Can we train ourselves to be more resilient? You bet we can. We all know how important sleep, exercise, nutrition is to our wellbeing and resilience – and as my 102 year old Aunt Mick would add – 'always make time for fun'! All of these are important, but growing resources in the mind for greater resilience has a unique power. We can't control the world, other people, or even our own bodies – but we can count on durable inner resources and strengths within ourselves to thrive. We can change our brain, our thoughts, inner resources for the better. That's being an emotionally intelligent leader.
So when it comes to resilience, Dr Rick Hanson is a master of his craft. A leading neuropsychologist Dr Hanson's latest book called "Resilient" offers some great practices to finding and developing these inner strengths in all of us.
Here are four of my favourites:
First..Be for Yourself. When we treat others with respect and caring, the best in them comes out. What if we applied this same attitude to ourselves? What would it feel like to appreciate your good intentions, your unique talents, and be less self critical? As a recovering perfectionist myself, I know first hand a bit of compassion for myself goes along way and, over time, has lasting positive changes on our nervous system.
Second..Take in the Good. As Dr Hanson has a great quote: "Our brains are like Velcro for bad experiences, but Teflon for good ones." There's a reason we react, and over identify with negative experiences – it's part of the brain's hard wired negativity bias to keep us safe. However, it's also important to balance this with taking in the good experiences. A great cup of coffee to start the day, a phone call from a good friend, nailing a presentation at work…. Really letting in and internalising these good experiences throughout your day lay down new neural pathways and build up your core of inner strengths. If this resonates with you, read about Dr Hanson's great model called HEAL to take in the good.
Number three…Gratitude. Gratitude and other positive emotions, according to Dr Hanson, have many important benefits. They support our physical health by strengthening our immune and cardiovascular system. They help us see the big picture and encourage ambition. Research has also found that they help us become more resilient. So it's not about denying or minimising challenges we are facing, but it's also noticing what's good, and being thankful for the good.
Finally, Push back on the inner critic. I know my inner critic has stopped me in the past from operating at my full potential. So pushing back on the inner critic is something I practise daily. For me I now imagine the inner critic as something 'over there' outside of me – like some annoying person in a meeting room who, while annoying, everyone tunes out after awhile. I know my inner critic will always show up, but I now choose how much weight I give its opinion.
I hope you find these four best practices helpful. Find that sweet spot with your own motivation and resilience. Through these practices, know that you can take on larger and larger challenges and go after your most important goals all the while growing your strengths as a resilient, emotionally intelligent leader.