The Eudaimonia Drive

The Eudaimonia Drive

The Eudaimonia Drive

Perspectives on Mental Health Week

When we hear “mental health”, the words ADHD, social withdrawal, anxiety, depression and suicide tend to surface. This is counter-productive. Aristotle’s and the Stoics eudaimonia is a powerful idea. It may be a better frame to reduce suffering.

Supported by 2,500 years of practical philosophy, eudaimonia means good (eu) spirit (daimon). It is founded on the principles of excellence (virtue) and practical wisdom (phronesis). In short, eudaimonia is the drive for and the practical actions of a good life.

Today, we are ready to embrace the scientific power and practical steps of eudaimonia.

If we focus on Mental Health we will gravitate to attacking the symptoms of a eudaimonia failure. We can do better.

Eudaimonia, mostly pushed on us as happiness, is not a right. Eudaimonia is a direction, a choice and responsible action. The eudaimonia drive creates space between suffering and a noble life. Every one of us has the freedom to choose to move with it or not. Eudaimonia is available to all of us. It is freely available in a myriad ways. It requires action and discipline.

What is your narrative?

Consumer marketing spends a fortune selling narratives that undermine the eudaimonia drive. We are led to believe that coke (or other fizzy drink), a new device, a car, an app, a cream, a supplement, a drug or a policy can somehow confer happiness on you. Yes, all these things may stimulate a sugar rush, surge of dopamine or sense of safety. They have no lasting positive effect and mostly leave us poorer, craving the next dose and often sadder and sicker.

An interesting reflection shared by a colleague yesterday was that Nordic countries have both the best political and lifestyle environment along with relatively high suicide rates. His observation was that people take their lives when they realise that all their external needs have been taken care of. The conclusion reached is that their suffering is self-induced. There is no-one to blame. However, when we live in dysfunctional societies we always have something or someone to blame.

No doubt, governments, communities and businesses have a duty to create the conditions under which people can strive for eudaimonia. Many savage, careless and selfish acts can do damage. Leadership has a duty to curtail these behaviours.

It is a fundamental truth, that each one of us shares in the responsibility to own and govern our lives. At the end of the day that comes down to defining and cultivating a eudaimonia narrative. It looks, feels and sounds like this:

“I own my physical wellbeing so I sleep well, stay fit, eat sensibly and hold my body in an alert, engaged and present state. I am responsible for my feelings and I know the destructive impact of fear, anger, sadness and craving. Thus, I seek and stimulate the emotions of calm, passion, kindness, contentment and joy. I know that I am not my thoughts. I watch and challenge my thinking making effort to step back, explore different explanations, respect the perspective of others and stay fully present to the moment with an attitude of realistic optimism.”

Compassion runs amuck

Consistent research shows clearly that there is more eudaimonia to be gained by doing something good for others rather than pursuing your own desires. We expect compassionate behaviour. However, in many cases our good intent has undesirable consequences.

In The Coddling of the American Mind (Lukianoff and Haidt, 2018), we learn how excessive “safetyism” and sensitivity is leading to a fragile generation. The narrative of the I-generation is increasingly: “I am vulnerable and sensitive, you are aggressive and dominant and they (university in this case) should protect me from challenging ideas, diverse points of view and high expectations. I hate you. #me too.” Recently we reviewed Against Empathy (Bloom, 2017) where we learn that sympathy (empathy without constructive action) leads to adverse outcomes. He argues for rational compassion.

Mental Health Week appeals for compassion. We want to reduce the suffering of others. If we focus too much on the symptoms and protection, we will fail to develop the resilience and eudaimonia of others. Just thinking about your sadness can make you sad. Being told you might be depressed or anxious or at risk of suicide can generate fear and undermine the natural bounce, post traumatic growth and connection of others. Our research demonstrates the impact.

Walk carefully into Mental Health week. Remember that the goal is eudaimonia. To achieve this we must understand, own and conquer suffering. We must also encourage people to understand, own and seek their own eudaimonia. This is the noble path that an individual owns. A compassionate community encourages and supports.

The Eudaimonia Drive

Aristotle was abundant and the stoics were ascetic. Every complex organism seeks to optimise its experience of life. Whether through nourishment, bonding, collaborating or enlightenment, humans have a deep drive for eudaimonia. Celebrate and redouble your focus on nurturing this drive and seeking appropriate expression.

Your tools include your body, your emotions and your mind. Understand them and apply them to systematically increase your altitude. Be kind and firm with others. Expect them to own and master their tools. Press against abdication of responsibility, blame and outrage.

