Being ‘unbreakable’ doesn’t make you resilient

The biggest myth about resilience is that it involves being tough. No it doesn’t! If you own a t-shirt that says, ‘weakness is not an option’, here’s why you should throw it out. Being resilient means being able to go through adversity without suffering long-term psychological damage. In other words, none of the following: ongoing anxiety, confidence problems, stress or depression. A resilient mind is a mind that learns and grows from tough times. As I explain in this week’s video, resilient people accept their emotions. They know that feeling fragile doesn’t mean you’re broken!

 

I’ve been coaching high achievers since 1996. That means I’ve had thousands of conversations regarding how leaders can stay focused and motivated in tough times. Many of these leaders ask me how to build their self-discipline or stop procrastinating. What I’ve never been asked is how to build self-compassion. However, you cannot be resilient if you lack self-compassion. Here’s why.

 

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Self-compassion is the bedrock of resilience

It allows you to accept your emotions and find a way forward – even when you feel sad, angry or stressed. Self-compassion is what lets you rest when you are tired or pause when you are overwhelmed. It prompts you to learn from mistakes and seek help when you need it. Plus, it prevents conflict and problems with team dynamics. What a bonus!

 

Self-compassion means accepting yourself and accepting others

Self-acceptance makes you a more creative thinker. When you don’t judge yourself, it’s easier to accept that other people have different views from you. This makes you a wiser and more compassionate leader. It also helps you learn from the people around you – which increases your behavioural flexibility and strengthens your resilience.

 

Self-compassion broadens your thinking

As I explained in a recent blog article, resilient people have interesting thinking habits. All of these involve shifting your perspective on problems and believing in your own ability to take impactful action. I think of these as strong thinking habits. They all help you to be open, accepting and flexible. In other words someone who thrives beyond adversity and helps others to do the same.

Leadership loneliness: the hidden epidemic

Loneliness isn’t something leaders talk about at work – but it should be. There’s growing evidence that burnout and loneliness go together, producing a vicious cycle of isolation, overwork and exhaustion that directly impacts relationships and productivity at work. So, is your burnout really loneliness? Watch this week’s video to find out.

 

If loneliness is impacting YOU as a leader, here are three simple ways to combat it.

Get a coach

Long-term coaching relationships are the best way to prevent burnout and get the personalised support you need as a leader. For example, I’ve been supported by my coach for 22 years now. And during the COVID crunch, that relationship saved my business. When I was gripped by despair and feeling overwhelmed, having a trusted advisor on hand kept me focused and optimistic. All leaders should have coaches or mentors – and not only in the tough times!

 

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Join a support group

Surprisingly, most leadership development programs don’t address the impact of senior managers feeling isolated, unsupported and under intense pressure. That’s why I developed my Mojo Reboot program. It helps leaders build mental stamina by tapping into the power of group support. The program runs over three weeks to help leaders build momentum and decrease isolation.

Know the difference between tiredness and loneliness

Both conditions lead to low energy and lack of motivation. But what fixes exhaustion won’t resolve loneliness. Read my recent blog article for more information about loneliness and how to spot the signs of how it is impacting you or members of your team.

Your brain on stress – it’s scary

We all know that stress is not a good thing. But did you know that chronic stress can rewire your brain? Regular stress builds up the brain’s threat-detection systems, just as regularly lifting weights builds up your arms. At the same time, though, other parts of your brain shrink – including those used for deep-level thinking and problem-solving. These changes directly impact your work performance.

 

For example, many of my coaching clients have recently been complaining they’re having difficulty concentrating or making decisions. Many of these people are just plain stressed out. After two years of pushing through pandemic chaos, they’re tired. In many cases, they’ve lost sight of the difference between endurance and resilience. If that’s happening with you, watch this week’s video.

 

Here are three other surprising facts about your brain on stress.

 

Fact 1: Stress is linked to memory loss

Scientists used to think this was a symptom linked only to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, they’ve now determined that’s not the case. Any stress causes your brain to release a hormone that blocks the production of memory-forming chemicals called neurotransmitters.

 

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Fact 2: Stress-induced brain changes are long-term

This means that stress can impact your brain for much longer than you imagine. There’s currently research looking at the effects of brain changes in people who have been through traumatic experiences – such as soldiers serving in war zones. This shows that brain changes linked to stress kick in early – and may even damage brain development.

