I recently found myself experiencing an absolute career pinch me moment. It was actually the evening of my birthday and there I was sitting in my lounge at 10pm jumping online in full corporate get up to deliver a global leadership program workshop facilitated by Harvard University Professor, Rawi Abdelal. If you’re not a geek like me then you might not know that Rawi is a world leading expert in Geopolitics and corporate leadership. I had the opportunity to sit in the front seat and watch a master at work.
On the same week my little daughter also injured herself at daycare and had a disrupted sleeping pattern, I had to postpone clients (which I hate to do), I facilitated late nights and early mornings most days and I worked an almost full Saturday. By the end of the week I was spent. There was absolutely nothing left in my cup and had anything else come at me, I really don’t know that I could have dealt with it.
It’s not uncommon to live our lives hoping to arrive at a place where we no longer have to deal with stress. Whether it’s trying to accumulate enough financial, career or mental capital that would reduce our stress to zero.
Not only is it unrealistic to expect a stress-free life ever to arrive, we need the stress. In fact, we, perhaps subconsciously, constantly seek to add more stress to our life.
There are exceptions, but stress often comes from the challenges you chase and accept in life. It’s the stress that keeps you striving to reach your goals. It pushes you forward. Whether it’s setting goals to progress your career, getting married or having kids.
When you sign up for a challenge that requires your courage, you also sign up for stress. So, if you truly wish all your stress away, don’t seek challenges.
But I don’t think that’s the answer you want to hear. It goes against who you are and what you seek from life.The solution isn’t about never feeling stressed. It’s about having the resilience to deal with the challenges and stress that follows. Whether those challenges are something you chose. Or circumstances that life dealt for you.
"It starts by recognising and respecting your resiliency cup."
Every time you experience stress of any kind (work deadlines, toddler Target tantrums, high intensity workouts, late night drinking wine with friends) it’s as though you’re drinking from your resiliency cup.
Resilience, like willpower, is finite and the more you take the less you have. If you keep taking then before you know it, you’ll find yourself with an empty cup. (There’s only so much stress you can take on before you’ll see the bottom of your resiliency cup. And for most of us, that amount of stress is less than what we’d like to think.)
There are many signs of a near empty resilience cup with some of the most often experienced being a wired, cloudy and anxious state, feeling jittery, lethargic, or in despair and often, most noticeably, the self soothing habits of excessive snacking, drinking or social media scrolling. Habits that might make you feel good in the moment, but only exacerbate the problem.
"Your resiliency cup needs filling, even when you don’t need it."
The only way to deal with the challenges of your life is to keep consistently filling your resiliency cup. What often happens is that the cup sort of just sits in the background. And you only notice it’s empty once you’ve ignored it for too long.
It’ll always take more effort to fill up an empty cup compared to constantly topping it up. And to keep your resilience cup full is about investing in daily micro moments that build your resilience.
These are the simple, yet powerful practices that, if done consistently, can have a huge impact on your overall energy and wellbeing:
Something for the mind: activities that refresh your mind and use the parts of your brain that you often ignore.
Something for the body: activities that give your body the strength and vigour to take on life’s demands.
Something for the soul: activities that give you a sense of purpose and support the core of who you are.
Ideally, you’d pick at least one activity for each category. Mixing between activities that take 10, 30 and over 60 minutes. And don’t worry about what others do. Your friend might find running a great resiliency building exercise, whereas you find it just another source of stress.
For me, it’s sea air, exercise, learning and silence. It’s cooking nourishing meals, hanging with people I love, singing, dancing and being silly. And it’s the 10 o’clock coffee break.
To keep your resiliency cup full, choose activities that make you lose the track of time, energise you and put a smile on your face.
Have a winning day!