Choose eudaimonia. Be virtuous and pragmatic in choosing the path and the related actions that can fuel and drive your journey.

Bounce, grow, connect and flow.

 

BY DR SVEN HANSEN 

The Eudaimonia Drive

The Eudaimonia Drive

Originally published on www.resiliencei.com and reproduced with permission.

By 

Perspectives on Mental Health Week

When we hear “mental health”, the words ADHD, social withdrawal, anxiety, depression and suicide tend to surface. This is counter-productive. Aristotle’s and the Stoics eudaimonia is a powerful idea. It may be a better frame to reduce suffering.

Supported by 2,500 years of practical philosophy, eudaimonia means good (eu) spirit (daimon). It is founded on the principles of excellence (virtue) and practical wisdom (phronesis). In short, eudaimonia is the drive for and the practical actions of a good life.

Today, we are ready to embrace the scientific power and practical steps of eudaimonia.

If we focus on Mental Health we will gravitate to attacking the symptoms of a eudaimonia failure. We can do better.

Eudaimonia, mostly pushed on us as happiness, is not a right. Eudaimonia is a direction, a choice and responsible action. The eudaimonia drive creates space between suffering and a noble life. Every one of us has the freedom to choose to move with it or not. Eudaimonia is available to all of us. It is freely available in a myriad ways. It requires action and discipline.

What is your narrative?

Consumer marketing spends a fortune selling narratives that undermine the eudaimonia drive. We are led to believe that coke (or other fizzy drink), a new device, a car, an app, a cream, a supplement, a drug or a policy can somehow confer happiness on you. Yes, all these things may stimulate a sugar rush, surge of dopamine or sense of safety. They have no lasting positive effect and mostly leave us poorer, craving the next dose and often sadder and sicker.

An interesting reflection shared by a colleague yesterday was that Nordic countries have both the best political and lifestyle environment along with relatively high suicide rates. His observation was that people take their lives when they realise that all their external needs have been taken care of. The conclusion reached is that their suffering is self-induced. There is no-one to blame. However, when we live in dysfunctional societies we always have something or someone to blame.

No doubt, governments, communities and businesses have a duty to create the conditions under which people can strive for eudaimonia. Many savage, careless and selfish acts can do damage. Leadership has a duty to curtail these behaviours.

It is a fundamental truth, that each one of us shares in the responsibility to own and govern our lives. At the end of the day that comes down to defining and cultivating a eudaimonia narrative. It looks, feels and sounds like this:

“I own my physical wellbeing so I sleep well, stay fit, eat sensibly and hold my body in an alert, engaged and present state. I am responsible for my feelings and I know the destructive impact of fear, anger, sadness and craving. Thus, I seek and stimulate the emotions of calm, passion, kindness, contentment and joy. I know that I am not my thoughts. I watch and challenge my thinking making effort to step back, explore different explanations, respect the perspective of others and stay fully present to the moment with an attitude of realistic optimism.”

Compassion runs amuck

Consistent research shows clearly that there is more eudaimonia to be gained by doing something good for others rather than pursuing your own desires. We expect compassionate behaviour. However, in many cases our good intent has undesirable consequences.

In The Coddling of the American Mind (Lukianoff and Haidt, 2018), we learn how excessive “safetyism” and sensitivity is leading to a fragile generation. The narrative of the I-generation is increasingly: “I am vulnerable and sensitive, you are aggressive and dominant and they (university in this case) should protect me from challenging ideas, diverse points of view and high expectations. I hate you. #me too.” Recently we reviewed Against Empathy (Bloom, 2017) where we learn that sympathy (empathy without constructive action) leads to adverse outcomes. He argues for rational compassion.

Mental Health Week appeals for compassion. We want to reduce the suffering of others. If we focus too much on the symptoms and protection, we will fail to develop the resilience and eudaimonia of others. Just thinking about your sadness can make you sad. Being told you might be depressed or anxious or at risk of suicide can generate fear and undermine the natural bounce, post traumatic growth and connection of others. Our research demonstrates the impact.

Walk carefully into Mental Health week. Remember that the goal is eudaimonia. To achieve this we must understand, own and conquer suffering. We must also encourage people to understand, own and seek their own eudaimonia. This is the noble path that an individual owns. A compassionate community encourages and supports.

The Eudaimonia Drive

Aristotle was abundant and the stoics were ascetic. Every complex organism seeks to optimise its experience of life. Whether through nourishment, bonding, collaborating or enlightenment, humans have a deep drive for eudaimonia. Celebrate and redouble your focus on nurturing this drive and seeking appropriate expression.