 

Fact 3: Stress shrinks brain areas linked to higher learning

A recent brain imaging study shows that daily stress is linked with less grey matter in brain areas critical for memory, emotional regulation and decision making. What does this mean for YOU? It means that you can’t afford to ignore the impact of stress on your brain health.

Find out more about this concerning – but interesting – topic in my recent blog article. More importantly, do something to reduce your stress today. Stop working excessive hours and start spending time with supportive friends and colleagues. Get into nature – there’s strong evidence that being outdoors significantly reduces stress. Exercise. Or (my favourite stress-busting technique of all time) savour some chocolate while doing nothing at all.

Busy leader or wise leader? Which are you?

Task overload, crisis control, interruptions and on-the-fly decisions. They come with the territory when you step into the leadership zone. But when you’re the leader, you need to shape your territory, not fit into it. This means changing your mindset of what being busy says about your grit and mental stamina. As I explain in this week’s video, savvy leaders don’t just push through big workloads. They make savvy choices about their use of time and energy.

 

So how can you become a wiser, more resilient leader? Use these tips, which come from my popular online program, Mojo Reboot.

 

Stop equating action and effectiveness

Inexperienced leaders often see their long tasks lists and crammed schedules as a sign they are tough and have great mental stamina. Seasoned leaders, though, realise being constantly busy is NOT a sign of effectiveness.

 

Focus on leading, not doing

Great leaders get things done through other people. At least 70% of their time is spent strategising, coaching and team building. That’s right: 70% of your time needs to be dedicated to leadership. If it isn’t, work with a coach and become a bold leader who says ‘no’ to hands-on tasks and ‘yes’ to making an impact.

 

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Drive your own brain

Did you know that stress shrinks your brain? Read my recent blog on this topic if you want to know more about this startling fact.

 

After all, every leader should understand how stress impacts the brain. And every leader should know what to do about it. My favourite tip for being a brain-smart leader is to learn NLP. Why? Because it gives you simple techniques for building brain, mind and true grit.

 

4 proven ways to stop overworking: I use them every day

Are you a workaholic? Do you find yourself working every hour of the day and night, despite knowing it’s not good for you? If so, I bet you love what you do. But maybe you’re ALSO overworking. Watch this month’s video if you think this might be true for you.

 

Why do you work so hard? Perhaps you’re passionate about your job! You just love it. It doesn’t feel like work … but to keep it that way, you might need to slow down. Here’s why. Nobody – not even you – can stay focused and productive 24/7.

 

In fact, working excessive hours – even if you are passionate about what you do – is the fastest way to erode your productivity and your mental stamina. You. Need. To. Stop. Now.

 

Yes, I understand. Quitting the overwork habit can be hard. But it can also be easy – when you know how. Here are four simple steps to get you started. Right this moment.

 

Step 1: Stop telling yourself you’ll ‘relax later’

Humans have a natural tendency to procrastinate, says Ofer Leidner, author of Stop Working and Start Thriving: ‘We work hard today so we can relax tomorrow’, he says. ‘But tomorrow always becomes today and there is never enough time’. Stop putting off downtime by scheduling your time off. Put it in your calendar and DO NOT WRITE OVER IT.

 

Step 2: Start working less

High achievers often feel guilty for taking time off. That doesn’t mean you really SHOULD feel guilty. Stop working weekends and evenings. Step away from your email. Leave your work phone switched off during evenings and days off. Even more importantly, leave your work brain switched off during breaks.

 

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Step 3: Continue building your assertiveness

Assertiveness is about knowing your limits and communicating them constructively. Assertive professionals know how to say ‘no’ without guilt. Choose to set boundaries and manage your own time. Master the art of saying ‘no’ without being rude. Most importantly, stop giving in to the demands of difficult people. No. You don’t owe them a favour. No. Being nice is NOT the key to success. In fact, it’s the key to stress.

 

Step 4: Quit multi-tasking

Multi-tasking is NOT efficient. In fact, neuroscientists have shown it isn’t even possible! Your brain just can’t process doing several things at once. It is physically impossible. So, stop trying to do it. Learn to focus. Work on one project, task or issue at a time. And take pride in doing it.

 

Sure, I know you have too much to do. But as I explain in this week’s blog post, you can ‘tame’ your inbox – as well as your guilt.

