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Building Your Resilience


As long as I live, I will never forget that day. It was day 46 of the toughest expedition I have done to date. Together with my rowing partner, I was attempting to row 2,500 miles across the Atlantic Ocean from the Canary Islands to Antigua. Every fibre of your resilience is tested on a trip like this. We rowed individually in 2 hour shifts, 24 hours a day, until we reached the other side. So 12 hours each of rowing per day with an average sleep period of 1.5 hours at any one time – an ideal recipe for tortuous sleep deprivation!

On day 46, I was exhausted physically, mentally and emotionally. My resolve to carry on was just about alive but I was hanging on by a thread. I was dog tired, covered in painful chafing, exhausted, hallucinating from lack of sleep and I had an annoying open cut on my foot that refused to heal (which is great craic when you’re surrounded by salt water).

My father had given me a letter to be read in tough times. It was duly cracked open on day 46 and was the most touching letter I have ever read in my life. As I type these words, my eyes are welling up with emotion. Although the letter brought me to tears, it also gave me an indescribable emotional lift. It strengthened my resolve in a very powerful heartfelt way. Ultimately, by boosting my emotional wellbeing, it enhanced my resilience and gave me renewed strength and resolve to keep going.

Nelson Mandela once said, “Don’t judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again”. For me, this captures the essence of resilience. I know from personal experience as well as my client work that resilience can be built. Firstly lets break it down into its simple components:

1) Emotional Well Being

2) Mental Focus

3) Living our values with a sense of purpose

4) Physical conditioning

5) How we shape our mindset

6) How we manage our environment

All of these elements combined, will impact our resilience levels, which in turn reflect our state of mental fitness. Just like physical fitness, mental fitness (and in turn resilience) is built over time through daily rituals and practice. Consider some simple steps you can take to enhance your levels of resilience. Here’s a suggestion, block out 30 mins in your diary over the coming days and consider the following questions:

1)   How will you life be different, if you enhance your resilience levels?

2)  Pick one or two sections above and ask yourself what could you STOP, START or CHANGE in each category to enhance your resilience levels?

Don’t underestimate the power of small positive steps. The distance covered on a 2 hour rowing shift on the Atlantic was just a dot on the ocean. However, repeated for 85 days, this collection of small dots got me 2,500 miles across an ocean. We all have our own oceans to cross in life. Small steps matter and small steps get results over time!



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