Your tools include your body, your emotions and your mind. Understand themand apply them to systematically increase your altitude. Be kind and firm with others. Expect them to own and master their tools. Press against abdication of responsibility, blame and outrage.

Choose eudaimonia. Be virtuous and pragmatic in choosing the path and the related actions that can fuel and drive your journey.

Bounce, grow, connect and flow.

Train up body, heart and mind

Train up body, heart and mind

Originally published on www.resiliencei.com and reproduced with permission.
By 

With attention disorders, anxiety and depression swallowing up ever more of our lives, should we wail, gnash our teeth and take our medicines? Or, could we use wellbeing – body, emotion and mind?

We have massive, profitable industries to address our suffering. Starting with dubious diagnoses, mental health businesses, psychiatry and pharmaceuticals profit handsomely from our suffering.

 

Three common stories

Jack is a boisterous boy great on the sport field but a distracted and distracting event in the classroom. The teacher complained and he ends up on Ritalin. His classroom behaviour improved and the family found things more peaceful. Ten years later Jack is still on Ritalin but saves them up for tests. He is so “jacked up” by the evening, he uses alcohol to calm down. Jack joins 9.6 million Americans on ADHD medication.

The global sale of ADHD medication is estimated to reach USD24 billion by 2024.

Peter is shy and challenged by social events. His parents protected him by staying close. Peter learned that he needed protection from a scary world. Teachers, coaches and friends realise that Peter is fragile so no one tells him the truth. Instead he worries. He is diagnosed with a social anxiety disorder and takes Xanax (anxiolytic) joining 32 million Americans on anti-anxiety medicine.

Jane had an adverse event as a teenager. She never quite recovered becoming withdrawn, pessimistic, tearful and self-critical. Six weeks later she was given a diagnosis of depression and started on antidepressants. At 30 she is still trying different antidepressants and is jobless. She finds alcohol can help her have a decent evening out. Jane joins 43.6 million Americans on antidepressants.

Global sales of anxiety and depression medication are expected to hit USD18.3 billion by 2025.

We will simply ignore prescription opioids for now.

Perhaps these medicines have made us more focused, calmer and happier. Could we do better? We have the knowledge to see our suffering for what it is. Well tested practices can help us return to the resilience that evolution has neatly packaged as a core human attribute. Maybe it is time to clarify and accelerate our learned resilience.

 

Wellbeing and Resilience

We seek physical, emotional and cognitive wellbeing. Our bodies, our feelings and our thoughts can be helpful or damaging. In wellbeing, our bodies are energised and engaged in the flow of life. We sleep well, stay active and eat wisely. Our feelings are positive – content, grateful, loving, calm and joyous – more than angry, sad or fearful. Positive psychology suggests at least three positive emotions to counter each negative. Our mind is calm, curious and fully present to the moment: “Wow, amazing!”

In contrast, Jack is wired, restless and hyperkinetic. He catapults from boredom to intense craving and impulse. His mind jumps randomly between distractions. He lives in the future: “what is next?” He may overindulge in sugars, sleep little, and demonstrates little empathy.

Peter is hyper-alert, heart racing, pale, eyes wide, and lips drawn wide. He feels fear. Waves of anxiety accelerate his heart, trigger his asthma and lead to exhaustion. He worries: “What if they don’t like me, what if the bus is late, what if…?”. He lives in loops of worries about future risks. He sleeps little, eats little, and avoids activity because of the risks.

Jane slumps forward, shoulders round and head bowed with sadness etched deeply in her eyes, eyebrows and lips. She feels tired, sad, tearful and hopeless. Her mind ruminates: “I am useless, I always mess up, I am such a loser, everything is going wrong…” Her screen is her best friend, she eats for comfort, lies awake in the early hours, and sleeps until lunch on the weekend. Exercise is pointless.

There is a pattern and a story in the body, in the emotions, and in the mind. Those patterns lead to behaviours and outcomes. We can deny our body, emotions and mind. We can even blame a disease (or a person or a system) for all the problems. We can ask others to take care of them. We can abdicate responsibility and ask for a pill.

 

Master body, emotion and mind

Yet we can own our body, emotions and mind. We can learn to notice them and even relax into accepting them. When we observe and accept, we are no longer our body, our feeling or our thoughts. They become objects. Objects can be studied. We can experiment. We can seek and practise new ways relate to our body, emotion and mind.