 

 

Lead with HOPE – not goals – in tough times

In Year 8, my friend Gavin and I wrote a science fiction play about a group of ‘old people’ living through a world-wide plague. We had a huge fight over the plot. I thought it didn’t matter if everyone died because they were all 50 (ancient) anyway. Gavin wanted to show that hope would save the human race. Even in his early teens, Gavin knew that resilience and optimistic ‘future casting’ are closely connected. I explore this link further in this month’s video.

 

These days, I realise Gavin has been proved right. There are numerous studies showing hope plays a crucial role in human survival, particularly during chaotic times. When you think hopefully, you’re optimising on your mind’s ability to ‘time travel’ and imagine things turning out well. That boosts your creativity and increases your behavioural flexibility. Plus, it decreases your stress levels. All of which makes you a better leader.

 

Presently, many wise leaders are using the power of hope to revive team mojo and motivation. No! They’re not setting gruelling KPIs or cracking productivity whips. Instead, they’re helping people envision positive futures. They’re focusing on culture-building, mission-building and – my favourite leadership tool of all – storytelling.

 

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The fact is – the human brain loves stories. As Gavin argued in Year 8, audiences watch plays because they want them to end well. In the same way, teams work hard because they want their projects to go well. Great playwrights weave hope through every drama. As I explained in my recent blog post [link to blog] on fostering hope and resilience in teams, great leaders do the same.

 

It turns out my friend Gavin became a great leader, inspiring many young people to live with hope and impact. But did he and I weave hope into our play’s ending? Well, sort of (after all, I can be stubborn). We compromised and wrote an ambiguous closing scene. As the sun sank dramatically offstage, the plague survivors cooked up a ‘final cure’ for the ‘final plague’. In 2022, I only hope the positive reading of that scene is the one that plays out in real life

 

 

3 signs your ‘positive attitude’ is REDUCING your resilience

Two years of chaos have created a tsunami of burnout that’s wiping out the motivation of high achievers. You see, ambitious people are tough. They fight adversity. They focus on positives. In calm times this strategy pays off because it leads to effort being rewarded. During turbulent times, though, it leads to exhaustion. Why? Because in tough times, your ‘positive attitude’ can easily become toxic positivity. As I explain in this month’s video, this is particularly the case if you rely on ‘will-power’ alone to drive your success.

The fact is, it takes energy to maintain a positive mindset. But how do you keep your energy high during tough times? The answer is simple. Know the difference between useful optimism and toxic positivity. Constructive optimism is like a fighter jet on an important mission. It’s focused and heading towards a clear target. Toxic positivity, though, is like a fighter jet with a damaged navigation system. It’s burning up fuel and travelling at high speed – but it has no guidance and no safe place to land. If you’re someone who believes in focusing on the positive, but you’ve recently been feeling worn out and dispirited, you may have strayed into the zone of toxic positivity. Here are three signs this is the case and that you need a new way to cope with life’s ups and downs.

 

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Sign 1: Finding the ‘upside’ seems to take more and more effort

When your resilience is high, it’s easy to focus on the positives. When your mental stamina drops, though, it’s easier to see the negatives. After all, your brain is hard-wired to notice potential threats. Plus, a tired brain is less able to focus on the positive possibilities. This means it becomes much harder to find the ‘upside’ to challenges and negative experiences. When this happens, you need to build your support system. You should NOT keep pushing yourself to think positively or to go it alone.

 

Sign 2: You are staying in a ‘great job’ that doesn’t inspire you

Just because you’ve been promoted or have a job with a great many perks, that doesn’t mean it’s the right job for you. It’s easy to be swayed by the opinions of your friends and family. But if you don’t find your job rewarding, it might be time for a change. This is particularly true if you’ve been promoted beyond your zone of happiness.

For example, many talented professionals regret taking promotions into management roles. Why? Because the higher they climb on the leadership ladder, the less they get to do the ‘hands-on’ work of their profession. Toxic positivity keeps people in this sad place. True positivity gives them the strength to find new roles that align with their passion and purpose.

 

Sign 3: You have recovered from a bad experience, but you are still not thriving

There’s a huge difference between simply getting over a problem and being resilient. Indeed, a defining characteristic of resilience is that it leads to growth and re-energisation. If you’ve moved past a negative event and are still low in mojo and energy, it’s time to shift your attention away from the past and towards an inspiring future. See my recent article 3 Ways of Thriving in Adversity for suggestions about how to do this.