How to Increase Resilience for Yourself and Your Teams – Six Tips from an Adventurer’s Perspective

Resilience means the ability to keep going in the face of, and to bounce back from, setback.

An entrepreneur’s key client goes bankrupt.

An investor’s investments go awry.

A marketing manager has their budget slashed.

For me, as an adventurer, my setbacks have included coming down with malaria, getting caught by Chinese police in a place they’d rather I not be, or having my video camera film key sections of a TV expedition out of focus.

Being resilient is not a fixed trait but rather is definitely something we can increase through the right attitudes, habits and practices. Here’s my adventurer’s take on some key aspects.

1. Be super clear about your goal – and the reason you are trying to achieve that goal. Visualise yourself achieving it. In the midst of setback, this will re-motivate you. Knowing where I am trying to get to has helped me get back on track, after my intended route was blocked.

2. Look after yourself. This could mean simply getting enough sleep, decent food, and adequate exercise. If we are reasonably well-charged, we can handle setbacks much better. After a couple of major setbacks in China’s Desert of Death, I seriously felt like quitting. I got a good night’s sleep, and the next morning I managed to see a way forward. This is something to practise on an ongoing basis, not just when the going gets tough. We have to learn to order our lives wisely.

3. Have a great support network, who you can draw on when times are tough. Another time, when I felt like quitting, I sent a text message to five of my best friends telling them I was in a crisis, could they call. Within 24 hours all five of them had done – all of them encouraging me and giving me different insights to help me keep going. I am so grateful. Again, this is something we must develop in advance of the setback itself.

4. Have a Growth Mindset – this means believing that you are able to improve your abilities through effort and practice. It also recognises that tough times and setbacks are great opportunities for learning. I highly recommend Carol Dweck’s book and TED talkabout Mindset.

5. Control your emotions with Cognitive Restructuring. This technique simply requires a pen, a piece of paper and 5 minutes, and can make a significant difference. With practice you can even do it in your head.

Here are the steps:

a.   Name the emotion you are feeling (e.g. I’m in the middle of a huge empty desert – my emotion is PANIC!)

b.  Write down as many reasons as you can think of why this emotion is appropriate (I’m alone, I’m moving slowly, my water is dwindling, it’s hot, I’m tired)

c.   Write down as many reasons as you can think of why this emotion is not appropriate (I knew it would be tough and slow, but I am on schedule and have ample water for this schedule, I am uninjured, I am moving forwards, all my equipment is working well)

d.  Write out what your reason now tells you is a balanced view of the situation.

Write down the emotion you now feel – which will probably be a considerably more positive emotion than that before.

6. Focus on controlling the controllables – ask yourself what you can control in this situation. You cannot control if the client buys, but you can control picking up the phone and calling a new lead, again and again and again. I cannot control the size of the sand dunes I must cross, but I can control putting one foot in front of the next.

We’ve looked at six practices that have helped me, as an adventure, bounce back after some fairly devastating setbacks. I’ve also found these things invaluable in other challenges, whether it be running a charity or writing a book.

It’s true that they are easier said than done, but nonetheless, it is within our power of choice to do all of these, and so grow in resilience.

Which do you or your teams need to start putting these into practise?

  • Be super clear about your goal
  • Look after yourself
  • Have a great support network
  • Have a Growth Mindset
  • Control your emotions with Cognitive Restructuring
  • Focus on Controlling the Controllables