For example, both Jack and Peter could practise slow, diaphragmatic breathing while learning to hold their attention in the present. Jane could sit upright and lift her chin with her shoulders rolled slightly back. All would benefit from sleep – and exercise – and a Mediterranean diet. A recent meta-analysis suggests it can reduce depression by 33%.

The body has many levers to lift ourselves out of suffering. Simple actions. Well proven. More wellbeing. Here’s how:

Jack could work on feelings of contentment and direct his attention toward how others are feeling (empathy). Peter really needs to appreciate the moment (gratitude) and remember that most people experience some anxiety. Jane needs to seek joy and appreciation. She must make every effort to smile generously.

Our emotions are simply tools that we can learn to apply more skilfully. Simple action. Great fun to practise with others.

Jack’s attention circuits were slow to develop. He needed help from early on to train attention. He can learn to work in focused bursts with adequate rest and activity between. Peter can learn to accept watch his worries. He will notice how often they are exaggerated and unlikely. He can learn to catch worry and gently direct his attention to the present.

Jane needs coaching to help her notice the loops of self-deprecation. She can learn how to catch “I always fail” and adjust it to “I sometimes fail” and then to “We all make mistakes sometimes”. This cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) is well proven to resolve depression as well and more permanently than medication.

Again, we see that thoughts can be observed, described and adjusted to be more realistic and positive. The mind is trainable – awareness, attention, bounce and positivity.

Remember that studies have shown that simply sitting slumped in front of a screen can trigger depression. Sitting upright lifts testosterone and reduces cortisol. Think of all the tiny nudges we could offer young people at home, in school and in sport. Little reminders to stand tall, to breathe out, to appreciate a gesture, to be fully focused in the moment.

What if we could be more objective about the wonderful resourcefulness in our bodies, our emotions and our minds? What if we could be more skilful and accountable in owning and mastering them? This is true wellbeing.

Bad stuff happens sometimes. I’ve got it covered. We’ve got it covered. We have toughened up.

What are we waiting for?

Mental Health: a leader’s guide

Mental Health: a leader’s guide

Originally published on www.resiliencei.com and reproduced with permission.

By 

Early thoughts on a new test of leadership

Read our updated Mental Health Leadership article here.


Find out more about our mental health training programme options and toolkit.


The pressure is on for leaders to understand and manage the mental health risk. This complex topic will test our leadership skills. Three forces of change are driving this pressure and they are accelerating:

  1. Mental health problems are becoming much more common
  2. Health and Safety legislation clearly articulates a duty of care for mental health
  3. The way we work today is disrupting our wellbeing – physical, emotional and mental

Disaster mitigation and physical safety presents a direct, tangible threat we can engage – identify, prevent and minimise. Objective, measurable and simple. We are making progress.

Mental health leadership is obscure, subjective and messy to engage – uncomfortable, complex and threatening. The prevalence of mental health issues is rising fast and we have barely started. Some leaders may question their own sanity.

In the past, we could say that “he or she has a screw loose” and dismiss the problem to a specialist. This is no longer acceptable nor viable. Leaders will have to get their heads around the topic and work out how to manage the consequences skilfully.

Increasing Rates of Mental Illness

With alarmist reports in popular press and solid science to support it, we have to accept an increasing number of challenging behaviours, diagnoses, treatments and management issues as a consequence of what is called mental illness. In particular, leaders must understand the range of presentations:

  1. Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorders (or adult attention deficit)
  2. Social anxiety disorders including Autism Spectrum Diagnoses
  3. Anxiety disorders including “stress”
  4. Hostility disorders including impulsive outbursts of anger and destruction
  5. Depressive and mood disorders
  6. Alcohol and other substance abuse
  7. Schizophrenia, Borderline Personality Disorders, Bipolar (mania) Disorders and Narcissism

Basic Medical Overview

Incidence is the probability of a disease. Prevalence, more helpful, is a measure of the condition at a point in time. It is measured as the number of people with depression out of the population. At present, just over 300 million people suffer from both depression and anxiety (World Health Organisation, Depression and other Common Mental Health Disorders, 2017). This is a rate of 4.4% for depression and 3.6% for anxiety. Both are more common amongst females. Depression increases with age while anxiety reduces with age.

Remember that these numbers are based on strict criteria and diagnosis. When experts discuss anxiety, figures closer to 20% are quoted (Anxious, Joseph Le Doux, 2015) and depression figures are closer to 10%, with only half being treated. Chronic stress at work is closer to 80% (American Institute of Stress, 2017 https://www.stress.org/workplace-stress/), with significant regional and country differences.

