The Oxford dictionary defines “resilient” as “(of a person) able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions.” Basically, do you bounce back from mistakes, failures, and adversity quickly or do they wreck you, your productivity and your overall effectiveness?
Over the past 2 years, the pandemic has exposed the facade of resiliency in many areas such as the economy, supply chain, and the job market to name a few. Potentially more critical, is that this unprecedented difficulty has shown that people are not as resilient as they think.
The pre-2020 Shawn would have responded to the question at the beginning of this post with a resounding “Yes!” (and more than a hint of arrogance in my tone). However, once lockdowns started, my business dried up overnight which created a domino effect of stress and issues. How am I going to provide for my family? Do I keep going with my business or make a pivot? If I decided to change jobs, what job would I do? These are just a few of the myriad of questions that ran through my mind. In short, I lacked leadership resiliency. I had a hard time bouncing back and figuring out what to do next.
(Note: this blog is focusing on professional struggles due to the pandemic which in the scheme of things does not compare to the loss of life and the difficulties that many others have faced during the pandemic. Just like many of you I have lost loved ones and that will remain the most devastating effect of this season life)
Basically, the pandemic exposed my lack of resilience as a business owner, leader, and person in general. Adversity is an inevitable part of life but the way one responds to those difficult moments reveals their resiliency (or the lack thereof). Unfortunately, for me I didn’t bounce back as quick as I feel like I should’ve.
But after getting proverbially punched in the mouth by the pandemic and waking up in a daze. I decided to get off the mat and start “fighting” back. My goal was to use this adverse season as a learning opportunity to strengthen my leadership resiliency.
So in 2021, I embarked on a journey to explore science-backed techniques to help strengthen my mental and emotional toughness so I could be better prepared for those storms of life.
Let’s unpack toughness. James Loehr in his book, Toughness Training for Life, describes toughness as “nice guys and gals who know how to lead happy, productive, and healthy lives.” It doesn’t mean not showing emotion or admitting weak areas. Toughness or leadership resilience is the ability to use adversity as a catalyst for growth, development, and ultimately success instead of letting the pressure crumble our leadership aspirations.
Toughness = Managing Stress and Maximizing Recovery.
Over the next few weeks, I’m going to share with you 9 Managing Stress Hacks and 9 Maximizing Recovering Methods that research shows will not only help you increase your toughness and resilience but the end product will be more productivity and a greater sense of overall happiness.
On a scale from 1-10 (1=low, 10=high), how resilient of a leader would you rate yourself before the pandemic? Now how would you rate yourself?
Think through one reason you want to become a more resilient leader and person.
I recently read Toughness Training for Life: A Revolutionary Program for Maximizing Health, Happiness, and Productivity by James E. Loehr.One of my development plans last year was to focus on mindset and mental toughness. Loehr knows a thing or two about mental toughness since he is a sports psychologist who helped out some of the top professional tennis players in the 90s.
Below are some of my highlights, taken directly from the book during my reading…
This book shows you how to toughen up so that you can handle more stress and be healthier, happier, and more productive. (Pg.1)
[Toughness means] nice guys and gals who know how to lead happy, productive, and healthy lives. Toughness Training for Life is a system of thinking, feeling, doing, and living that offers practical ways to solve some of life’s most challenging problems. (Pg. 1)
How You Can Get Tough
Health is health, whether physical or emotional. In addition, I realized that toughness, as I had come to use the term, is health at a very high level. This is the fundamental element of Toughness Training for Life. (pg. 19)
Whether emotionally or physically, the capacity to respond with flexibility is an indication of health. (pg. 24)
But to be emotionally tough–a key element in every kind of success–we need to learn how to control our emotions through a toughening adaptation. Emotions are based on body chemistry, not on that “old black magic.” Understanding this fact is the first step toward emotional toughening…Emotions are biochemical events. (pg. 30)
Physical and emotional stress share common biochemical and neurochemical foundations, and because of this, physical toughening often leads to automatic increases in emotional toughening. Similarly, emotional toughening generally brings about a higher level of physical toughness…Everything we do has energy expenditure and energy recovery properties. Life itself can be viewed in terms of expending and recapturing energy. For those reasons, balancing stress and recovery on a daily basis is essential for achieving maximum happiness and health. (pg. 32)
The Importance of Laughter and Fun
Motivation is a great barometer of the vital balance between stress and recovery. (pg. 58)
The best single measure of the balance of stress and recovery in your life is pure positive energy: fun. As the amount of negative stress in your life increases, your sense of fun and joy tends to decrease–although you don’t have to let this happen…Fun means excitement and arousal (energy expenditure) without physical or psychological pain (negative stress). The more you love an activity and continue to have fun doing it, the lower your risk of overtraining. (pg. 59)
Key point: When fun stops, pay attention; pain is probably not far behind. (pg. 59)
Laughter quickly reduces the flow of emotional stress hormones. In terms of recovery, laughter is serious business. (pg. 85)
Fun is the single best barometer of your recovery strategy’s effectiveness, and often of the recovery itself. Fun generally indicates a healthy relationship between stress and recovery. When you’re having fun, you’re literally recovering emotional energy. (pg. 89)
Getting Tough Emotionally
Emotionally tough does not mean emotionally hard, cold insensitive, or calloused. It simply means being in control, as opposed to being controlled. Being tough emotionally means being able to deal with life in flexible, responsive, strong, and resilient ways. It means you control your emotions rather than the other way around. It means you can weather life’s storms and seize life’s opportunities. It means that when the going gets tough, you’re tougher. (pg. 120)
Emotions are the key to productivity, health, and happiness. Therefore, to control our lives we must learn to control our emotions. (pg. 123)
Keep in mind that feelings and emotions should be messengers not controllers…Think of feelings and emotions as flight data from Mission Control, faithfully guiding your journey through life. (pg. 124)
If the emotion is a negative feeling–either a physical or a psychological one–it indicates imbalance. The imbalance could be too little stress against too much recovery, but more often it reflects too much stress against insufficient recovery. (pg. 124-125)
A healthy person consistently sees through and ignores unimportant feelings while at the same time correctly interpreting and responding to genuine and appropriate needs. (pg. 125)
Negative emotions are like a phone ringing in your body. Don’t block the call; instead, give it a clear line into your brain…The feelings and emotions you’re hearing are stress/recovery talk. Work at learning the skill of understanding and interpreting the meanings of negative emotions. (pg. 131)
Five steps for taking emotional control (pg. 133-134)
When the phone starts ringing (when you start feeling negative), answer the phone by asking, “What am I feeling?” For example, are you sad, lonely, depressed, tired, angry, or what?
