had evaporated, but they also wanted to move on (from coping) so they knew they had to do something.
The best investment, then, is brilliant basics – they did the basics of good health, good business, and career development so well and so consistently that they started to feel better. Then, when their mood changed, they began to think better. They then got their shape and discipline back, and their confidence and self-belief flooded back too. Neglect the basics and you will have a setback to deal with; they admitted this also.
Strategic resilience is a daily commitment to brilliant basics – basics that are important to you. However, there is one other form of resilience that most people underestimate.
Having established that resilience is about never neglecting the basics, there is another chapter in the story. If we leave setback and disappointment for the moment and go to the opposite end of the spectrum, to effortless success and achievement, it turns out that brilliant basics are what separate the world’s best from everyone else. The most outstanding performers in any field are the best because they have achieved mastery through a daily commitment to brilliant basics. They make it look easy. They don’t have some magic ingredient that no one else has; they just never neglect the basics. As a result, they get better and better at them, and they don’t stop at strategic resilience – they keep pushing on.
A professional marathon runner told me that in almost every race, he ‘hits the wall’ at around the 16-mile mark. He has a mental and physical crisis. Part of him says: “I can’t go on, I’m gonna quit”. He has learned to pick something 10 yards ahead, and the deal is that he will run to that point and then quit. And then he does it again, and again, and again until he starts to feel better. Amid a full body and brain crisis, the ability to do that is advanced sports psychology. This is an example of something really basic, a ten-yard race, that becomes genius. The crisis eventually passes and he gets his shape back in the form of great posture, breathing, and stride length. And sometimes, he even wins the race.
Your Ten Yards
I believe that the core basics of good accounting, of great sales, of top customer service, of excellent health, of top-class golf haven’t changed much. The question is: who is doing them better than everyone else? People will want to know their secret but when they find out what it is, they might even be disappointed because it’s so simple.
There may be times in life or in work when you don’t feel like you can go on. If, in that moment, you can just cover your equivalent of ten yards, you will be doing genius work and effort. There will be days when we will champion gold medals, awards, and stretch targets. There will also be times when we should champion someone who has enough grit and toughness to keep covering ten yards, even when they feel like they can’t go any further.
Neil O’Brien is Founder of Time2Fly.
This blog is brought to you from the latest Career Guide. To download a copy of the full Career Guide 2020 click here.