A Framework to Understand Mental Suffering

Over the 20 years of our work we assess resilience through both the prevalence of healthy functioning and unhealthy functioning. We believe this is a very helpful way for leaders to understand how people cope under pressure.

We group resilience failure under four main headings:

1. Pressure Disorders

Pressure disorders are primarily cognitive. They start with overload and confusion which can result in cognitive failure – disengaged, attention disorders and distraction.

Leaders must consider:

  • Excessive workload or complexity
  • Long hours, shiftwork and travel
  • Poor sleep, nutrition, illness and pain
  • Morally challenging leadership behaviour
  • Excessive demand, performance anxiety through to bullying

2. Emotional Distress

Emotional reactions follow failure to achieve or to connect effectively with others. In withdrawal, we feel isolated and retreat. In vulnerable we lose the power of positive emotion to motivate and fall prey to negative emotions of sadness, anger and fear.

Leaders must consider:

  • Been seen to fail or feeling as if we have upset others
  • Limited support and love at home
  • Social anxiety through to Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Peer group pressure

3. Mental Distress

Mental distress starts with what we call distress (chronic stress). This is most often identified with physical symptoms such as tension, respiratory, cardiac, abdominal or skin disorders. People feel overwhelmed by pressure and experience anxiety and worry. This may progress into mild depressive symptoms dominated by sadness.

Leaders musts consider:

  • Distress symptoms – body, sleep, weight
  • Emotional outbursts – tears, panic, anger
  • Hyperventilation – sighing, breath-holding, mouth breathing
  • Health issues may be present
  • People may present as “not coping”

Under pressure impulse control disorders, often associated with anger or hostility, are much more common.

4. Psychiatric Diagnoses

Depression, diagnosed as unremitting sadness, loss of confidence, confusion, appetite and sleep disturbance for two weeks is the most common. Suicide takes 800,000 lives per year and depression has a massive cost to productivity.

Leaders must consider:

  • Sadness, low self-worth, guilt, hopelessness and tears
  • Confusion, poor memory, decision-fatigue
  • Sleep disturbance – early waking and oversleeping
  • Appetite and digestive disorders
  • Irritability, anhedonia (loss of joy), agitation

Alcohol and substance abuse is also common and can present in many ways. Schizophrenia affects roughly 1%, as does bipolar disorder. These can manifest as psychotic episodes. Borderline personality disorder, narcissism and antisocial disorders.

Supporting Bounce

Leaders have a duty of care to notice when resilience fails amongst their reports. Noticing these signs and considering what one can do appropriately to stimulate bounce is very effective.

For example: at Confused simplify priorities and give people a clear goal. At Disengaged understand how to establish rhythms, breaks and rejuvenation disciplines. At Withdrawn, reach out to a person and be sincerely interested. However, a leader’s job is not to be a psychiatrist.

While a better understanding and skilful bounce reinforcement is effective, it is important to know where skilled help can be found. That may be through human resources, EAP, coaches, psychologists or medical specialists. Our experience is that many leaders do not follow up. When someone is referred to expert help it is important to know that the event actually happened, how it is followed up and preferably some measures on how things have improved.

Powerful Conversations

When one of your team is struggling with a mental health issue it can be unsettling. Be brave and meet with confidence. You are an important aspect of recovery.

Some suggestions:

  • Be clear about time, location and agenda – give people time to prepare
  • Be really clear about the boundaries of your role, business needs, and the time lines for recovery
  • Listen carefully and question skilfully
  • Affirm emotional needs explicitly.

Remember:

  • Appreciation (thank you for meeting, your work is appreciated)
  • Affiliation (you are a key part of our team, we want to work with you)
  • Status (your job and contributions is highly valued and important)
  • Role (we know you have worked hard and enjoyed your role)
  • Autonomy (ultimately the decision is yours)

Compassion Fatigue

We are seeing increasing distress amongst leaders who, while dealing with demanding roles, are taking perhaps too much of a supportive role with team members who may be suffering. The world of work is tough. Leaders must remain strong and resilient themselves. If we become too involved in the suffering of others we may suffer what is now termed empathic distress. The leader takes on the suffering of the team member. This will render you ineffective as a leader and will compromise both effective empathy and skilful support.

As we deal with more distress in the workplace, leaders need to step up to and take much better care of their own physical, emotional and cognitive resilience. Implementing a daily routine to support and sustain resilience is essential.

Read our updated Mental Health Leadership article here.


Find out more about our mental health training programme options and toolkit.


Further resources:

View Dr Sven Hansen‘s profile and follow his updates on Linkedin.