What is the unfulfilled need? Is it physical, mental, or emotional? Write it down. Be as specific as possible. If you’re not sure, take a guess.
Tell yourself, “Thanks for the call,” and commit to yourself that you will fulfill the need as soon as possible in the healthiest and most appropriate way.
Change your emotional state back to a positive one–an empowering one, if possible.
After you change your emotional state to a positive state–preferably an empowered one–begin to problem-solve how best to meet your most pressing unfulfilled recovery needs. Then put your best plan into action.
Getting Tough Mentally
The key to all success is having –and using–enough mental toughness to control our emotions and thus our actions. (pg. 180-181)
Develop your ability to visualize positive images by loading them with positive emotion. (pg. 181)
Mental toughness means that under pressure you can continue to think constructively, non defensively, positively, and realistically with calmness and clarity. (pg. 182)
Find challenging subjects and activities, and spend a few hours each week studying them. Look for things that exercise your mind. Learn and play chess and other mentally challenging games, learn and use memorization systems (a lot of good books have been published on this subject), and study astronomy and math, do crossword puzzles, increase your vocabulary by looking up every unfamiliar word you encounter, learn a foreign language, master a new computer program. (pg. 183)
It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over!
If you want to get better at something, you’ve got to track it. (pg. 259)
In many ways, balancing stress and recovery is like balancing a checkbook. Stress is writing checks and recovery is making deposits. It’s much easier to write checks than it is to deposit money. For most, it’s much easier to expend energy than it is to recapture it. (pg. 264)
The most important factor is clearly our emotional state during the work situation. When we are feeling motivated, relaxed, determined, energized, calm, and confident, high productivity will naturally follow. Sustaining an Ideal Performance State during work is the most important factor in productivity.
What area of toughness do you need to focus the most on: mental or emotional?
Based upon the highlights above, what is one step you can take to start increasing your toughness in that area?
“The key to all success is having –and using–enough mental toughness to control our emotions and thus our actions.” James E. Loehr
Like many of you, I create a reading list for the upcoming year.
Before sharing my list, I want to remind you that reading is not about accomplishment. It’s not about quantity. As Charles Spurgeon once stated, “Little learning and much pride comes from hasty reading.” I’d rather someone read, learn from, and apply the principles of 3 books rather than skimming 30.
So read to gain knowledge and insight. Read to learn a new skill or refine an existing strength. Read for pleasure and inspiration. Just make sure that whatever you read, you allow those books to benefit both your personal development and also add value to the lives of the people around you.
With that being said, here is my reading list for 2022…
Concise Theology by J.I. Packer
City of God by St. Augustine
What Christians Really Believe and Why by Stanley Grenz
Pensees by Pascal
A Ready Defense by Josh McDowell
Do You Believe? 12 Historic Doctrines to Change Your Everyday Life by Paul David Tripp
Baby Wise by Gary Ezzo
Cribsheet by Emily Oster
Parenting by Paul David Tripp
The Art of Public Speaking by Dale Carnegie
Communicating for a Change by Andy Stanley
Talk like Ted by Carmine Gallo
Secrets to Dynamic Communication by Ken Davis
The Accidental Instructional Designer by Cammy Bean
Design for How People Learn by Julie Dirksen
e-Learning and the Science of Instruction by Ruth Clark
e-Learning by Design by William Horton
The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien by J.R.R. Tolkien
J.R.R. Tolkien: A Life Inspired by Wyatt North
The Fellowship: The Literary Lives by Carol and Philip Zaleski
A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War by Joseph Loconte
Letters From Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien
Unfinished Tales by J.R.R. Tolkien
C.S. Lewis—A Life: Eccentric, Genius, Reluctant Prophet by Alister McGrath
Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman
Atomic Habits by James Clear
The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother LawrenceParenting by Paul David Tripp
What’s your reading list for 2022?
Send me a message and let me know which books you’re looking forward to reading this year (or maybe the books you’ve already read!).