What Surfing Teaches Us About Resilience

What Surfing Teaches Us About Resilience

Originally published on www.resiliencei.com and reproduced with permission.
By 

Surfing teaches patience, mindfulness, courage and persistence, without the surfer realising that they are developing essential life skills.

From a subversive subculture in the sixties, surfing has gone mainstream, and has even found success as an effective form of therapy.

When an individual begins surfing, elusive highs are sparingly interspersed between tenuous struggles, sometimes for survival. Like most sports that take place in nature, surfing teaches resilience. Beyond the fact that simply being near the ocean can make you feel calmer and more creative, the mechanics of the surfing experience provide a range of other benefits.

The goal

The goal, which is to ride waves of energy manifested in liquid form, is enough motivation for surfers to construct an entire lifestyle around this single, simple pursuit. For non-surfers it might seem bewildering but, in the words of 11 time world champion surfer, Kelly Slater, “Surfing is my religion, if I have one.”

Researchers have identified surfing as a gateway to flow state awareness, providing fast access to experiences of ‘ecstasis’, which, instead of being a thought or emotion, is, instead, the lack of both. The practitioner feels selfless, timeless, effortless and rich.

Certainly, seeking bliss from surfing is a goal pursued by legions of wave-warriors around the world. Dr Sven Hansen describes how surfing can change your life by teaching flow, focused agility, emotional awareness, physical conditioning, calm and bounce.

1977 surfing world champion, Shaun Tomson, agrees when he says, “Surfing is all about uncertainty. That feeling of taking a risk, that leap of faith every time I jump into the ocean, that paddle out among things unseen — all of these make surfing very special.”

The combination of challenge, independence and freedom make surfing an ideal treatment for sufferers of PTSD, and excellent results have been achieved by combat veterans using surf therapy both in the UK and USA.

The challenge

To follow the path of the surfer, one needs to overcome constant and shifting obstacles. Even advanced surfers will testify to the fact that it never gets easier, because the better we get at surfing, the more challenge we seek. The path of the resilient professional is no different. As we gain trajectory and develop self-awareness, the challenges we choose in life, become increasingly bold. The further we ascend, the more perspective we gain, and more options we see for traversing the landscape.

In surfing, big waves are less scary when you’ve developed a foundation of skill and practice to underpin high performance. Deliberate, consistent practice enables fearless pursuit of flow.

Resilience in practice

The core of resilience is developing bounce, courage, connection and creativity. Surfing provides a canvas upon which the practitioner develops a playful practice — some might call it a dance — that facilitates growth in all of these areas.

Surfing is not a race. In a race, our objective is to win the prize, to achieve the objective, to be first. In surfing, the journey is the reward and the obstacle is the way. No-one surfs to get to the end of the wave fastest. We surf to ride waves to the best of our ability, hoping always to glide and flow a little better than last time. It is a lifestyle, an art form, a dance with mother nature, and an experience of hypofrontality.

As Andy Irons said, “Surfing is like being kissed by God.”

Surfing, like resilience, reminds us to enjoy the journey and make the most of the experiences that we encounter along the way.

Bounce

There is not an experienced surfer alive who hasn’t learnt bounce. In the beginning of a surfing lifetime, before our shoulders have strengthened and we’ve learnt the rules of the ocean, we are, in no uncertain terms, smashed by waves. The ocean is the epitome of a zen master. It will sometimes allow you to explore your passion but, as swiftly as an advanced surfer rises to their feet, will crash down upon you, leaving you flailing in turbulent waters.

Bounce is the ability to recognise the predicament, rapidly become calm and turn to face the ocean once again. The paddle out in surfing is the struggle. No-one learns to surf without first learning how to paddle out into lines of unrelenting white water. With strength, skill and timing you will usually find a way out to where the waves are breaking. If you don’t, then you need to practice bouncing. Or be more strategic and move to a break better suited to your ability.

Surfing legend and author, Gerry Lopez says, “No matter how badly you get caught inside, if you can just hang in there and keep paddling, the set is going to pass and there will be a lull afterwards. So don’t give up, just take your pounding, wait until the set passes, then make your move.”

Courage

So you’ve made it out beyond the breakers and are ready to ride your wave of opportunity. But so too are many other surfers, also searching for their moment of flow. When your wave comes – and it will – you need to paddle like your life depends on it. The drop may be daunting, the crowd may be predatory, the location may be dangerous, but you won’t be paying attention to any of that. Like a resilient professional, you’re clear, decisive and confident in your skills and ability. If you fail, which you will often, you have faith in your ability to bounce back.

Connection

People are very much like waves on the ocean. We see each other as entities moving around, seemingly independent and free, but we are completely interconnected in mind, body and spirit. We were born to humanity and float upon life’s currents, sometimes drifting aimlessly and other times charging toward our dreams. In the water, the surfer is connected to those around them through situational awareness and (sometimes) camaraderie. But the surfer is also connected intrinsically to the ocean, the biological home of all life. Surfing gives perspective and perspective is the heart of emotional intelligence.

Creativity

Surfing is the physical embodiment of flow. When you ride a wave you are presented with an opportunity. How you choose to ride it, in that fleeting moment, is limited only by skill and imagination. The more you have practiced, the more options you will have to ride creatively. The elation from surfing a wave creatively is difficult to surpass or define. Surfers call it ‘stoke’, and it is written on faces at car parks from San Diego to Biarritz, Cape Town to Raglan. There is joy in pushing a little harder, or leaning more successfully into the best turn of your life. The most magical and elusive opportunity in surfing – the tube – offers the peak experience. It doesn’t always turn out well but, when it does, enjoy the view.

As with all peak experiences, we build up towards them, following a cycle of struggle, release, and flow. Importantly, we also need to allow time for recovery and reflection.

The journey

Resilience extends further than just having the tenacity to keep paddling out, even when the ocean crushes you. Developing skills of life mastery enable you to grab hold of fleeting opportunities and make the most of them. When you are calm, courageous, focused and in flow, you act with confidence, and secure opportunities without anxiety or distress. This is living harmoniously. You are practiced and able to free yourself from the shackles of uncertainty through your exceptional preparation.

On a practical level, as a surfer, you realise that if you are not eating well, or staying fit, your performance suffers. It is difficult to wake up for the serene dawn session if your sleep has been compromised. You need rest to surf at your best. The same foundations apply in life.

Surfing provides an immediate and immersive environment within which you can fast-track development of key life skills. It’s not for everyone, but neither is being a resilient professional.


Bradley Hook is the Digital Leader at the Resilience Institute. His book Surfing Life Waves was published in 2012 and he is the founder of surfing magazine, surfd.com, which has been running since 2001.

If you are interested in learning about our digital product, Your Resilience Journey, Brad will be happy to give you a demonstration. He is a dedicated practitioner of resilience, with a focus on lifestyle mastery. Our team would love to share the success skills and behaviours of resilience with you.

Safe + Well + Effective

Safe + Well + Effective

Initiatives to deliver safety, wellbeing (physical, emotional and cognitive) and effectiveness are in the ascendant – more demand, more providers and higher expectations. Increasingly, legislation is pushing responsibility for employee health and safety to senior management and directors. We have come a long way in a couple of decades.

Exploring five questions can help directors and executives tackle this “messy problem”.

  1. What is the territory?

Safe:

Goal: take all practicable steps to minimise harm – see, document, act, monitor, and improve

Risk: rigidity, vulnerability, and failure to see the real issue – obesity, attention, diabetes

Well:

Goal: prevent disease and cultivate optimal physical, emotional and mental wellbeing

Risk: self absorbed, worried well, and work is neglected in preference for “easy life”

Effective:

Goal: achieve success in an effective, altruistic and sustainable manner.

Risk: compromise safety, wellbeing, ethics and brand in pursuit of maximised profit

By starting with safety, allocated to Safety Managers, we put the initiative in conflict with effectiveness, which we left to the rest of the executive. Now that the full spectrum – safe, well and effective – sits at one table, we will see rapid innovation and ultimately integration.

2.  Evolution over time?

Humans are wired for risk. We scan for threat of harm, rapidly defaulting into fear, sadness or anger. Bad things happen. It makes us angry and sad and we start to fear a repeat. It is only recently that organisations have focused on disaster mitigation. Loss of life and destructive human or environmental impacts are simply not acceptable.

Then we asked how to mitigate serious risk and the insurance industry was born. Rapidly we are incentivized to manage risk and reduce premiums. In the case of mine collapse, fire and oil spills we have done a great job. We are beginning to test the idea of preventing depression, heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Unsustainable healthcare costs will force our attention to this.

More recently we have conquered the zone of safety and compliance to processes that minimise harm. Rapidly the goal becomes zero harm – or six sigma quality. Many businesses do a great job.

Once we have organised the cables, blunted sharp edges and reduced workplace harm, we envision a wider vista of human risk. Which is worse: a flesh wound or diabetes? If the workplace is full of processed carbohydrate, are we responsible for that diabetes? What about the kidney failure, heart disease, blindness and early death that follow?

Most service businesses have little real physical safety risk. The issues are anxiety, depression, sleep disruption, sloth, obesity, attention disorders, and failed marriages. If we ask for billable hours, software solutions, call volumes, and other productivity measures, what responsibility do we have for wellbeing – physical, emotional and mental?

Smart businesses are taking a serious look at wellbeing. Someone who is calm (not anxious) is way more effective. The same holds for being happy, well slept, fit, lean, focused and happy at home. Study after study shows that investments in wellbeing have at least a 3:1 return on investment. They both reduce costs in deliver productivity gains.

We have crossed the boundary between risk reduction and reward multiplication.

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From a different perspective, thanks to a proliferation of research on what makes us more effective, we are discovering the “secrets” of high performance. These are widely accepted as emotional intelligence, flexible mindsets and meaning/flow. McKinsey has labelled these as EQ (emotion), IQ (intelligence) and MQ (meaning or flow). Investments can be quite stunning in their payback.

This journey is one of evolution and integration over time. It is inevitable that it will continue. Not only will we get much better at developing extraordinary performers as we have sport, dance, chess, combat or leadership. We are learning how to apply the same methods to helping disadvantaged children succeed, rehabilitate criminal offenders, reverse heart disease, and bring resilience into overcrowded and at risk cities.

3.  Can we integrate safe, well and effective under a common framework?

Acknowledging our bias, we think it is a necessary next step. We cannot manage safety, wellbeing and performance separately. A calm, fit, caring and focused employee creates value and minimises risk. A depressed or fatigued employee is compromised and can be a major risk – to self, others and the business. Most of us are a bit of both.

The accumulating evidence pushing these issues up to director and senior manager levels will force the development of integrated and sustainable frameworks to measure, generate insight and master effective solutions at lower cost. We absolutely have to be able to view our human status from bottom to the top of what is possible. We also must be able to link individual and organisational data as they work together. A happy team supports performance, wellbeing and safety.

4.  What modern tools are available?

From questionnaires to wearables and datamining there is no limit to data. The winners will learn how to organise the information and select the right levers. Should we tackle the depression or teach meditation? Can sleep cure anxiety? The framework above allows us to organise data and search for correlations.

Every organisation has a different starting point – culture, leadership, stressors and skills. This will shape the solution. While getting people together to learn, debate, generate local solutions, and bond has a primary role, we have no option but to get smart with online training and support.

Many online solutions are available and a raft of Apps increase convenience and reminders to stick to plans. Many online options now have interactive forums for participants to share challenges, plans and support each other. As wearables contribute to this information and help us correlate behaviours and biometrics things may get very interesting.

Most solutions will be mixed – assessments, online training, face-to-face workshops, virtual collaboration, wearables, apps and data mining. Some are doing this already.

  1. How sustainable are these solutions

If we look at this question from the perspective of an elite team of athletes or soldiers, the occasional workshop to tick a box reassuring the coaches is simply ridiculous. If fitness serves the mission, it will be built into every stage of selection, training, maintenance and rehabilitation. Through this we have seen explosive improvements in sports performance, arts and combat. Business must think more like this because we have to cultivate expertise over time.

Business is competitive and demanding. Excellent leadership, customer service, professional advice, and technology solutions require the collaborative efforts of true expert performers. Expert performers are not simply gifted talent. Research convincingly shows us that the very best get there through deliberate, purposeful practice. The motivation required to persist depends upon carefully designed environments, expert coaches and multi-disciplinary support.

Sport surrounds an elite team with great coaches, support staff, experts and a carefully designed culture. They do this for small groups of 20 athletes. If we are serious about sustainable organisational performance – with tens of thousands of staff – we have to start building our internal support teams.

No initiative to achieve safe, well and effective people will succeed with a few workshops and a neat report to the board.

This has to be part of strategy, lead by the CEO and crafted by the Chief Resilience Officer. While the programme may be lead by external experts, the initiative should start with a three-year commitment with clear objectives and measures – individual, organisational and financial.

Over time we will see internal teams becoming expert in running customised solutions within the organisation. There may be a significant job opportunity developing in this area for physicians, psychologists, physiotherapists, personal trainers and a range of experts in communication, teams, innovation, healthy aging, sleep, fitness, and brain training.

References:

Smarter, faster, better             Charles Duhigg, 2015

Peak                                             Anders Ericsson, 2016

Humans are Underrated         Geoff Colvin, 2015

Employee Wellbeing in 2016    Virgin Pulse Download

Safety-I and Safety-II               Erik Holnagen, 2014